Every large-scale disaster has one thing in common – each one is unique. This is especially true when it comes to disaster relief. For example, the Haitian earthquake flattened large parts of the island and killed hundreds of thousands of people. The destruction was so wide-spread and devastating that the actual infrastructure of government was destroyed. Amateur radio help in such circumstances would have been both ineffective and downright dangerous (as one group of amateurs discovered when they attempted to enter Haiti from the Dominican Republic and were fired upon by thugs). Early calls for the introduction of volunteers to run radio equipment and criticism by some when there was no widespread deployment of international amateur radio resources were both misguided and unhelpful.
Now that the Haitian infrastructure is returning, helping agencies are able to setup their relief efforts to help the Haitian people. Here’s a great article from the ARRL that shows how amateur radio can now play a role.
The recent Chilean earthquake appears to be another disaster of significant size however the Chilean military and government so far seem able to provide an adequate response and amateur radio is being used to provide relief.
There is a role for amateur radio to play in every situation but every role as every situation is going to be unique in nature and thus requires unique and thoughtful response. If you want to be part of the solution then join your local AREAS group.