The Covid-19 pandemic has been a part of our daily lives for several weeks now and will most likely continue to be for some time. The pandemic is of particular concern for Radio Amateurs because ours is a hobby that can be practised by people of all ages from elementary schoolchildren to senior citizens. In fact, it is frequently one of the activities that many take up as they near or begin retirement and finally have the time and resources available to participate. Consequently, we have a high proportion of seniors among our members and indeed some of the Amateur Radio clubs affiliated with RAC are senior citizen organizations.
Canadians are being directed to stay home in order to limit their contact with other people and to “flatten” or “plank” the coronavirus curve. As result, Amateur Radio club meetings and public events have been cancelled and clubs are investigating ways to keep in touch with their members – who are being encouraged to limit direct personal contacts through social/physical distancing and self-isolation – by using existing or new Amateur Radio nets (see below) and/or internet-based communication tools such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx and many others.
Isolation can have its own potential problems for people who live alone. Amateur Radio is all about communicating and we have the necessary hardware and expertise to enable individuals to stay in touch with their families, friends and colleagues.
The Canadian Red Cross has prepared a “Psychological First Aid Pocket Guide” (PDF file, 631 kB; also shown below) which “provides emotional and practical support to individuals, families and communities who are having difficulty coping. It is about establishing a connection with people in a compassionate non-judgmental manner to bring calm and comfort.”
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is assisting the effort at every level. Some regions have already activated their Emergency Operations Centres to help coordinate agencies working the frontline and because of the current state of emergency declared by provinces, territories and municipalities. This does not mean that Amateur Radio Emergency Services are active or will be activated for this event. We provide communications services to mitigate potential failures and currently, despite the reports of concerns, there have been no reported issues.
Amateur Radio nets regularly connect individuals on a scheduled basis, but perhaps they can play additional roles during these difficult times such as helping isolated seniors keep contact with one another and allowing their colleagues and club members to help out when needed. We do not have a complete list of all Amateur Radio nets in Canada but the links at the end of this Message will provide a good start.
The impact and duration of the unprecedented global pandemic we now face has yet to be determined and it is difficult to plan in an uncertain future. However, although the RAC Head Office in Ottawa has been closed indefinitely, the majority of activities and responsibilities of the RAC administration are now being performed remotely. In addition, the RAC Board and Executive and all RAC committees and volunteers continue to work on behalf of all RAC members and for Amateur Radio in Canada and internationally.
The Amateur Radio Service consists of a diverse population, both in age and abilities, and Amateurs and Amateur Radio organizations are adapting to the current crisis and using their skills and knowledge to help in any way they can. RAC is also rising to the challenge and is now looking at ways to do things differently and to take advantage of our technical skills and recent technological advances. For example, we are now in the final stages of organizing both a Basic and an Advanced online Amateur Radio course. More information about this new initiative will be posted on the RAC website in the coming days.
It is interesting that we are discussing this new need for Amateur Radio to provide assistance as we approach World Amateur Radio Day which is held every April 18. It was on that day in 1925 that the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) was formed in Paris and Radio Amateurs worldwide now take to the airwaves each year in celebration.
Appropriately, the theme of World Amateur Radio Day is “Celebrating Amateur Radio’s contribution to Society” and Amateur Radio will play its part as the current global crisis unfolds. RAC is planning to celebrate World Amateur Radio Day this year on the air by inviting Amateurs in Canada and around the world to contact RAC official stations (VA2RAC, VA3RAC etc). The details are still being worked out and we will provide more information about this event in the near future.
Thank you for your continued support and understanding during this time of crisis. Please take care of yourself and your loved ones. Stay safe and, wherever possible, let us help one another during this extraordinary time.
Glenn MacDonell, VE3XRA
President, Radio Amateurs of Canada
Amateur Radio nets:
Amateur Radio nets:
Radio Amateurs of Canada:
The Battleford’s Amateur Radio Association:
The North Okanagan Radio Amateur Club: