AMBER Alert

ATTENTION ALL ONTARIO RARAN AMBER ALERT STATIONS

 

PLEASE NOTE:  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

Updated 2009-11-06

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 AMBER Alerts.
 
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 vo1dtm@hotmail.com 
 
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 the coordinator.

 

 
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. 
 
          There are two ways to access the AMBER Alert.  First is to go to the http://www.opp.ca/Investigative/opp_001012.html/ site, then click on "News Releases" in the body of the page.  That will take you to the News Releases.  The latest current AMBER Alert, update or cancellation will always be at the top of that News Release list.  (franšais ici)
 
          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 to transmit/distribute?
 
     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 change repeaters?

       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 @ sympatico.ca.  Also, 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.
 
Many thanks.
 
73,
Bob
 
Doug Mercer VO1DTM  (RAC CEC)
Vice President Field Services
Radio Amateurs of Canada Inc.
"We're ALL about Amateur Radio!"
 
Note: Field Services includes the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, National Traffic System, Official Observer Service and Official Bulletin Service.
 
 

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