The American Red Cross has made the decision to phase out and decommission its Emergency Communication Response Vehicles (ECRVs), due to changes in technology, as well as a new satellite system and other factors regarding the vehicle fleet. “Retrofitting the decade-old vehicles with new equipment is not a good use of donated funds, as the long-term strategy is to move to more portable systems,” American Red Cross Disaster Services Technology Manager Keith Robertory, KG4UIR, told the ARRL. “This is consistent with the trends in the telecom and technology industries.”
The ECRVs have served well, and it will be interesting to see what takes their place in the near future. According to Mr Robertory, “every communication capability of the ECRV already exists — or will soon exist — as a rapidly deployable kit that can be loaded on any vehicle that is owned or rented by the American Red Cross, providing more flexibility in shaping its response to match the disaster.”
And what about the radios and equipment installed in the trucks? Well, the Red Cross will remove the Amateur Radios from the ECRVs and either roll them into deployable inventory, or provide them to the local chapter to help build local capacity.
“From a radio perspective, the American Red Cross has a variety of different kits for amateur, business and public safety bands covering HF, VHF and UHF with portable radios, mobile units and base stations,” he explained. “Two-way radio remains a valuable tool, providing communications in the initial days or weeks of a disaster, until normal communications is restored. Each American Red Cross chapter should continue with — and improve — the relationship with their local Amateur Radio operators. In a disaster, Amateur Radio will be the fastest deployed radio network because operators already live in the impacted communities.”
“This should not be seen as a setback for those radio amateurs who are working with the American Red Cross,” said ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U. “In disaster response, adaptability is critical and keeping up with new technology is essential. This all must be done with a mind toward an effective and efficient response. Amateurs have played an important role in assisting the American Red Cross with their mission and I know we will continue to do so in the future.”