The Utah VHF Society
ERC Frequency Usage Statement
and usage of simplex frequencies by volunteer organizations

One of the most important aspects of amateur radio is that of community service:  This is, in fact, one of the key justifications for the very existence of amateur radio and its use of valuable frequency spectrum and such use is spelled out in the FCC rules in the portion known as the "Basis and Purpose" and you may have even heard people refer to amateur radio-related community service as "paying the rent."  To aid in this aspect of amateur radio, there are a number of groups that organize and provide training for amateur radio operators to serve in these roles.  This nature of these organizations and training is widely varied, but it almost always includes structure and technique for effective communications under different and adverse conditions.

It should come as no surprise that for training and organizational purposes, many of these groups have certain frequencies on which they conduct their activities.  Often, these groups use a combination of repeaters (their own or, with permission, existing repeaters belonging to other groups) as well as simplex frequencies to facilitate these communications, organizational and training activities.

It should also be recognized by members - and especially, organizers of these groups - that the radio spectrum is a very limited resource and its use requires the careful coordination of the activities of many diverse groups to avoid conflicts that might impede the effective communications.  Practically speaking, there are simply not enough frequencies for each group to have their "own" frequency!

While it might seem to a good idea if each group had its "own" frequency, this would not necessarily be a good thing.  If the intent of a group is to communicate, breaking the organization into too-small groups would unnecessarily complicate the passage of traffic.  Conversely, too-large a group can make the proper prioritization and the management of the sheer bulk of traffic difficult:  Given the two choices, however, the latter case is arguably easier for skilled operators to manage, as it is always easier to deal with what you do know when dealing with the large group than with what you do not know if you are trying to deal with many smaller, fragmented groups!

One welcome challenge often faced by organizers of such groups is there are often individual, energized members, each being willing to contribute to the betterment of the group as a whole.  One aspect of this challenge includes the absolute need to make sure that these eager, members do not unnecessarily duplicate efforts - particularly when those efforts may, when the "big picture" is considered, actually decrease the overall effectiveness of the group as a whole.

One request often made of the frequency coordinator is that by a zealous individual that wishes to have additional frequencies for their local emergency services group.  While this may sound like a reasonable request, the coordinator must make sure that such a request is, in fact, one that receives the blessings of the organizers of the group as a whole and not an isolated effort by a well-meaning enthusiastic member:  You can surely imagine the chaos that would ensue if each individual took it upon his/herself to try to obtain the limited spectrum resource without appropriate regard to the needs of the organization at large!  Without careful management of the spectrum, large groups can become unintentionally fractured with much duplicated effort resulting in an overall decrease of communications effectiveness and efficiency.  This is not to mention very real and practical concerns about unintentional interference between the many groups that might result if their efforts are not appropriately coordinated!

To avoid such unnecessary duplication of effort and inefficient fragmentation, organized groups do not permit individuals to undertake their own, isolated efforts in such important matters as frequency coordination and the like.  While not always well-publicized, many of these groups have stated policies about such efforts, directing their members to work within the system (and not individually) to maximize both communications efficacy and organizational efficiency.

ERC's statement about the use of simplex frequencies:

For an example of one such directive, see the document:
"Emergency Response Communications (ERC) Simplex Frequency Policy for the Wasatch Front."

While this document specifically applies to the ERC group in particular, its stated goals and intentions are generally applicable to any group that has the need for amateur radio spectrum use to facilitate their communications.  Taking the ERC group as an example, individual members should not undertake frequency assignments on their own, but rather work with the group to assure the maximum effect of their individual contributions!

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This page updated 20130418