Over the past 10 years, the Warm Springs Public Safety Branch and emergency response manager Dan Martinez have been working to fund and build out the public safety radio network on the reservation.
This is critical for the protection of the people and visitors on the reservation, enabling two-way, inter-operable communications for first-responders.
The team has built new towers, shared with the Warm Springs Telecom, to place the necessary equipment.
They have purchased new repeaters, hand-helds, and mobile equipment, meeting the new federal standards.
These upgrades ensure inter-operable communications between the various Warm Springs departments, including police and fire, and outside agencies.
The team secured the purchase of new dispatch consoles and software, and created a new inter-operable microwave link with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
All of these initiatives enhance the protection and safety of the people on the reservation.
An exciting new step to further increase public safety has now been achieved with a recent grant to purchase and install new ‘ham radio’ equipment.
In times of emergency, when normal public safety communications are not available, ham radio systems—also referred to as amateur radio—are an alternative that may be used for this purpose.
In fact, current FCC rules—governing public safety requirements— state that “amateur stations and operators are allowed to assist and support public safety communications in times of emergency.”
Warm Springs received a state grant to purchase ham radio equipment.
A ham radio repeater was installed on Eagle Butte last year. Josh Richesin, manager of engineering and operations for Warm Springs Telecom, assisted in the installation.
The tribes and Warm Springs Telecom developed a plan that calls for the Telecom to serve as the back-up communication site and secondary command post for disaster preparedness and communications.
“In the last few months, I have challenged the state to recognize our tribes as a ham radio communications hub that can provide coverage within our boundaries and beyond,” said Dan Martinez.
“With that said, we are finally receiving the grants dollars to support our objective and improve ham operators’ communications… These ham operators will function as part of our public safety public safety network.”
Dan was asked why—with all the improvements that the tribes have made in recent years with its public safety radio network—this ham radio network is important to the tribes.
“It is imperative as a tribal nation,” Mr. Martinez said, “that we assure communication with our outside resources in the event our police channels or communications should be compromised, or should shut down due to a disaster such as an earthquake, mudslides or flood.”
Josh Richesin has been a ham radio operator for the past 10 years. He has been assigned as the ham radio contact person.
“With the rivers, canyons and mountains on the reservation, we are bound to have critical incidents,” Josh was saying recently.
“ And if we have a disaster, the ham radio network is a critical back-up system. And it’s often the first one to be back in service.”
Amateur radio service operators must be licensed users who operate radio communications as a hobby or a voluntary service, running within amateur radio frequencies allocated by the FCC.
Anyone interested in becoming an amateur ham radio operator is required to pass an FCC licensing exam to prove that the individual possesses the operational and technical qualifications required. This guarantees that all operators have the skills to perform the services that maybe required during an emergency.
If you are interested in training to become a licensed operator, information will be made available to the community soon.