ONTARIO RARAN AMBER ALERT STATIONS
This message contains
information pertinent to the successful operation of the Regional Amateur
Radio Alert Net (RARAN) for Ontario. Please check this frequently
as it is SUBJECT TO CHANGE.
The website address for
the page you are now reading is not listed or advertised but is intended for
the specific assistance of registered RARAN stations. Anyone wishing
general info in order to offer their assistance as a volunteer station should
be directed to the
registration form page.
While this network could
conceivably be used in future to disseminate other information vital to the
ideal of public safety, its main purpose is to facilitate the distribution of
Further information can be
found at this
website. That will provide a better understanding of the AMBER
Alert, its history and its importance; therefore you are strongly urged
to read it. The AMBER Alerts themselves will be listed in the
New Releases area.
First, some general info
about the RARAN email reflector.
It is set up so that only
a select few are able to originate messages. That includes several OPP
originating addresses, as well as that of the co-ordinator.
(Effective August 01, 2006, those
emails will be originated from a Bell Canada email address.)
This is NOT on a
commercial reflector (such as Yahoo) but one that has been designed by RAC,
residing on a RAC server.
The OPP addressees cannot
receive email via this reflector and you, the volunteer station, cannot
initiate any via this reflector. The coordinator can do both. For the
coordinator, it's duplex. For everyone else, it's simplex. For all of
us, it's very simple. If you need to contact the coordinator, please do
so directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, some frequently asked
questions and answers. This should give you a clear idea of what to expect
and what is expected of you. If there is a question that has not been
answered or you are unclear about one that has been answered, please contact
1) Q: I'm one of the
Regional stations. How do I know when an AMBER Alert has been issued?
A: The OPP has
advised that everyone on their distribution list, including the RARAN members,
will be sent a warning email when an Alert has been issued.
(Effective August 01, 2006, those
emails will be originated from a Bell Canada email address.)
The same goes for
updates and cancellations. OPP advises that every assisting group gets
this notification in the same manner, which makes sense because it means they
need to send only one message. For this reason, whenever you are at or near
your station, you should keep your computer on, with the E-mail program "up".
There are ways to set up an audible warning of incoming mail but that will be
your choice. Alternatively, or in addition to, you might consider having a BC
band radio tuned to a local station. However, there would be an obvious great
delay in getting any knowledge of an Alert other than by E-mail. In any
event, it is realized that you will not always be available. You are not
expected to sit by your computer waiting.
2) Q: What do I do when
an email has been received, telling me that an Alert has been issued?
A: That message will
include a website address, which is where you obtain the actual AMBER Alert
text. You are to log into that website and follow the prompts.
The other way is
to go directly to the "News
Releases" page. Be aware that, since this is a
"sub" page, that address may change. Although the second method is a little
quicker, you MAY have to use the first method instead. Just be aware of
that. The original email advising of the Alert will carry a message
advising you where you should go to view the Alert text.
3) Q: What am I supposed
A: Start by
identifying yourself by call sign. It is suggested that you state: "URGENT!
THIS IS AN ONTARIO AMBER ALERT. URGENT! ALL STATIONS PLEASE COPY". There is
always going to be a description of all persons concerned -- victims
(children) and suspect(s) (adults) -- as well as of a vehicle and the last
known location. (See attachment to learn the exact criteria necessary for the
issue of an AMBER Alert.) You are to transmit/distribute the text of the
AMBER Alert EXACTLY as it appears
on the OPP website. This means you must NOT NOT NOT add anything of your
own to it or
alter its meaning in any way! This is very important and highly stressed by
the OPP. Please remember that you are, in fact, assisting with an active
criminal investigation, one which has the potential to result in a homicide. There
may be instances where it would be permissible to transmit only basic
info such as description of the suspect, abducted child(ren) and any related
vehicle, particularly after you have already made initial transmissions
containing full info. But in NO case must anything be added to the text.
In all cases, the transmission must include the advice that anyone sighting
the persons and/or vehicle is to call 911 immediately. The aim is to get
sufficient information transmitted that will allow anyone listening to
possibly spot the persons or vehicle.
4) Q: How long or how
often am I to transmit the Alert?
A: This will be a
matter of your own judgment and availability. If course, it must be transmitted immediately
upon receipt. If the ALERT seems to suggest that the wanted vehicle could be
in, is approaching, or has just left your repeater(s) coverage area, it
would be wise to repeat it at 10 or 15-minute intervals for up to an hour and
then perhaps every hour or half hour thereafter. Remember, you are dealing
with a moving vehicle. At very least, it might be transmitted every 30
minutes. This will be determined by updates to the Alert, as well as your
availability, updates which you will also transmit, as well as the
cancellation, again depending upon your availability.
5) Q: But what if I
can't stay on the air that long or if I'm not available to get the Alert?
