August 27, 2004
Another plea to help RRL

by Donald De Riggs, Director, RRL

At about the beginning of the hurricane season I wrote to the local press requesting help to enable the Rainbow Radio League (RRL) to set up an island-wide wireless radio communications network which would be indispensable during times of natural disaster, especially when commercial means of communications are rendered inoperable, due to damaged lines and transmission infrastructure caused by wind, rain and lightning.{{more}}
The equipment needed includes SSB (single side band) transceivers, solar panels, wind generators and 12 volt lead acid or gel cell batteries. This simple configuration would ensure reliable communications throughout SVG, regionally and beyond, and will be operational even if domestic electricity is off. This equipment is critical because it would give those persons involved in search and rescue (SAR) a better idea what to expect and how to respond effectively. The equipment would also be the primary link to Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) from the field. You can have the world of equipment at your EOC, but if you do not have radios in the field, the EOC functions would be retarded by the lack of information.
Let me state here that communications is the vital link between the EOC and the disaster zone. Wireless HF communications is the quickest way to find out what has happened in a particular community, so that when the SAR teams are responding they would know the safest routes to take, how many people are injured, the types of injury, so that the policy makers can determine how many vehicles and personnel to send and so on.
At the moment none of that infrastructure is in place. God forbid that we experience widespread damage in SVG because we would be in deep trouble without a working communications network. Mind you I am not saying that disaster management officials would not know what has happened, but by the time the assessors have gone through the various communities and have reported back to EOC several hours would have already elapsed and injured persons could be dead from lack of proper treatment.
Eight vulnerable communities have already been identified for the immediate placement of these transceivers. They are Union Island, Mayreau, Canouan, Fancy, Owia, Overland, South Rivers and Rose Hall.
Two additional systems, one for mobile operations and the other for RRL Headquarters, are also required. This simple network, assisted by radio amateurs and CB and VHF marine operators, would give NEMO (National Emergency Management Organisation) officials a SitRep (situation report) of what has happened throughout the state within a few hours once the stations are up and running.
The RRL has visited all of the communities mentioned except Owia and has given volunteers and members of disaster committees in those communities the assurance that once equipment has been secured, that the RRL will install, trained persons to use and maintain the equipment. The equipment will be placed at the most convenient place in each community which could be either at a clinic, school or home of a head teacher with the understanding that all persons who are trained to use the equipment would have access to it.
To this end, the RRL has already submitted a proposal to the local NTRC requesting three frequencies in a legally allotted segment of the rf spectrum to facilitate an island-wide emergency radio network.
We are awaiting confirmation for the above mentioned request. The RRL also has a separate request to the NTRC to secure provisional licenses for VIPs to use the amateur portion of the rf spectrum only in times of national emergency. The VIPs in this case would be the Prime Minister, chief medical officer, minister of health, commissioner of police, district medical officers, director of airports/ports and their deputies. Basic training will be given to these officials as well as a
provisional call sign before they go “on air”.
All this needs to be done before being affected by a disaster. All persons operating such equipment must be familiar with its operations and the system has
to be tested to ensure that it is working.
At least two stimulation exercises will be conducted annually to maintain and appreciable degree of readiness. It goes without saying that the more often you practice with your equipment, the more familiar and adept you become with its operations, which would in turn reduce confusion often associated during times of natural disaster.
I have learnt from the “editorial persistence” of the NEWS on an ethical issue concerning profanity used during this year’s X-val, that you need to persist for what you perceive to be desirable and in our case necessary. Therefore, do not be surprised if this article appears in all national papers. Where the NEWS goes the VINCENTIAN may not go, and where the Vincentian goes the Searchlight may not go. The same goes for the radio stations; the RRL has already made appeals through WE FM and NICE FM, and on a lighter note, Corlita, I am still to pick up your offer to do the same on the national radio station. I’m sure with the sustained blitz that some positive results will come, after all the Good Book says, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened. The RRL is still seeking and knocking.
Donors are asked to make contributions to account number 2800047 and to contact either President Albert Browne at tel # 458-4050 or Director Donald De Riggs at tel. # 527 7972 so that we can acknowledge you at the appropriate time and place.