Archive for the 'Bill 118' Category

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CANWARN – Ham Radio Volunteers Supply Critical Info

Following the August 2oth tornados that swept through Ontario, ham radio volunteers provided Environment Canada with critical on-the-ground confirmations of the severe weather conditions that took one life and caused extensive property damage to communities north of Toronto.

According to Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for Environment Canada, amateur radio operators from the affected areas along with other volunteers were on the job during the day supplying Environment Canada with much needed visual confirmations of the tornadoes.

In response to an email from Radio Amateurs of Canada, Geoff reports as follows:

“The Weather Centre did indeed receive numerous real-time, on-the-ground reports from our CANWARN volunteer spotters during this very active and significant weather day. Both hams and non-hams in the affected areas were sending in observations to the Weather Centre providing the forecasters invaluable information of the conditions in their particular areas.”

All those amateur radio participants are to be commended for their service to their communities and to the province of Ontario.

For more information on the CANWARN system and how to volunteer please follow the link provided.

More on Bill 118 from RAC President Bob Cooke

Based upon email I have seen and a couple of conversations I have overheard recently on the Amateur bands, wild rumours are flying around concerning the Ontario Bill C118 and the use of Amateur Radio in motor vehicles. Some of the comments being made would be laughable if it were not for the fact they are being believed despite being ridiculous on their face.

I urge every Ontario Radio Amateur to not believe everything they hear but instead seek out factual information, an excellent source of which is right here, the RAC Blog, edited by RAC’s Vice President for Public Relations, Peter West, VE3HG.

Peter has been leading the RAC effort, on behalf of every Amateur in the province, since the matter of possible restrictions for Amateur Radio operation first came to light. His efforts have included emails, letters and face to face meetings with MTO officials.

The RAC, by way of Peter, has been tireless, contrary to what you may have been told by some. Regardless of the outcome, we all owe Peter a huge vote of thanks.

The sky isn’t falling, at least not yet. So I encourage everyone to stop listening to Chicken Little or, worse, mimicking the title character of that children’s story, and instead look to the RAC and to VPPR West for the truth.

And, if you are not a RAC member, please consider becoming one so that the RAC can continue to defend Amateur Radio against attacks such as those potentially included in the Ontario cell phone Bill.

Thank you.

Bob Cooke
President, Radio Amateurs of Canada Inc.
“We’re ALL about Amateur Radio!”
“Tous ensemble pour la radioamateur!”

Rumours flying around Bill 118

There’s an email being circulated that suggests the “rules of the road” have been decided in regards to Bill 118 the anti-distracted driving Bill due to come into effect soon in Ontario.

Nothing could be further from the facts.

Right now, we are still awaiting a public announcement by Ontario’s Transport Minister Jim Bradley on Bill 118 and how it will be applied to those who use two-way radio equipment in their moving vehicles.

Best thing anyone concerned about Bill 118 can do right now is call or visit their local MPP and express their concern about how the Bill might negatively impact the wonderful community service offered by amateur radio operators every week in communities across Ontario.

The Baby and the Bathwater

(This is an editorial by Peter West, VE3HG, the vice-president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada. This editorial does not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Radio Amateurs of Canada and solely represents the opinion of the author.)

There’s an old saying that you don’t throw out the baby when you throw out the bathwater.

So is that what could happen in Ontario if Jim Bradley, the Minister of Transportation, decides that all two-way radios in use in moving vehicles must be equipped with a hands-free device?

I think I say that for the vast majority of Ontario’s 5,000-plus amateur radio operators the answer would be yes.

Hams have been installing two-way radios in vehicles since the time of the invention of the two-way radio and the time of the invention of the automobile. And in the ensuing 100-plus years there’s not been an outbreak of distracted driving caused by people driving and talking on two-way radios.

The use of a two-way radio in a moving vehicle is not an issue for pilots who routine talk on their radios as they land and take off from airports big and small. It’s not an issue for emergency responders who may well be pumped up with adrenaline coursing through their bodies and yet find they can drive at high speeds their emergency vehicles while talking on their radios.

It’s the same for CBers, transport truck drivers, delivery people, taxis and scores of other drivers. In fact, anyone who has ever used a two-way radio with an attached microphone will tell you the same thing.

