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Philippine Amateur Radio Volunteers Fill Communication Gap:

from The ARRL Letter on November 14, 2013
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Philippine Amateur Radio Volunteers Fill Communication Gap:

In the devastating aftermath of what some weather experts are calling the most severe typhoon (hurricane) ever, 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.

"No words to describe what my beloved Philippines is going through," Thelma Pascua, DU1IVT, posted to her Facebook page.

ARRL President Praises Ham Radio Efforts in Typhoon's Wake

Writing on behalf of the ARRL and US radio amateurs, ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN has expressed "sincere condolences to the people of the Philippines, especially our fellow amateurs, on the destruction and suffering" caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

"We praise the efforts of your HERO organization in assisting the relief and recovery effort," Craigie said in a letter to Philippine Amateur Radio Association President Eduardo Valdez, DU1EV. "Our thoughts and hopes are with you during this disaster."

Hardest hit was the city of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province. The death toll still has not been determined, but at least 2500 lost their lives, and 600,000 or more were left homeless -- some largely without food and water -- awaiting the arrival of outside assistance. Ramon Anquilan, DU1UGZ, of the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA, said that amid the chaos, Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) stations on HF and VHF have been aiding authorities and residents throughout the archipelago.

He reported that some of the pressure has been lifted, now that some cellular telephone and Internet service has been restored in Tacloban. The HERO station there has been handling health-and-welfare inquiries. Ironically a curfew imposed to maintain law and order has prevented the station from staying on the air after dark.

"It appears that the NTC [National Telecommunications Commission] had an emergency meeting and decided to provide hams in the area with mobile rigs and hand-held portables," he said. "The NTC's awareness of the importance of Amateur Radio is maturing, and there are talks of our clubs training and maintaining stations NTC regional offices."

Anquilan said national and emergency response agencies have relocated the command post to the Tacloban Grandstand, while the HERO District 5 Radio Amateur Network (RADNET station, using the call sign DU5AOK, remains on the second floor of city hall in Tacloban -- with security, food, and logistics problems now cropping up.

"We are urgently requesting assistance to sustain the DU5AOK station and ensure operations in the other hard-struck areas are established -- Samar, Panay, Cebu, Biliran, and the tourist area of Palawan," he said. The local government has been maintaining the emergency generator powering the station. Anquilan specifically mentioned a need for field-deployable systems, power generators, antenna systems, food or ration packs, and tents for the operators.

Anquilan said the NTC has employed the HERO network to handle several messages. He said the Red Cross used the Tacloban HERO station to track a relief vehicle to verify the welfare of its volunteers, who had been stopped and ransacked by storm victims impatient for aid to arrive.

As a matter of policy, the Tacloban station and others in the disaster areas were accepting only outbound traffic as priority messages, Anquilan explained. These include health-and-welfare traffic, messages from institutions and government agencies to Manila, and urgent requests for specific assistance or relief. He estimated that HERO operations will remain active for at least another week.

"As the primary telecom services are restored, there will be less reliance on the Amateur Radio service in Tacloban," Anquilan said. "This will mean a more difficult period, because the remote areas not reached yet by government and other agencies will now demand communication links." He predicted that ham radio assets will be spread thinly, resulting in gaps.

Elsewhere, the Cebuano Amateur Radio League (CARL) has established an HF station in Bantayan, at the northern tip of Cebu. The municipality was the hardest hit in Cebu, with an estimated 90 percent of structures leveled by the storm. The Chocolate Hills Amateur Radio League (CHARL club station DX7BC and members are standing by to monitor and relay messages between Tacloban and the principal receiving stations.

Stations scattered throughout the Philippine archipelago are receiving outgoing traffic from Tacloban and the other affected areas. Additional operators are on standby to relay traffic as necessary.

Anquilan said the news media have begun noticing ham radio but fail to understand the important role the HERO network has been playing in the wake of the disaster. "Although there's some very brief TV exposure, they are yet to adequately report on the voluntary service it provides, and the emergency communications to the agencies and community in times of disaster," he said.

Milt Camp, K6OYX/DU2OYX -- founder of Los Médicos Voladores (The Flying Doctors) -- lives in the Philippines (Baguio City in Luzon) and has been assisting with emergency communication. He reported that ham radio volunteers there are using HF to handle outbound traffic on 14.277 MHz.

"We had a lot of wind even in this area 400 kilometers north of the typhoon," he reported. "I did take down my antenna for the [worst] of the wind but put back as soon as I could." He said a net on 7.095 MHz "has been on 24/7" since the typhoon.

Camp said he believed the international net on 14.277 MHz was being used to contact families in areas hit by the typhoon. "We do have medical people from this area going to the damaged area starting this weekend," he added.

ITU Deploys Satellite Communications

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU announced this week that it had deployed satellite communication equipment to the Philippines to help re-establish "communications vital for search and rescue" in areas severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Amateur Radio volunteers throughout the Philippine archipelago have been a primary communication link since the storm struck November 8, and their efforts continue.

"ITU is prepared to help the government and people of the Philippines in every way possible in their hour of need, and to deal with the colossal tragedy that has overwhelmed the country with unimaginable loss of life and property," ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, HB9EHT, said.

Noting that it "could be weeks or months" before the telecommunication infrastructure is back in order, the ITU -- a specialized UN agency -- said it hoped the equipment would help in assessing the widespread damage and loss of life as well as "enable much-needed support for search-and-rescue services as well as the need for families to re-establish contacts."

The equipment can be charged from automotive batteries and has solar panels for back-up power, the ITU said. The ITU also has sent communication experts to the Philippines to train first responders in the use of the equipment during search-and-rescue operations and for logistical support. -- Thanks to Jim Linton VK3PC, Carl Croci, NI6Z, Milt Camp, DU2OYX, and the ITU


The ARRL Letter

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
Philippine Amateur Radio Volunteers Fill Communication Gap:  
by AF2DX on November 16, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Sad that they lost so much but it also has the scammers coming out from under their rock.
I have already received 3 E mails asking me so send them money.
They ask for help while their neighbors are looting.
Sorry but let the rich send funds.
I give enough right here in the UNITED STATES.
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