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The Police Department’s Irvine Disaster Emergency Communications Volunteers Extend their Reach - to the Other Side of the World!

Contributed by - Diana Porto



Demonstrating the flexibility of amateur radio, Irvine Disaster Emergency Communications (IDEC) member, Bob Pestolesi, while visiting Palmer Station on Anvers Island in Antarctica, established a “HAM radio” link to amateur radio repeaters used in Irvine. The communication or “QSO” as it is referred to by radio operators was completed on December 5.  While Mr. Pestolesi could be heard clearly on the radio across Orange County, also audible in the background were the sounds of penguins half a world away.

Weeks prior to his departure, Mr. Pestolesi began discussing the possible QSO with IDEC members. A concerted effort was made to prepare the proper equipment in order to successfully secure the connection from Antarctica to Irvine and back. This effort led by Diana Porto included IDEC members Tom Hobbs, Pete Bergstrom and Harry Bergholz who participated from three sites across Orange County, including a mobile unit, a home-operated station, and the IDEC Radio Room at the Irvine Police Department.


So how did they do it?
To achieve this extraordinary QSO, the team utilized the capabilities of Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP). The objective of the IRLP is to reliably link amateur radio systems without the use of radio frequency (RF) links, leased lines, or satellites. The IRLP uses custom Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) software and hardware. Coupled with the Internet, IRLP links two-way radio repeater systems and individual simplex radio stations to the world. The dedicated servers and nodes provide worldwide voice communications between hundreds of towns and cities.


What that means to the Irvine Police Department

Any opportunity for IDEC to test its capabilities is an opportunity to improve and adapt to the changing world of emergency communications.  This particular opportunity served as a great training tool for IDEC members.  Radio operators responding to a disaster, such as the recent super storm “Sandy”, have the potential of saving lives and property by providing vital communications where other forms may fail.


Who are these people again?

IDEC recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Comprised of approximately seventy members, IDEC is the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES1) unit of the Irvine Police Department. Members are licensed amateur radio operators and certified by the Irvine Police Department. They volunteer their time and expertise to maintain and improve a wide variety of disaster communications capabilities for the City of Irvine.



1RACES is a protocol created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); activated by local, county, and state jurisdictions they are the only Amateur Radio operators authorized to transmit during declared emergencies.