Oddly, commercial drivers who use two-way radio equipment are not subjected to any testing or need to have any technical knowledge in the operation of their radio equipment. Ham radio operators, on the other hand, do pass federally administered proficiency examinations before being granted the privilege to use their two-way radio equipment in their vehicles.

Heck, even the astronauts on the International Space Station (of whom four right now are licensed amateur radio operators) talk on their radios (including ham radio) without thought that they might be distracted from their work.

So what is the intent of Bill 118?

Why it’s to save lives and every member of the Amateur Radio Service supports this legislation. It’s a good thing and Minister Bradley should be congratulated on its introduction this fall.

However, the minister shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. The use of two-way radios doesn’t contribute to distracted driving. It never did and it never will. A simple demonstration shows this to be true.

If amateur radio was negatively impacted by Bill 118 our communities would end up being the big losers. Hams annually unselfishly contribute thousands of hours of community and emergency service plus the donation of their skills and equipment to their friends and neighbours. And in many cases such as the Barrie Tornado, the Quebec Ice Storm, Hurricane Katrina and right now the California wildfires, amateur radio is at the forefront of serving the needs of their communities

Bill 118 would cause many to forgo the installation of a two-way radio in their private vehicles. This sadly is just human nature. right now we have a vibrant and, surprisingly, growing population of active amateur radio operators and Bill 118 would do nothing to encourage them to spend anywhere from $200 to $2000 in mobile equipment.

Legislators in other states and provinces have seen the wisdom in specifically exempting amateur radio operation from their distracted driving legislation. Minister Jim Bradley should be encouraged to do the same.

Now is the time to contact the Minister directly and share with him your concerns and thoughts.

What is the Ontario gov’t policy on Bill 118?

That’s the question of the hour. But new information (at least to me) has surfaced this morning. Seems that MPP Linda Jeffrey made a reply to a question by an amateur radio delegation at her committee earlier this year where she stated:

“Right now, for example, on a CB radio, if it’s connected and there’s a wire that connects to the radio receiver in the vehicle, that’s not where this legislation is speaking to, so that wouldn’t be something that would be a problem.”

BTW the presentation to the committee was done by Vince D’Eon, VE3LKV, who should be acknowledged and thanked for all of his hard work on our behalf.

We are querying our contacts at the Ontario government about Ms Jeffrey’s statement and will post any reply when we have it.

BC Hams urge gov’t to exclude ham radio

Congratulations to Marilyn Sergi, VE7OSS and Mario Sergi, VA7WOP whose letter to the editor of The Langley Times was published in the Aug. 18th edition of the newspaper.

The letter made a strong case for the granting of an exemption to the proposed B.C. legislation to limit the use of cell phones for texting while driving.

Amateurs in Ontario would be well advised to do the same and we’d recommend taking the same tact as VE7OSS and VA7WOP. Very nicely done.

When you’ve written to your local newspaper, send a copy of the letter to your local MPP and to Ontario Transport Minister Bradley.

And do it today !!

This is the danger of texting and driving

Here is a link to a British video that you must watch to learn why Ontario’s Bill 118 is a great idea. (WARNING: This video is gruesome, bloody, unforgettable and a must watch for every driver who thinks it’s okay to dial or text a cell phone while driving.)

What this also shows is that the use of two-way radio transmitters is nothing like texting or dialling a cell phone. The use of a two-way radio transmitter does not involve the operator’s eyes ever leaving the roadway. There is no distraction to the driver whatsoever.

(Our two-way radio equipment works in exactly the same way that the police, fire, ambulance and helicopter life-saving radios work. And, strangely with the exception of the pilots, amateur radio operators have much more training in the safe use of radio equipment than any of the emergency service personnel.)

Amateurs, CBers and drivers of commercial vehicles equipped with two-way radio transmitters have saved countless lives (and still do especially in places where the cell phone network does not reach) on Ontario roadways.

Ontario’s Bill 118 puts all this and more (CANWARN, ARES, community service work) in jeopardy if the users of two-way radios are not granted an exemption as has been done in other jurisdictions such as Manitoba.

If you are an amateur radio operator in Ontario who is concerned about this issue, call or see your local MPP and explain the impact Bill 118 could have on the legal and historic use of amateur radio in mobile installations.

And while you’re at it, email or call the premier and Transport Minister Jim Bradley.

