The disaster unfolding in Haiti has just begun. Tuesday’s devastating earthquake was only the beginning of the misery that will befall the Haitian nation over the next months and years. As vice-president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada I’ve been busy keeping in touch with other amateur radio and non-governmental agencies here in Canada and internationally who are involved in Haiti. There’s lots happening behind the scenes and I trust we’ll be hearing a lot more about amateur radio involvement in the coming days and weeks.
I’m learning lots of lessons that I’d like to share some of my thoughts:
- Disasters come in many forms and we are not immune. It, whatever it is, could happen here tomorrow;
- When it happens here we need to be absolutely self-sufficient for at least 72 hours;
- Before it happens here we need to have developed some sort of a command structure* and loose infrastructure of participants;
- As it happens here we need to be capable of deploying ourselves rapidly and in an organized fashion;
- Deployment means we need to be able to support ourselves in the field and create a working radio network that serves those afflicted;
- Supporting ourselves includes food, water, shelter and, of course, equipment**. Safety of personnel must remain a top priority***;
- Equipment includes a flashlight, GPS hand unit, multi-tool, 2-meter rig (or dual-band) and 12-volt power plug, and maybe an HF rig****;
- Prior to any of these plans we need a competent leadership that can work with non-governmental agencies, the military and civil authorities*****;
- We also need lots and lots of semi-trained and willing hams. This is not a time for on-the-job training;
- To accomplish the above we need to join the Amateur Radio Emergency Service in our local communities today.
* This is where ARES comes in. Like it or not, it’s the best initiative we have.
** I’ve got a couple of 2-meter rigs sitting around. I’m going out today to buy a tool box to start a “GO” kit.
*** Many well-intentioned hams want to go to Haiti to help but right now the country is not safe enough.
**** Rural Haiti is semi-mountainous. VHF/UHF may not work outside of the cities. HF maybe needed.
***** Well-meaning but unknown groups aren’t likely to be included in the official relief effort.
So to conclude: I am a member of my local ARES group. But I’ve been a non-participating member for some years not. Back in the “old days” I was an active ARES member and was a volunteer with Emergency Measures Ontario. The Haitian disaster reminds me of just how much I need to be an active ARES member and how much ARES needs amateurs just like me. If you want to help out during times of need, you can start today by joining your local ARES group. They’d love to hear from you.