A question was recently posed asking, why with all the terrorist attacks in the world, and the US using cruise missiles to strike Syria, are we still at AmCON-5?! 

The purpose and function of the AmCON (AmRRON readiness CONdition level) is very clear, and should not be confused with the government’s DEFCON (DEFense CONdition) alert level status reporting system.  The DEFCON system is designed to elevate our military readiness to perceived and probable threats to our national security.  AmCON is NOT DEFCON.    Now that I’ve covered what AmCON is “not,” let me explain what it IS.

AmCON is an alert and readiness level system that specifically relates to disruptions to conventional communications — our telecommunications services and infrastructure.

Decisions to elevate the AmCON are based on analyses of perceived threats and/or evidence of an increased probable risk to conventional communications.  The specific level which is chosen is based on the likelihood of a disrupting event, including the highest level (AmCON-1) when a disruption is occurring or is imminent.

Trucks running down crowds of innocent civilians in Sweden, Germany, or France, although shocking and violating to the senses of good people, pose no threat of disrupting the United States’ telecommunications systems.

The situation involving cruise missile strikes in Syria is one we are watching much more closely, especially when followed by aggressive political responses and threats of military intervention if the US ‘does that again’.   Still, in our assessment, although the situation could potentially deteriorate into WWIII, the situation does not present an increased risk of loss to our telecommunications services and infrastructure in the near future.  Although, that can all change with one headline.

The movement of US naval assets to the Korean Peninsula is yet another reason for concern, especially considering the aggressive and unpredictable nature of Kim ‘sick-in-the-head’ Un with an arsenal (such as it is) of nukes.

Because of the combination of the US/Russian relations and the developments in the Pacific off the Korean Peninsula, we are following the situation very closely with a heightened sense of situational awareness.

Possibility does not = Probability.  Although there is an increased ‘possibility’ of escalation to military conflict between the United States and Russia, Iran, and North Korea, at this time we do not view it as equating to an increased ‘probability’.

During the inauguration of President Trump the AmCON was raised to it’s highest level ever (AmCON-3) during peacetime/real-world conditions.  That was based on very real and credible threats by domestic hostile leftist groups and individuals who vowed to “disrupt.”   They claimed they were prepared and planning to “break s#*t” including transportation and communications, and ultimately the inauguration ceremonies and the normal, peaceful lives Americans were trying to carry out.  All indicators pointed to the deliberate overwhelming of law enforcement resources, and an increased probability (though not imminent) of disruptions of communications, especially in the urbanized areas of the country.

If a category 2 hurricane develops in the Gulf of Mexico 600 miles from the US coast, and it begins arcing generally northward, there is a possibility it could impact the US.  Once more information is obtained and the hurricane strengthens to category 3 and stays on a consistent path northward, there then exists an increased probability that it will impact the US coast.  As more information becomes available, the probability increases or decreases, and we adjust the AmCON level accordingly.

We always want to be sensible and prudent, and be sensitive to the “boy crying wolf” effect that continually raising and lowering the AmCON can have.  When we raise the AmCON, it is because due diligence has been applied and the radio operators across the network know to take it seriously.

In closing, the AmCON alert system is based entirely on assessments made using information available to us and we’ve analyzed potential threats and make a decision to change the AmCON level.   We know that a sudden, real-world catastrophic event could take place instantly, and without notice or forewarning. For this reason every operator should be prepared to take to the airwaves without being told to do so.  Each operator is strongly encouraged to practice regularly, keep his/her software up to date and his skills and equipment maintained.  All AmRRON operators know that they could be hurled into a grid-down environment with little to no warning and know what to do.  It may not be perfect, and it may not be graceful or pretty, but it has to get done:

  • Get out your SOI
  • Get on the air
  • Assess the size, scope, effect, and cause (if possible) of the event
  • Pass important and relevant information on to the network if you have it
  • Inform your community of what you’ve learned from the nets
  • Aid in passing/relaying traffic to those who need assistance
  • Be prepared to volunteer to run a shift at the radio to help ensure there is coverage when and where needed
  • Be flexible, patient, and forgiving
  • Rinse and repeat

-JJS