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Public Emergency Communications Drill in Connecticut ''A Remarkable Success''; Thousands Estimated to Have Participated in National SOS Radio Network Drill.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- On Saturday, June 17th, the National SOS Radio Network -- www.NationalSOS.com -- conducted America's first test of a new emergency communication system.

The public emergency drill, open to all Connecticut residents, occurred from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. local time. According to National SOS founder, Eric Knight, "We were very satisfied with all aspects of the drill. Within hours of completion of the statewide drill, we received a wave of e-mails and phone calls from Connecticut residents located all over the state. From the sheer volume of calls and e-mails we received -- and are still piling in -- we estimate that a few thousand people throughout the state participated. We couldn't be more pleased."

Knight continued, "Many people thanked us for informing them of the use of Family Radio Service radios for neighborhood and community communications. People were generally surprised at how simple the radios were to use, and how easy it was to talk to us and their neighbors."

The National SOS public emergency network is comprised of the 100 million low-cost Family Radio Service (FRS) and FRS-compatible radios already in use for camping, boating, hiking, biking, etc. In addition, 700,000 amateur (ham) radio operators, 70,000 licensed General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) users, and hundreds of thousands of scanner users are encouraged to augment and participate in the network.

Knight also said, "We simultaneously conducted an experimental test of what we called a 'Hartford-area receiving station' -- whereby residents in central Connecticut used their FRS-compatible radios to communicate with our central location. Spanning the two-hour duration of the drill, we had dozens and dozens of crystal-clear radio conversations with the general public throughout the region. Many people were 15 to 20 miles away. Our furthest contact, that we actually verified by phone-calling the location after the drill, was an amazing 105.48 miles; the person was holding his radio while standing outside of a restaurant in Londonderry, New Hampshire. That distance is most certainly an anomaly. The conditions happened to be just right. It's important to reinforce that the National SOS Radio Network is totally designed for neighborhood and very local community communications. Nonetheless, it's amazing what can occur with a simple half-watt FRS radio."

Knight added, "We also had people contact us during all sorts of outdoor activities, such as when they were riding their bikes. And one person was particularly proud of herself to make a radio contact. This person said she wasn't technically inclined at all -- and didn't even own a computer. But she figured out how to set the radio to the proper channel and contact us. You could hear the genuine feeling of accomplishment in her voice."

Knight continued, "What really surprised us was how orderly the radio conversations were. We were certainly prepared for communication chaos, with hundreds of people trying to contact us at the same time. But the chaos didn't occur." Knight went on to say, "I have to give the public great credit for the common courtesy they used. People simply took their turn. We've thus discovered that ordinary citizens, with zero formal communications training, can effectively communicate during extremely heavy radio congestion -- as what might occur during a real emergency. That was one of the most important lessons we learned."

"As I mentioned, based on the volume of calls and e-mails, we estimate that a few thousand Connecticut residents participated in some way -- and that's a remarkable measure of success," Knight said. "Given that we are a totally volunteer, one-hundred-percent 'grassroots' organization, we have to tip our caps to the media that greatly helped with public exposure. I also have to thank the wonderful ham and GMRS volunteers here in Connecticut that really helped the drill succeed."

Knight also said regarding the Harford-area drill, "It will take us a while to compile all of the data, including plotting the general locations of the radio contacts. We will make the data available on our Web site -- www.NationalSOS.com -- as soon as all of the information is assembled."

It should be noted that the Hartford-area receiving station tests were performed under strict FCC regulations. The citizens were instructed and continually reminded to use the low-power (half-watt) setting on their FRS radios, to adhere to pertinent FRS regulations. The receiving station was also operated under an FCC GMRS license, and conformed to all pertinent GMRS regulations.

Role of ham radio operators, GMRS operators, and scanner users:

Hams, GMRS operators, and scanner users are encouraged to participate in emergency network operations and emergency drills. GMRS operators can directly communicate with the FRS users in their communities, and are encouraged to advise and assist the untrained public in radio-communication protocols. Ham radio operators, using their amateur radio gear, cannot legally communicate with FRS radios during non-emergency situations. In a true emergency, the FCC waives this restriction. During emergency drills, hams are encouraged to use their own FRS radios and apply their radio expertise to help the surrounding public communicate effectively. Hams and scanner operators can also monitor the regional FRS traffic, and test the reception range of their equipment during drills.

About the National SOS Radio Network:

The National SOS Radio Network is an entirely volunteer operation, staffed by ham radio and GMRS radio operators nationwide. The National SOS Radio Network fully endorses the "Family / Neighborhood Emergency Communications" protocols as described by EMCOM at http://www.emcomus.org/commwp.html

For more information on the National SOS Radio Network, please contact Eric Knight at (860) 673-2502. Or visit: www.NationalSOS.com
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Date:Jun 19, 2006
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