A: This system, the
RARAN, is staffed by volunteers. As such, we do what we can with what we
have. If you are not available when an Alert comes in, there's nothing you
can do about it. If you have to leave before it's over, do so.
No one is expected to sit at his/her operating position waiting for an Alert. You are
encouraged to try coordinating with other RARAN stations who might be in the
same area. But if you aren't or can't be available, it is understood. We are
but one of the partners in distributing these Alerts. However, you should
always check your email immediately upon return to the station. If you should
happen to have been away from your computer and return to find that an Alert
was issued in your absence AND is still in effect, please transmit it!
One never knows what good that might do.
6) Q: How do I transmit
the AMBER Alert?
A: As previously
stated, stick to the exact wording of the Alert, without any
alterations. Speak slowly and clearly, using recognized phonetics where
applicable. Be prepared to give repeats if requested. When you were
"recruited" as a member of this system, you were asked to supply certain
information, including the location, call sign and frequencies of repeaters or
nets which you intend to use for these Alerts. It is expected that you will
not deviate from that plan without coordination among other member stations
and notice to the coordinator of the RARAN. If there are any changes, please
advise the coordinator. If you are in an area of Ontario where the French
language is widely used, the transmission should be made in both French and
English. Be aware that distribution of the English version will not be
delayed while the Alert is translated into French. Transmit what you have, as
soon as you have it.
7) Q: What about logging
or reporting our AMBER Alert activities?
A: For the sake of
credibility, posterity and education, every station is to document all
activities pertaining to an AMBER Alert. (It's also a case of CYA.) Keep a
copy of all emails pertaining to any particular Alert, as well as a cut, paste
and save (or print out) of the actual AMBER Alert page that you used for
transmitting. That way there can be no question as to what was transmitted.
Keep a running log of every transmission of an Alert that you make, including
date, time, frequency, repeater call sign and net (if applicable), as well as
any other method in which you distributed the info. (Perhaps you forwarded it
by email or telephone to someone else. If so, document it and keep a copy.)
Please retain all of this information. There won't be many Alerts over a year
so this is no big chore. You will be asked for a brief annual report but the
form and format of that has yet to be determined. It won't be wordy.
8) Q: What if somebody
says I'm infringing on the Radio Regulations by making a "broadcast"?
A: Transmission of
an AMBER Alert is no different than the reading of bulletins or local
announcements on repeaters and nets about propagation or a gasoline station
with low prices, a practice which is very common. IN fact, transmission of
AMBER Alerts is more important that many announcements we all hear from time
to time. It is highly unlikely that the regulator would ever ban the use
of Amateur Radio frequencies for such an important and widely-recognized and
highly-respected safety program. As vital as an AMBER Alert is, you should
not be under the impression that it permits you to interrupt a net or QSO in
progress, although that might be argued. Instead, use the accepted method of
breaking in during a pause (your call sign) and asking to use the frequency
for an AMBER Alert involving a kidnapped child (or children). Any Radio
Amateur who doesn't like that deserves a slap...but resist the urge. It
has recently been suggested, by someone who is not a volunteer station
operator, that our stations should seek permission from the repeater owner to
transmit AMBER Alerts. That will be left to your own good judgment one
way or the other.
9) Q: I went to the
OPP website immediately when the warning message was received at my computer.
But there was no new AMBER Alert message. It was 10 or 15 minutes before
one appeared. What happened?
A: This was thought to perhaps be a matter of failure to re-load the
page. However, a question about this matter went to the OPP contact who
advised that it is "normal" for a delay of "at least ten minutes" between the
time the warning message is sent and the Alert appears on the website.
However, the contact also advised that efforts are being made to shorten that
time. (Nonetheless, it is still wise to make sure you have re-loaded the
page, in case it comes up with an old one from your computer's cache.)
10) Q: I
see there is now an on-line registration form for RARAN volunteer stations.
Should I go there and re-enter all of my information? How about if I
A: Please DO NOT use that form if you have already registered and are on
the email list as a volunteer station. That only confuses matters and
makes more work. It might even result in your information not being
posted correctly or not at all because of being seen as a duplicate. If
you should need to change existing information, such as telephone number,
email, etc., or enter new repeater details or the like, please do so by direct
mail to the coordinator, NOT using that form.
Hopefully, I've covered
everything here. But experience tells me I haven't. If you have further
questions or suggestions, please email me directly at ve3bdb @
information on this page, some of which is beyond my control such as web
addresses, can change without notice. For that reason you should check
often. Emails advising of such changes will also be transmitted via the
reflector when they become known.
Mercer VO1DTM (RAC CEC)
Vice President Field Services
Radio Amateurs of Canada Inc.
"We're ALL about
Services includes the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, National Traffic
System, Official Observer Service and Official Bulletin Service.
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