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.

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