Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Emergency Ham Radio Updates

We live in a highly technologically connected world - with ubiquitous cell phones, laptops, satellite communications, e-mail, facebook, text messaging, etc. But all these things depend on some outside source beyond one's control in order to function. And it is extremely frustrating when they don't work - even for a few minutes.

When devastating emergencies like the Haitian earthquake take out all the normal methods of communication, sometimes for weeks on end, amateur radio operators and their radio stations often become the only means to get information in and out of the disaster area.

The International Amateur Radio Union is posting emergency updates as they come in. You can track them here.

Amateur radio allows for small privately owned radio stations operating on frequencies across the radio spectrum - including shortwave communications that skip off the ionosphere and travel worldwide - to be run off of emergency power (batteries or generators), often making use of primitive antennas, such as strings of wire cut to the right length. An amateur station can be set up anywhere - even in a car. After Katrina, one of our local ham radio operators who did not evacuate (a lady from Honduras who lives in Kenner), has a ham station in her van. For weeks, her station was one of the very few means of communications into Kenner from the outside world. She worked tirelessly to "pass traffic" during the crisis - all powered by her 12-volt car battery using an antenna mounted to her bumper.

When all else fails...

Ham radio operators worldwide coordinate with each other to bring instructions to save lives into disaster areas, as well as critical timely news about the local situation to people on the outside world. Ham radio is literally a lifeline in these kinds of situations and still works when there are no landlines, no cell phones, no electricity, no internet, and no commercial or government radio or TV operating.

Anyone can get a ham radio license with a little study. It is not just a fun hobby that enables people to make friends around the world, but it becomes much more when disaster strikes: the only way communications can flow to people in need of information in order to stay alive.

1 comment:

Dixie said...

Very, very cool. Thanks for the info. Underneath all that hair lies the heart of a geek (a term of affection in our family).