HAM Communications During Disasters – OM. S.Sathyapal – VU2FI Director, Indian Institute of Hams, Bangalore

Indian Institute of Hams, VU2IIH, is a registered trust affiliated to the National Institute of Amateur Radio, Hyderabad, and an institutional member of Amateur Radio Society of India. IIH is located in the heart of Bangalore city, at Sree Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium. IIH is associated with the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports, Government of Karnataka. IIH has its own full-fledged amateur radio station, information center, and a training hall. We conduct regular ham training programmes, and more than four ASOC examinations are conducted in each year.

IIH has volunteered and coordinated in providing ham communication during major accidents, such as the Udyan Train accident in Bangalore, and disasters, including the Orissa super cyclone, the Gujarat earthquake, Uttarakhand flood relief operations and the Chennai floods.

These disasters are unexpected and hams do their best in their own way. Please remember, those who serve humanity, specially those who are hungry and in distress, are the greatest servants of the Almighty.

If you are interested in volunteering for service during disasters by extending help with ham communications, these are the criteria:

  1. If you have a HF/VHF device and a valid licence, you can join the team;
  2. Even SWLs can join and assist the ham communication One has to have zeal and dedication.

Note: Keep suitable spare antennas, RG 58 cables with proper connectors, basic tools, a copy of your Ham licence,

and an ID card that has your name, address, contact number, blood group etc.

No special prior permission is needed by licensed hams for providing communication during disasters. The rules state that “the licensees, in case of failure of normal telecommunication facilities, are permitted to handle third party messages pertaining to natural calamities such as earthquake, floods, cyclones and widespread fires, originating from and addressed to a competent civil authority, namely (a) District Magistrates, Deputy Commissioners or Collectors of the district, and (b) any other officer authorized by authorities mentioned at (a) above. The licensee shall inform by a letter addressed to the licensing authority regarding the use of his amateur station for such purposes on each such occasion. (Remember this is after the due exercise. One has to send the log/report to the WPC). “First in action, then reports”

Hams have freedom, including physical freedom, technical freedom, talent and zeal, but still we are lacking because of lack of readiness, unpreparedness, lack of teamwork and team managers, lack of volunteers, lack of equipment and, especially, I am sorry to say so, ego.

“Everyone can play the role of a master, but it is very difficult to be a servant”. Some say that they are qualified and possess a number of certificates, and can coordinate during disasters. But when disasters strike, they sit at home and say they are disaster managers. Your physical presence is needed at the site, and you should act in a team for effective output.

In India, WPC has issued about 30,000 ham licences and the active licences number approximately 5000.

  • About 1000 hams are active on air, either on HF, VHF or Echo
  • Some have the equipment but are not active, and most of them have not renewed their
  • There are hundreds of hams who are interested in volunteering during disasters but do not have the necessary

equipment. The question is, who will lend equipment to these amateurs for use during disasters?

  • Individual hams?
  • Clubs? No, because they have just one or two devices, except the National Institute of Amateur Radio, Hyderabad, and maybe a few clubs.

Hints for providing effective ham communication during disasters:

  1. We need to identify active ham clubs and make them team They, in turn, will identify hams locally who are interested in volunteering during disasters.
  2. We should have an inter-ham club meeting at least once a
  3. Clubs should conduct orientation programs, emergency drills and workshops on setting up antennas and a ham station in a short time. Example: Field Days.
  4. General Emergency Net should be activated on HF and Appeals should be made to hams for regular check- in.
  5. Clubs should be equipped with sophisticated ham equipment, mobile and portable antennas, and solar panels to

charge the batteries.

  1. Collectors/DCs/top police officials/Lions, Rotary club members, NGOs, local MPs and MLAs should be invited to

meetings and club events for better coordination during emergencies.

  1. There should be a uniform jacket for use during emergency field operations, for easy
  2. Lectures/demonstrations/training programs should be held regularly so that the ham population keeps
  3. Press notes about all planned activities should be released to create awareness about amateur

During disasters, team managers or clubs should contact the appropriate authorities, such as collectors/DCs, or associate with NGOs for providing a communication link as required by them for relief operations.

The country needs an organized framework of committed radio amateurs to serve disaster management needs. Our contribution to the nation is a ham communication link. There is need for a meaningful preparedness agenda for disasters to help us operate in the required way without confusion. We always succeed when we have good teamwork.

The Government of India is aware that ham radio can play an important role, especially during disasters. Let us

make sure that these technologies are used for the benefit of the people of the country.

If not individuals, at least institutions/clubs/associations should have some minimum equipment and accessories, and form a dedicated team to work during disasters and natural calamities.

This Hamfest, the annual festival of hams, has special significance for gathering VU Hams to further strengthen and provide a suitable platform for hams to meet in person, present technical developments, and buy and sell radio equipment and accessories.

REPEATERS IN INDIA:

Maintaining repeaters and echo link stations for the ham community requires dedication and money. Hams should support and contribute to the clubs that have erected and maintain VHF repeaters in India. Further, echo link is also supporting network which is booming. Among hams who do not have VHF/HF equipment, connectivity to amateur radio has to be encouraged.

IIH has established a VHF repeater (145.275 minus shift) connected to echo link in the heart of Bangalore City. Net

is connected every day between 2130 and 2200 hours.

NET CONTROLS:

There are many hams who devote their valuable time to conducting role call nets on HF/VHF. Some hams think, “Why do we have to check in”, and say that there is no traffic, and they think net controls do not have any use. Friends, marking our attendance on respective nets not only encourages net controls but also shows the strength

 

of unity in the ham fraternity. Also, it helps share information and to learn about the activities of the community and to keep in touch with one another. This also enhances connectivity during times of natural disasters and calamities. My kudos to all the net controls, and they need to be honored and felicitated.

CONCLUSION: Every quarter, IIH is conducting training programmes for interested aspirants to become a ham. Our motto is to create maximum awareness in educational institutions, social organizations and the government sector. We conduct regular meetings, national festivals, get-togethers, workshops, conventions (Silicon City Ham Meet) and seminars. We have published two call books, in 2000 and 2005.

Today, IIH has a dedicated team of volunteers who possess ham licences and SWLs who can volunteer to provide vital communications at disasters sites. We are ready with ham radio equipment, repeaters and accessories to serve during any defined emergency networks.

We are glad to state that the Indian Institute of Hams (IIH) has completed 23 years and achieved recognition in the country with its real-time ham promotions. We have more than 3000 ham members in the institute. It would not be wrong to say that IIH is the number one institution for ham promotion in India.

Email: ham7388@gmail.com, Web: www.indianhams.com

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