SCIRA Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is SCIRA the same as [other similar club]?
A: SCIRA was founded to provide an emergency communications group that will maintain control of our resources in case of emergencies. Many other clubs become affiliated with ARRL, the Red Cross, RACES, ARES or other large groups. In doing this, the affiliated club usually insists in priority in case of a local emergency. SCIRA is avoiding such affiliation (and not getting their financial support) so that we can decide who uses our repeaters in just such an emergency.
Q: How can I help?
A: First, get involved in your local ERC group. Next, join or contribute to SCIRA, supporting these repeaters is expensive!
Q: Who can join SCIRA?
A: SCIRA is open to anyone who wishes to be involved in emergency communications.
We are not affiliated with RACES, ARES, the Red Cross, or other emergency groups but we support and respect them and we expect to work with them during an emergency. We are also not officially associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, though our purpose is to support their ERC group in case of an emergency.
Q: Can I use SCIRA repeaters?
A: All of SCIRA's repeaters are "Open", which means every licensed amateur radio operator can use the repeaters according to FCC laws and SCIRA guidelines.
Except for during a Net or other emergency or special occasion, the repeaters are open for any private communication between licensed amateur radio operators.
Many of our radios are linked into Echolink or other VoIP systems. Linking is authorized but we ask you to disconnect once your communication is over. There are a few links that are authorized to maintain a link long term. Contact the SCIRA board if you wish to establish a long term link.
Q: Can my local group use SCIRA repeaters for our Net?
A: SCIRA is encouraging all amateur radio operators and their local emergency communications groups to practice and test their equipment regularly through regular Nets. It is not practical to run a Net on a repeater system unless you expect to be able to use the same system when a real emergency strikes.
SCIRA's repeaters are intended to be resistant to all sorts of emergencies and we hope they will be up and running when the situation arises. However, if everyone in Southern California expects to use SCIRA's linked repeater system when "The Big One" hits, we will be completely swamped with thousands of emergency calls. It simply won't work.
The best way to hold your local emergency communications Net is to hold it in Simplex mode without a repeater on a pre-determined set of frequencies. This mode is excellent for local communication in the most dire of emergencies. You should be able to speak to anyone within several miles of your location using base stations or HT radios.
We ask that all regular Nets be SCIRA Nets, focused on SCIRA members. If you wish to hold a SCIRA Net, contact someone on the SCIRA Board for guidelines and permission.
Q: Can I (or my group) use SCIRA repeaters in an emergency?
A: SCIRA is doing our best to design our repeater system such that it will be fully operational in case of an emergency. However, SCIRA's many repeaters are linked and cover a very wide area, thousands of interested radio operators. If everyone was to jump on a SCIRA repeater in a large disaster, the system would quickly become unusable.
We ask all local groups to use simplex mode in case of emergency. This is the most reliable mode of communication. Please leave the SCIRA repeaters for the authorized ERC leaders (Stake Communications Directors).
Q: Why Ham Radio?
A: In case of a serious emergency, many forms of communication that we normally rely on may be seriously overloaded or even completely broken. Most people have experienced the telephone and cell phone lines down in a local emergency due to the flood of people calling their loved ones for information. These modes of communication also become less useful or unavailable when power is down.
Ham radio (in simplex mode) does not rely on any infrastructure other than the transceiver radios and batteries. SCIRA is building a network of amateur band repeaters in Southern California that also should survive many emergency situations to allow for long-range communications for passing emergency traffic, relaying status and asking for needed supplies and assistance.
Q: What do I need for an emergency?
A: You should gather supplies into a Go Kit. Keep this kit in your car or conveniently available. Remember, the emergency may strike when you are at home, at work, at a friends home, or while traveling. You need to be prepared at all times.
A Go kit starts with a small hand-held radio (aka "Handy-Talkie" or HT). Add to this paper and pencil/pen, antenna options, extra batteries and power options, frequency lists, emergency contact information, maps, etc. On top of that, you may wish to add first-aid materials, snacks, back-up radios, hat / sunscreen, and a number of other items you may need to spend an extended time in the field assisting in any manner necessary for the emergency at hand.
Q: Why do we hold regular Nets? What is a Net?
A: A Net is a practice session where a Net Control Operator makes announcements for a group and and a list of radio amateurs may be called asking for any information or "traffic" they may have to share.
A Net is held regularly to convey information and provide equipment practice to the people participating. The radios we use can be confusing to use and this confusion can only be overcome through practice. We also hold Nets to insure that wherever you may be, you can contact the Net Control Station, that your equipment is in proper condition to communicate well.
Q: How do I start?
A: If you are LDS, contact your local unit's communications specialist. If your local unit does not have an emergency communications specialist, contact your local unit's leader to see if they know of a local emergency communications specialist. They should be able to get you started by getting a license, a radio, and working in any local groups they have going.
If you are not LDS, we recommend you contact a local chapter of a Ham Radio club. Many good clubs are centered around a repeater near your city or a local chapter of the Red Cross, ARES, or RACES groups. You're reading this on the internet, use the search engine of choice to find a good club to work with. Most Ham radio operators are extremely friendly and helpful in getting someone started in the hobby.