VECTOR History


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Background: Emergency Communications & The Amateur Radio Service

Communications are a critical service in an emergency. Experience has shown when communications systems fail, and they often do, assistance efforts are hampered and loss of life and injuries increase. Amateur Radio has a long history of providing ancillary communications including two-way radio, television, and digital modes to support emergency and social services. Amateur Radio (Ham) radio enthusiasts practice radio communications as a hobby, routinely talk around the globe, and are well equipped and trained to provide these services. The term ‘amateur’ refers only to the fact that it is a not-for-profit service and is not a reflection of the skill level of those engaged in the service.

Practitioners include engineers, doctors, lawyers, blue-collar workers and others from all walks of life and many commercial communications applications were first developed by Amateur Radio hobbyists.

Amateur Radio Service in Canada

Amateur radio operators throughout Canada and elsewhere have historically volunteered their time, equipment and expertise in support of disaster and emergency response activities. Some recent situations in which volunteer amateur radio operators have assisted with emergency communications are:

  • Celebration of Lights Fireworks and other civic events, ongoing;
  • Evacuation of residents displaced from fire in support of the City Disaster Assistance Team (DAT), ongoing;
  • Calgary and Southern Alberta region flooding, 2013;
  • Interior interface fires 2003;
  • Heather Thomas search, Surrey, October, 2000;
  • Salmon Arm Forest Fire, August, 1998;
  • Swiss Air Crash, 1999;
  • Ice Storm in Eastern Canada & USA, December/January 1998;

Adherence to established organizational and operational standards for the conduct of emergency radio communications is fostered by Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) in Canada through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). During a disaster, the standardization of procedures for the handling of formal message traffic facilitates the accurate passage of information between government and non-governmental agencies.

Amateur radio has been recognized by many agencies such as Emergency Social Services (ESS), Red Cross and Salvation Army for its ability to provide a decentralized alternate effective communications capability.

In times of a large scale disaster, amateur radio operators are able to communicate with other amateur radio operators worldwide to advise the status of the affected area(s), and the type of assistance required.

VECTOR - Amateur Radio Service & City of Vancouver

The Vancouver Emergency Community Telecommunications Organization (VECTOR) provides emergency radio communication capability through the services of volunteers. VECTOR operates in support of the City of Vancouver Emergency program and its emergency services.

VECTOR was conceived in 1998 as a City of Vancouver (CoV) support organization for amateur radio and other wireless communications volunteers and was registered as a non-profit society with the full support and participation of the City and the Vancouver Police Department. The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Board each have one permanent, appointed director on the VECTOR Executive.

VECTOR Constitution and Bylaws

VECTOR offers four classes of membership. Full membership is offered to licensed radio amateurs; Affiliate membership is open to amateur radio clubs or organizations; Associate memberships to unlicensed volunteers who wish to assist; and Corporate membership for the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department, and for organizations who wish to support the Society.

The VECTOR Board of Directors manages the affairs of the society and advises the City of Vancouver and its emergency services on issues relating to amateur and other volunteer based radio communications. VECTOR provides communications support for community events such as parades and charity runs. This provides our volunteer Amateur Radio operators with training and practical experience for emergency communications while operating in the field under various conditions.

The national organization that represents volunteer amateur radio operators is Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC). Throughout Canada, RAC facilitates emergency radio communications provided by volunteers through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) structure. VECTOR supports RAC and ARES principles.

The provincial organization that represents volunteer amateur radio operators is the Provincial Emergency Radio Communications Service (PERCS). Throughout the Province of British Columbia, PERCS facilitates emergency radio communications provided by amateur radio. VECTOR supports PEP and PERCS principles.


The mandate of the Vancouver Emergency Community Telecommunications Organization is to provide Amateur Radio and other community-based supplementary emergency wireless communications services for the City of Vancouver and all other partner and emergency service agencies when required.

VECTOR is the primary emergency telecommunications resource for the City of Vancouver Emergency Social Services Program and its affiliates.

The intent of VECTOR is to develop and support an emergency two-way radio communications capability for voice and data traffic within the local amateur radio community; and to familiarize its members with the emergency program in the City of Vancouver. This is achieved through a number of coordinating functions and is not limited to the following:

  • maintenance of the VECTOR Amateur radio room and VECTOR equipment at the Vancouver Emergency Operations Centre (EOC);
  • capability to establish radio communications at a field site;
  • maintenance of resource and qualification lists related to amateur radio;
  • development of training materials;
  • conduct of training activities including regular Nets, Field Day and other exercises;
  • development, conduct and evaluation of emergency communications exercises;
  • recruitment, training and support of neighbourhood communications volunteers;
  • support in the installation and maintenance of field stations such as those at designated Reception Centres;
  • provision of qualified, licensed radio amateurs to support civic and community events including the Vancouver International Marathon; The Celebration of Light; the Illuminaires Festival and the Santa Claus Parade; and provision and coordination of qualified licensed radio amateurs in the event of an emergency requiring ancillary communications.

Beyond amateur radio, the VECTOR structure extends to include other forms of two-way radio communication such as licensed commercial, Citizen’s Band (CB), and Family Radio Service (FRS) undertaken by volunteers in the event of an emergency or disaster. It is recognized however, that the level of technical knowledge and skill inherent in licensed amateur radio operators will ensure their leadership role in communications support.