A team of 10 HAM or amateur radio operators from south India who worked tirelessly to coordinate relief efforts during the recent Chennai floods will visit areas in south Bengal ravaged by cyclone Aila in May 2009.
The team, comprising members from Chennai, Bangalore and Kerala, will try to assess the communication infrastructure and preparedness in the event of a large-scale disaster.
Their research assumes significance after the floods in Tamil Nadu where the modern communication network blinked but amateur radio, often called HAM radio, helped people keep in touch with their marooned relatives and friends.
It is both a hobby and a service in which participants, called HAMs, use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with fellow amateurs through airwaves for public services, recreation and self-training.
An estimated 3 million people throughout the world are regularly involved in amateur radio transmissions. HAM operators have worked during catastrophes such as cyclone Aila and the 2001 Bhuj earthquake.
The team will explore whether it is possible to set up amateur radio communication bases in cyclone-prone areas, what kind of shelter exists and what disaster management system the state has. It will also see the range of modern communication, including Internet, available in remote areas.
“The team had first-hand experience in dealing with the Chennai floods, setting up communication bases and providing relief. It will visit various areas of North and South 24 Parganas which were hit by Aila,” said Ambarish Nag Biswas, a licenced amateur radio operator for the past 18 years and a member of the West Bengal Radio Club (Amateur Club).
Biswas, an employee with a private diary firm, is coordinating the programme. A 35-member team of HAM operators from Bengal will work along with the visitors.
“The team has sophisticated radio equipment. It will check the level of preparedness and see if conditions are good to set up communication bases when all traditional methods, including cell phone towers, collapse during a disaster,” Biswas said.
The team will speak to villagers and school children to gauge the level of awareness in areas that bore the brunt of cyclone Aila, which killed more than two dozen people and left thousands homeless.