Picture this: You’ve just encountered an intense cyclone, a storm so strong it damaged buildings, uprooted trees, knocked down utility poles and power lines, and destroyed everything in its path. The electricity is already cut and all your usual modes of communication – cell phones, landlines, the Internet – have stopped working. What to do in such a situation? How do you make those emergency calls for medical assistance? How to seek immediate help after being completely cut off from the rest of the world?
Whether it’s natural disasters like cyclones and earthquakes, or man-made ones like bombings or terrorist attacks, the loss of communication at such times can often make a situation worse. delicate situation ; it can often mean the difference between life and death.
But even in such dark circumstances, a glow of the sun can be found, and contact with the outside world can be made through a mode of communication that many mistakenly believe is obsolete: radio. On the occasion of World Radio Day 2021 – an international celebration of the United Nations held on February 13 each year – let’s explore the underestimated but ever so crucial role played by amateur radio and the supermen who make it happen. exploit, to save lives during disasters.
What is amateur radio?
Amateur radio, also known as amateur radio, is not only a popular pastime around the world, but also a service that connects people from different cities, states, and even countries. It can be used by anyone to send messages via Morse code on an old telegraph, establish voice communication on a portable radio, or transmit computerized messages and files via satellite.
No one knows the origin story of the abbreviation HAM for sure, but popular theories suggest that it was created using the initials of Albert Hyman, Bob Almy and Poogie Murray, the operators of the first station without amateur wire from Harvard Radio Club.
Like other wireless technologies, amateur radio uses the power of electromagnetic radiation to send voices, Morse code, and digital data around the world using transmitters, receivers, and antennas. The use of a combined transmitter and receiver unit, called a transceiver, facilitates two-way communication between broadcasters around the world.
Of all the spectra of electromagnetic radiation, Ham radio operates only in the radio wave spectrum, which is known for its long wavelengths ranging from 0.04 inches to over 99 kilometers.
Use of ham in disaster communication
While this is an individual-level hobby, operating an amateur radio can turn into a national asset when needed. In fact, amateur radio stations have repeatedly served as a reliable second line of communication when existing public or government communication links have broken down.
“The government has its own wireless equipment and its own means of communication, but when disaster strikes, only radio amateurs can set up their equipment in the shortest possible time and start communication anywhere in the world. the world. Emergencies like this are where this hobby can be implemented to provide critical disaster communications, ”said Ankur Puranik, radio amateur and weather enthusiast, who took an interest in Ham as a teenager. in 2003 and has assisted the government of Maharashtra on several occasions since.
Because of its sheer efficiency, coupled with the fact that Ham operators offer this noble service on a strictly voluntary basis, governments around the world have wasted no time in adding Ham radio to their disaster management SOPs and their plans. emergency contact lists.
During past calamities such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, etc., Ham operators in India have been instrumental in organizing live emergency medical traffic, establishing networks of emergency communication, coordination and organization of relief operations and organization of medicines, food, and clothing for those affected. Even now, the Hams remain in constant contact with their respective state government disaster management cells, ready to act at any time in the event of a disaster.
When a calamity befalls a certain area, an assessment is made on the extent to which normal communication has been affected, whether there is a need for radio communication, for what purpose the communication is required, how many Ham operators are needed, and between which points emergency communication must be established. It is only after this assessment is made that the Ham operators are brought in and deployed by the government.
During operations, Hams serve as points of contact in government offices across the state or country, and at sites that have been ravaged by disasters. However, operation at the latter can be much more difficult.
Elaborating on these difficulties on the ground, Ankur added, “When we go to the field, the government makes all kinds of arrangements to live, eat and travel for us. But even then, there are lingering challenges that we encounter from time to time, one of them being the extreme weather conditions. As our communication depends on air waves, harsh weather conditions can be a cause of major interference.
“Then there are also the post-disaster conditions – sometimes we have no choice but to conduct our operations in flooded and devastated environments, in unsanitary places on the verge of epidemics, or even with casualties. wounded and dead bodies lying around. we.”
Despite these horrific obstacles, Ham Operators continue to risk their lives and offer their services to help their people, their countries and humanity as a whole. And until more advanced technology, like satellite communication, for example, is introduced and widely implemented in disaster communication, HAM operators will continue to be the not-so-silent gatekeepers relaying their voices and communicate vital information at the most difficult times.
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