Disaster communications:
only HF radio provides vital emergency communications immediately!

After Supertyphoon Ruby destroyed the Province of Leyte in the Philippines in 2014, after Supertyphoon Yolanda destroyed the same area already in 2013 and resulting in 6,340 fatalities and 1,061 persons missing, after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey and the hinterland in October 2012, after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, after Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005, after the December 2004 Tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean, and much more to come, Lesson # 1 says: Forget about satphones, BPL, cellphones, e-mail and the Internet. Only professional HF radio provides vital emergency communications immediately - see pages 14-17 of our handbook 2023/2024 Guide to Utility Radio StationsProfessional HF Communication Today!

Azad Kashmir Earthquake

Lydia Ritchie in Radio User - September 2019: "2005... We had been hit by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake. Days passed before government and foreign aid organisations had any idea of the extent of the situation. The shortwave radios that existed proved priceless during rescue operations. They were often the only means of communication with devastated rural areas. They were the only way to ensure that supplies were airlifted to where they were most urgently needed. They were the communication lines from 'Ground Zero', by means of which news and updates were made available to both the central government and the outside world."

Supertyphoon Ruby / Hagupit

PARA - 5 December 2014: "The Philippine Amateur Radio Association has activated its Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) to meet communication contingencies of incoming Super Typhoon HAGUPIT. We urge amateur radio operators to monitor but keep clear 7.095 MHz +/- of non-emergency traffic until we have stood down our operations. Kindly give this notice widest dissemination, we need your help on this. Thank you for your understanding. 73 de DU1IVT"

Supertyphoon Yolanda / Haiyan

ARRL Letter - 14 November 2013: "Philippine Amateur Radio volunteers are providing communication support for governmental and relief agencies as rescue and recovery operations are underway. In many cases, ham radio is the only communication available, as Typhoon Haiyan ('Yolanda' in the Philippines) took out the telecommunication infrastructure as well as electrical power over a wide area."

Wikipedia - 14 November 2013: "Tacloban: There is little communication in the city, and no mobile phone coverage. Up the east coast of the Leyte there are numerous towns and villages that are completely cut off without any assistance. Large parts of Leyte and Samar are without power and may have no power for a month."

Hurricane Sandy

WECT - 30 October 2012: "If the power is knocked out by the hurricane, routers won't work and there won't be wireless internet for cell phones to power off of so that's why it is important to have ham radios. Amateur radio, which is often called 'ham radio', has consistently been known as one of the most reliable means of communications in emergencies when other systems fail or were overloaded."

Poconos - 30 October 2012: "If Sandy knocks out phones and power, communication will still be possible thanks to a network of amateur radio operators. Amateur radio is like a back door that does not rely on the Internet or the power being back up. Hand-held, battery-operated radios make it possible to communicate over long distances."

Says Mitch Gill NA7US from the Washington Army National Guard Joint Operations Center, in Popular Communications - October 2008: "Communications technology will continue to grow and change. HF radio is changing as well. It's now considered a viable backup once again for our state and for the federal government overall. It will always be a secondary method to phones, the Internet, and other communications, but when all else fails, I'm glad that I have HF radio to fall back on. HF is here to stay."

Joerg Klingenfuss and his team know Southeast Asia and the situation of the people only too well, having conducted radio monitoring operations in Brunei, Djibouti, India, Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sumatera et al), Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak many many times), Maldives, Mauritius and Rodrigues many many times, Philippines, Reunion, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and dozens of other "exotic" locations worldwide. We've climbed volcanoes in Gunung Leuser National Park, only 100 kilometres from Meulaboh, the coastal village nearest to the epicentre. Despite good contacts to the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) and others, driving up along the coast to Bandar Aceh (Bandar means Sea Port) was too dangerous at that time. Officially-lah ... "Kalau Ence' sudah ada suarat jalan dari pejabat imigresen ke Medan, Ence' boleh berangkat ke Provinsi Utara bila-bila masa saja ..."

As of early February 2005, the number of people dead or missing from the Indian Ocean Tsunami and earthquake is 317,000. Bodies are still being found. There will be people in coastal areas that died and are unknown to anyone surviving and whose bodies were swept into the Sea. Read radio amateur 4S7VK Victor A Goonetilleke's report here!

Haiti Earthquake

American Radio Relay League QST - April 2010:

W1AGP: "Satellite telephones are often overwhelmed from high call volume. The MARS component of the HF digital Winlink 2000 network provided critical backup for the University of Miami's e-mail system. Our Army, Navy - Marine Corps, and Air Force MARS operators in Haiti have all used the system with excellent results."

