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Home Disaster Management Why HAM Radio for Disaster Management?

Why HAM Radio for Disaster Management?

Key to disaster management - Effective Communication
The world is not a very safe place to live in these days as disaster and terrorism can strike at any moment. Communication is the only relief as times of disaster and hence the need for a efficient disaster management system becomes imperative in public places and even in business establishments and important commercial joints where people move around in large numbers. Disaster might strike in the form of natural calamities, terrorist's attacks and accidents. Thus an efficient disaster management system which will work in adverse conditions is needed.

In times of natural calamity like floods, storms or fire the usual mode of communication like phone, mobile etc might not work or might be lost in the calamity.

Consider this, underground communication lines get disabled due to flooding, cell towers are blown over or simply choke due to high utilization, backup generators run out of fuel — or are filled up with water.

Whatever be the situation, one can not rely transporting fuel to keep the power up for vital facilities since the power lines could be snapped (often seen in photographs) with uprooted trees and power lines and towers twisted and broken completely, or simply there is no road to the generators - either due to floods, or due to various obstacles like trees, or damaged roads or bridges.

There are others with Radios - Why HAM Radio?
Radios of police may not be necessarily on same frequency as that of  firefighters. The military has it's own set of frequencies and even other departments that use radio for communication can communicate, however the communication is limited within there own group! The truth is they cannot communicate with each other - and that is The biggest challenge. How to convey message between diverse group of disaster or relief agencies when they all have sets, but cannot talk to each other.

The response phase after any disaster includes the mobilization of the necessary emergency services and first responders in the disaster area. This is likely to include a first wave of core emergency services, such as firefighters, police and ambulance crews. This is where HAM (Amateur) Radio comes in picture. Using HF radio sets, messages can be conveyed or relayed to long distance and accurate picture of situation on the ground, requirements and key information could be sent to disaster response team.

Advantage Amateur (HAM) Radio Operators
The society at large must be well protected and the protection given by the disaster management forces must be instant and immediate. Thus the disaster management crew must be well trained and equipped with the best appliances which might help them to communicate the condition they are in and the status of the calamity in the region they work for. With HAMS, Amateur Radio operators, you have a ready workforce that is efficient with regards to communicating with each other 'efficiently' and 'effectively'. They are known for innovation and apt at adapting to situations. Unlike commercial systems, Amateur radio is not as dependent on terrestrial facilities that can fail. It is dispersed throughout a community without "choke points" such as cellular telephone sites that can be overloaded.


Amateur radio operators are experienced in improvising antennas and power sources and most equipment today can be powered by an automobile battery. Annual "Field Days" are held in many countries to practice these emergency improvisational skills. Amateur radio operators can use hundreds of frequencies and can quickly establish networks tying disparate agencies together to enhance interoperability.

Some recent examples where HAM Radio operators played a significant role in communication during disasters

  • 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan
  • 2003 North America blackout
  • Hurricane Katrina in September 2005

In India

  • Orissa Cyclone
  • Latur Earthquake
  • Tsunami
  • Aila

Despite the fact that many states in India get affected by natural and other calamities, proper coordination between different agencies is still not very effective. Amateur Radio Operators volunteer to offer help as and when needed, however there is no national database on active operators who can be called upon during any disaster, and also if they have right setup (which means - ready to go on air gear) at short notice. UN and other agencies do allocate funds to various departments for establishing suitable amateur radio stations, but apathy and lack of vision has so far done nothing substantial to setup a national backbone or disaster management setup other than creation of various agencies for disaster management.

Amateur Radio has also been included in school textbooks, but nothing beats a practical demonstration and in that regard, not many would ever see a rig in operation. They could write about it in exams without even looking at how an amateur radio really looks like!

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