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President Bush has approved legislation that will make amateur radio hams part of the emergency communications network in the US. The provision was tucked away in a section of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2007 Appropriations Act (HR 5441), which was signed into law on Wednesday following earlier Congressional approval.

Part of the wide-ranging legislation includes the 21st Century Emergency Communications Act, portions of which call for the newly created Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Groups to liaise with radio hams. Quite how this might work is yet to be hammered out, ARRL, the national association from amateur radio reports.

Earlier versions of the bill would have seen radio hams sitting on the boards of RECC Working Groups. In addition to working with amateur radio enthusiasts, RECC Working Groups will work with equipment manufacturers, telcos, local broadcast media, satellite communications services, emergency services, hospitals and other to co-ordinate plans for local communications systems in the event of an emergency. Potential disasters covered might include anything from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.

RECC Working Groups will draw up reports designed to help the US "accelerate the deployment of interoperable emergency communications nationwide". The working group would operate at state and local level with a federal RECC Working Group, made up of representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, federal department and communication agencies co-ordinating national plans. ®

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