Hurricane Katrina

American Radio Relay League QST - April 2006:

WD5DVR - US Rep Mike Ross (D-AR) is one of two Amateur Radio licensees in the House of Representatives; the other is W7EQI US Rep Greg Walden (R-OR): "Citizens throughout America dedicated to this hobby - a hobby that some people consider old-fashioned or obsolete - were true heroes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as they were often the only line of communication available into the storm-ravaged areas. Flashier means of communication and technology are highly vulnerable. Ham radios, entirely self-contained transmitters, require no cell towers or satellites, simply a battery and a strip of wire as an antenna."

American Radio Relay League QST - December 2005:

N6BV: "Katrina brought most forms of communication to their knees. Fiber-optic lines going across a major bridge over Lake Pontchartrain were wiped out and numerous cell towers were brought down. Water flooded telephone facilities, crippling many landline telephone circuits. Police and fire communication systems were either destroyed or severly affected. There were reports of multiple agencies all trying to share one VHF channel in New Orleans. Who rose to the occasion to help? Hams, of course, as we always have when faced with such dire circumstances. Most communication was handled on HF."

American Radio Relay League QST - November 2005:

W4JLE: "All of the touted 21st Century communications failed miserably. With the failure of the entire infrastructure, all the modern stuff was left wanting. Any emergency system that relies on intact infrastructure is doomed to failure! We must learn the lessons of this tragedy. We must get back to the basics. Our emergency systems must be planned to be operable in a standalone environment."

AB6WK: "I was struck by the fact that, once I arrived in the devastated area, there was zero communication with anybody, anywhere. No cell phones worked. All the landlines were down. Even the broadcast stations were operating with spotty power. My 2 m / 70 cm handheld was useless: all the repeater towers were either down or had no power. Not only is it scary to be so cut off, I felt useless. I never want to be in that situation again. I took this horrible event as an incentive to get off my duff and finish setting up my HF shack and enroll in the ARRL Level 1 emergency course."

Wall Street Journal: "With Hurricane Katrina having knocked out nearly all the high-end emergency communications gear, 911 centers, cell phone towers and normal fixed phone lines in its path, ham-radio operators have begun to fill the information vacuum. 99.9 % of normal communications in the affected region is nonexistent."

Monitoring Times - November 2005:

N5FPW: "It is time to set the record straight and let me make this as clear as I can, so even a Senator or Congressman can understand it. It's the interoperability of the various systems, stupid, not the spectrum space! You and I, the taxpayers of this country, have spent millions through our elected officials on communications systems and networks that, to put it plainly, failed to fulfill their primary missions."

Indian Ocean Tsunami

Radio Amateurs in Indonesia have established emergency communications between Medan in Sumatra and Banda Aceh, the area destroyed by the Tsunami on the northern tip of Sumatra. They are using HF for long distance communications.

It seems like the world and the affected countries are learning valuable technology lessons from the Tsunami that could lessen the impact of similar disasters in the future.

Amateur radio played a key role in providing emergency communications, especially in the hours and days immediately after the devastating tidal waves hit the coastal communities, and especially in the more remote parts of the region.

When all the cellular and all other means failed, short wave stood bold and proud.

When all else is dead short wave is alive.

Some communication has been on CW and PSK31 to overcome poor conditions and interference.

Every other form of communication was down. They were the only link from the Andamans to the mainland for several hours after the disaster, says Gopal, adding that the Tsunamis had engulfed the island, paralysing all machinery and communication systems.

To resume communication, two Indian Coast Guard ships were sent out to sea. They managed to connect the far flung areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the capital Port Blair with the help of a HF communication system.

HF radio sets and solar panels for power supply are working in various islands in coordination with the administration and NGOs there to trace the missing people.

It only requires a 12V cell battery to power up a radio transmitter/receiver in a manner to reach thousands' of miles away your party who can send help or send messages.

Pacific Islands: No satellite communications, no telephone, no Internet.

Somalia needs wind-up-powered shortwave radio receivers for the remote coastal population.

Australia is sending 50,000 radio receivers to Tsunami-hit areas and is offering both engineers to set up temporary broadcasting facilities in disaster zones and 7 broadcast transmitters.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Amateur radio operators who arrived from mainland India are communicating using short wave radio transceivers that allow them to talk across India and provide information about missing or separated families.

Although hams have helped the government a number of times in emergency situations, red tapism is slowly choking amateur radio as a hobby. The laws, which were laid down in the days of the British Raj, are apparently ridiculously outdated today. For instance, according to the law, a ham can't leave home with his radio. Hence, ironically, every time they head out to help with disaster management, they're actually breaking the law. However, last month, the Home Department and Ministry of Communication had a meeting in Delhi with the Amateur Radio Society of India, which seemed to finally acknowledge the efficacy of ham radio. The society submitted a paper asking for changes and has been told that it's been studied and the departments concerned are looking into the issues.

Everybody who has been in India knows what this means ... (JK)