According to a letter from the law office of A. Nathan Zeliff to Lorina Pisi, an official with the California Department of Fire and Forestry, the state is demanding that Ham radio operators either remove repeater equipment that sits atop various mountainous regions throughout the state or begin paying Cal Fire thousands of dollars per year, per repeater, to keep them in place.
For those who aren’t familiar with Ham radio, it is a widely used form of communication that has been around for decades. Unlike less powerful CB radios, Ham operators receive training and are required to be licensed. There are “three types of licenses for ham radio operators are being granted today: Technician, General, and Amateur Extra. By taking progressively more challenging exams, you gain access to more frequencies and operating privileges,” according to this source.
Americans who live in rural or sparsely populated areas often use Ham radio as a form of emergency communication. Also, as Zeliff notes in his letter, California operators already bear the costs for maintaining repeater equipment.
“A repeater is an automatic controlled radio station that automatically takes an incoming signal and simultaneously repeats it out to a wide area,” MyOffroadRadio notes.
What’s more, Cal Fire’s decision to ditch the repeaters is based on dubious reasoning. “With constantly changing technological advances, there is no longer the same [emergency] benefit to [the] state as previously provided,” says a letter from the organization to Ham operators.
But the reliance on “technological advances” is misplaced, Zeliff notes.
“I am advised that this action is being done for the entire State of California. Many of these repeaters have been in public safety use for decades. They have saved lives,” he wrote. “They have in fact been used for public safety and to protect life and property when the public communication systems have completely collapsed and failed during disasters.”
“The cost to the State of California is nothing for these repeaters. Rather, Ham Radio Operators pay for the equipment and maintain the equipment at their own cost,” he added. “The Ham Radio Operators do not make any money off of these repeaters. Your actions will destroy the existing Ham Radio Repeater System Infrastructure and Network that is a critical and vital asset for Disaster Emergency Communications.”
Zeliff also warned that once removed, it would become “cost prohibitive” to reinstall the repeaters.
Meanwhile, Cal Fire is essentially contradicting itself with instructions it is providing residents in areas serviced by Ham radio operators and the repeaters they rely on to get emergency signals out during crises like wildfires.
One of the recommendations is to have a “communications plan and practice it regularly,” Cal Fire noted. Another is to “alert family and neighbors” to an approaching emergency or disaster. Still another is to “have out-of-area contacts so you can communicate with family members who have relocated.”
All of these readiness plans are currently facilitated by the use of Ham radio operators using existing repeater equipment.
In order to keep the repeaters in place, Cal Fire is informing operators and their communities they must pay a $2,500 “technical analysis fee” and a “lease administration cost” of between $3,000 and $5,000.
“Also, there will be an annual rent charge based upon equipment type/space,” Pisi said in her notification letter.
So while the equipment that is used by Ham radio operators not only has proven to have saved lives and is currently being maintained by the operators themselves, here comes the Democrat-led California bureaucracy with a suggestion from the good idea fairy to dismantle a very important emergency communications system while pushing…emergency communications.
You can’t make this up.