World Amateur Radio Day to Recognize Amateur Radio's Role in Disaster Communications
Each year on April 18, radio amateurs celebrate World Amateur Radio Day. On that day in 1925, 84 years ago, the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) was founded. In 2009, the theme of the event is Amateur Radio: Your Resource in Disaster and Emergency Communication.
"It is not by coincidence that last year's meeting of the IARU Administrative Council (AC) chose this subject at this time," said IARU International Coordinator for Emergency Communication Hans Zimmermann, F5VKP/HB9AQS. "While the Amateur Radio Service has traditionally made its contributions to emergency and disaster response ever since its very beginnings almost 100 years ago, this role has gained a lot of importance just in the recent past."
Citing the fact that natural, as well as manmade disasters are on the rise, Zimmermann pointed out that today's modern communication technologies are "increasingly complex, infrastructure-dependent and therefore also increasingly vulnerable. The Amateur Radio Service puts two equally valuable assets at its disposal for emergency and disaster prevention, preparedness and response: A large number of very flexible and mostly infrastructure-independent, local, national, regional and global networks, and a large number of skilled operators, who know how to communicate with often very limited means and to establish communications even under the most difficult circumstances."
Zimmermann said that the tools available to Amateur Radio operators "range from the most robust means such as battery-operated stations operating in Morse code, to links through Amateur Radio satellites and interconnectivity with the Internet, in voice, text, image and data modes. They range from local VHF networks of fixed, mobile and portable stations to shortwave networks that span the globe. All these networks are operated on a daily basis by men and women who are thoroughly familiar with their technology and their intricacies."
Saying that "telecommunications have become a commodity that society takes for granted," Zimmermann stated that "The sudden loss of that service is often felt in a similar way to the loss of shelter, food and medical support. When disasters occur in regions that do not have good coverage by public networks -- or when existing communications infrastructures have just been disrupted or destroyed by such events -- the Amateur Radio Service comes to the rescue. Amateur Radio operators provide communications for the rescuers and relief workers and their organizations and they help to provide communications for those affected by a disaster."
Zimmermann continued: "In fact, contributions to emergency and disaster relief are a major argument for the preservation and the extension of the privileges the Amateur Radio Service enjoys in international and national regulations. This is one of the reasons why more and more Amateur Radio operators -- through their clubs and their national societies -- prepare very seriously for their role in emergencies; however, their skills can be put to use only if they are known by other first responders. Effective response to emergencies can only occur with the work of volunteers in all the various fields, from search and rescue to medical assistance and those who can provide food and shelter. Communication skills are a new, but equally vital commodity."