Dear Radio: Radio to the rescue
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) When devastating and destructive natural disasters such as the ones in the Americas strike, radio comes to the rescue. This month I take a look at the role radio plays in helping communities mobilise when the humble radio is the only way of connecting devastated victims.
When Hurricane Irma ripped through the Florida Keys, it took with it most forms of communication. No electricity and TV coverage or internet and cellphone reception was available in the immediate aftermath of the storm, cutting the worst-affected residents off from vital disaster management information.
FM radio waves
When cellphone and other such services are lost in an area due to a major storm or blackout, FM radio waves are one of the most-effective ways of distributing information to the public in an emergency.
In the case of Irma, US1 Radio kept affected residents connected to civilisation. Suddenly, people so dependent on digital devices were huddled around their radios, waiting for information on where to find fresh food and water. Residents were also showing up at the station, appealing for medical care for loved ones at a time when even the infamous 911 was unavailable. As cell service started being restored, the station played a role in allowing people in the Keys to call in to the station to let their families know they were alive.
Radio became even more real and rudimentary when Hurricane Maria silenced Puerto Rico.
In a country with an obsolete power grid that will be without electricity for the foreseeable future, and where food, water, fuel, and battery power are running out, ham radio enthusiasts have come to the aid of thousands.
Amateur radio or ham radio is a service that allows users to talk across town, around the world, or even into space. These networks are fairly unaffected by bad weather and allows users to send voice transmissions and Morse code, and even allows for file transfers.
After the 9/11 attacks, hams helped to transmit messages when cellphone networks were overloaded and, in the case of Puerto Rico, ham radio enthusiasts are helping out the American Red Cross by letting residents know that their loved ones are safe. Ham radio also helps to forecast weather, plus broadcasters can give frontline accounts as weather builds in various regions.
Simple and basic
From family check-ins to pleas for fuel for generators at hospitals, hams are connecting a broken country through very simple and basic technology.
We’re so connected to our mobiles and the internet, it’s just assumed they’ll be there, should we find ourselves in the midst of a terrible natural disaster but, even if available, networks would become quickly overloaded. So, even in 2017, when disaster strikes, those affected are turning to radio to help them get their lives back on track.
Paulo Dias (@therealptp) is the head of creative integration at Ultimate Media. He works closely with the programming teams at leading radio stations to help implement commercial messaging into their existing formats. He contributes the regular column, “Dear Radio”, looking at the changing radio landscape in South Africa, to MarkLives.com