D-STAR and Emergency Communications

D-STAR emergency communicationSeptember is National Preparedness month. It is the perfect time to review your family’s emergency plan. When you decide how you’ll communicate during a crisis situation or event, include D-STAR in your thinking. We’ve already talked about creating a communications plan to keep you and your family connected. But what do you do when traditional communication channels, like landlines, cell phones, Wi-Fi calling and Internet access aren’t available?

Think it can’t happen? It wasn’t that long ago, Sept. 11, 2001, that millions worldwide were unable to reach loved ones. Inclement weather, like this month’s Hurricane Hermine, can cut you off from emergency personnel during a crisis. Are you willing to risk being unable to reach family/friends and emergency services during a disaster? Yeah, we thought so.

Amateur Radio

This week, we’re taking a closer look – and  not just at Ham radio. Recent technology has made radio an essential part of staying linked-up with family, friends and emergency services during a catastrophic event.

You can use it to

  • send emails or text messages
  • share files
  • speak to someone on the other end

Amateur radio joins people, electronics and communications on a routine basis.

The service was created by the Federal Communications Commission to assemble specialists for assistance during emergency situations.

D-STAR- How it works

D-STAR radioIn the late 20th century, the Japanese Amateur Radio League developed Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio or D-STAR in an effort to bring the booming digital industry to the world of amateur radio. The technology is continuing to find a new audience among those planning, preparing and practicing emergency communications. Amateur radio operators increasingly find themselves at the epicenter of keeping families/communities connected during an emergency event.

D-STAR has evolved. Today the system links repeaters locally and online by call signs. The technology lets amateur radio operators connect with emergency communication-focused networks on 10GHz. It also transfers voice and data over VHF and UHF amateur radio bands.

Getting Started

Including amateur radio with D-STAR capability in your emergency communications plan is no laughing matter. It can’t be an afterthought. You need to be a federally registered amateur radio operator and can select from three license classes in the U.S. – technician, general and extra.

An amateur radio operating license, issued by the Federal Communications Commission, expires after 10 years. Yes, you need to pay attention and renew as needed.

Next Steps

What happens next is completely up to you. It will depend on the equipment you choose to use as a Ham operator. Amateur radios that are compatible with D-STAR over VHF and UHF are ideal for use when established communication methods are unreachable.

D-Star Reflectors attach HAM operators via a bridge. Any information transmitted this way is repeated regionally or even worldwide (depending on the reflector chosen), effectively setting up a global conference call.


Thinking outside the box is part of being prepared for the unknown. Family and friends may already be using this technology to stay in touch with loved ones around the world. You don’t need to be cut off from family and friends because traditional communication networks are inaccessible. Think about possibilities and prepare yourself for using radio in a whole new way.

You might also like:

image credit: By Federal Communications Commission – FCC EAS 2007 TV Handbook, Public Domain

image credit: By Zuzu – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Sign Up for Our Mailing List
* = required field
About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

Speak Your Mind