What’s so great about CANWARN?

Training! That’s what. CANWARN is a volunteer organization of ham radio operators across Canada who report severe weather when they see it to Environment Canada.CANWARN

What they do is called “ground-truthing” where they confirm what satellites and radars see in the atmosphere. When Environment Canada issues severe weather watches or warnings, they alert the  CANWARN volunteers at the organization’s regional stations in the affected areas. The volunteers contact other CANWARN members via amateur radio and reports are forwarded immediately to Environment Canada.

This is a wonderful example of a free, volunteer-driven community resource which has the potential to save lives and direct emergency responders to affected areas.

So what’s with the training?tornado-2

In Ontario alone, starting in April of this year and running through to the end of May, CANWARN offered about 20 training sessions at locations across the province. Scores of interest amateur radio operators attended.

The volunteers were trained in what to look for, how to report it and how to use their mobile and portable amateur radio transmitters to access the extensive network of amateur radio automatic repeaters that link just about every community in southern, central and even the near north of the province.

If you want more information about becoming a CANWARN volunteer, here’s the email link:

Oregon Hams Get Cell Phone Exemption

This edit from World Radio Online Sept. 2009 issue.

Oregon radio amateurs began a political drive to insure an
exemption for mobile ham radio operations. In the version of
the measure passed by both houses of the Oregon legislature
their work was rewarded.

In addition to hams, also exempt are those operating a motor vehicle while acting in the scope of employment as a public safety officer and people operating a motor vehicle while providing public safety services or emergency services as a volunteer. Also exempt are those using 11 meter Citizens Radio or UHF Family Radio Service two-way radio gear.

Oregon House Bill 2377 prohibits driving while talking
or texting on a hand-held cell phone. Once in force, drivers
who violate the law could be fined up to $90.

A spokeswoman for Governor Ted Kulongoski said he will
sign House Bill 2377 into law. The effective date will be January
1st, 2010.

Controversy erupts over tornado warning system


The Background Story

Hundreds of amateur radio operators in Ontario (and across Canada) are volunteers with Environment Canada’s CanWarn system. These dedicated volunteers report severe weather conditions directly15y to Environment Canada. Weather experts use this to confirm radar and satellite images of possible severe weather.

The Controversy

Today, The Globe and Mail is asking whether or not Canada’s system of early warning failed the people of Durham and York Region. The article quotes Environment Canada meteorologists as saying a tornado warning was issued half an hour before an 11-year-old boy was killed in the storm and that the half-hour warning was “very, very good.”

However most townspeople and municipal officials say they never received the warning.

A Secondary Issue

Now, while it is too early to tell whether or not amateur radio operators were reporting on last week’s tornado, there is a situation in Ontario that could curtail any future participation by amateur radio operators with the Canwarn system.

The Ontario government is implementing Bill 118 (the anti cell-phone will driving legislation) this fall. Bill 118 could inadvertently impact the legal and historic use of amateur radio equipment in moving vehicles.

The Solution

The problem could be solved by a simple exemption for the Amateur Radio Service from Bill 118. Unfortunately, the Ontario Ministry of Transport has yet to make a decision to exempt the legal, federally licensed use of amateur radio equipment in a moving vehicle.

Other neighbouring jurisdictions in Canada (i.e. Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia) plus many American states specifically either exempt or have created policy that excludes amateur radio use from their cell phone use while driving legislation. Radio Amateurs of Canada is urging Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley to exempt two-way radio use from being affected by Bill 118.

The use of amateur radio two-way transmission equipment was never part of the problem being addressed by Bill 118 and impacting the ability of amateur radio operators in Ontario to operate their equipment while driving won’t be part of the solution.

The Action Steps

We urge everyone who is interested in creating a better severe weather warning system in Ontario to support RAC’s initiative to encourage the Minister of Transport and Minister Jim Bradley to immediately exempt all amateur radio operation from Bill 118.

RAC also urges all its members and all amateurs in Canada’s Amateur Radio Service to join the Canwarn system of early detection. Regardless of where you live in Canada, severe weather can and does happen.

Become part of the solution. Join Canwarn and continue the Amateur Radio Services’ proud tradition of helping our communities in times of need.

Remember: When ALL ELSE FAILS, there’s always Amateur Radio.