Our Readers' Opinions
May 28, 2004

Open letter for HELP

To all my friends,

Those of us who have chosen amateur radio (ham radio) as a hobby, at this time of year in this part of the world, we prepare ourselves for the hurricane season by staging drills or simulation exercises where we test our ability and sharpen our skills to respond to an emergency. {{more}}
These exercises are more often than not conducted in the vulnerable areas of our country, so that we can familiarize ourselves with the terrain and establish friendly contact with the residents of those communities. This is extremely important should a disaster strike that community. We leave the comfort of our homes and spend 48 hours “in the field”, living in tents, testing our equipment and antennas and our general readiness.
In order to accomplish these training exercises, we have over the years used our personal equipment (we still do that) as well as equipment donated to our organization, but it is just basic equipment. We have no portable computers to interface with our transceivers so that we can download our own weather pictures; neither do we have any solar panels or wind generators to recharge our 12-volt car batteries used to power our radios if domestic power is not available, which is usually the case following a storm when power lines are down.
We at the Rainbow Radio League (RRL) would like to provide an even more reliable service and to extend the scope of our operations by placing wireless transceivers in these vulnerable communities, which would enable those communities to stay in contact with the outside world and other parts of the island despite the fact that their communities are cut off due to blocked or damaged roads and downed telephone lines.
The ideal “set up” should include two (2) transceivers similar in nature so that if one fails or is damaged, the “redundant” transceiver could be put in line to maintain the communication path to and from the disaster zone. These radios must be powered by 12-volt DC batteries and recharged using solar or wind power (renewable energy that is free) or a combination of both depending on the location.
Despite the fact that we have the manpower to operate the equipment and have identified vulnerable communities in SVG to place these radios, the money to purchase the equipment is not now available, hence this open request for help. Let me state emphatically that the equipment is needed before any disaster strikes for the simple reason that the persons operating the equipment can be familiar with its operation, and more importantly having a radio “in situ” and receiving reports from the disaster zone would greatly speed up the rescue, response and relief effort. The same equipment can also be used to receive the latest weather information from regional amateur radio networks which provide two daily weather reports during the entire hurricane season. When a storm is imminent, local and regional hams operate their stations around the clock. We place great significance on preparedness as the best form of mitigation in the effort to reduce or prevent the loss of life. Death is permanent, so preserving the life of our relatives or loved ones is of paramount importance to us. The communities identified for immediate help are Fancy, Mayreau and the North Leeward district. Union Island, Canouan, Owia and South Rivers are also on the priority list.
History will bear us out on the following: after a storm most of the infrastructural damage is sustained to assets belonging to the essential services. Reports abound of fallen power lines, broken water mains, damaged or toppled towers and the list can go on. Most of these reports can be relayed via this same equipment that we are now requesting. We are therefore appealing especially to CWSA, VINLEC, all telephone companies, SHELL, TEXACO and other good corporate institutions like National Lottery and all banks to provide some aspect of assistance to enable the RRL to continue to coordinate island-wide wireless radio coverage via HF SSB radios.
One must remember that it is the Vincentian consumers that make your business profitable, so plowing back some of your profits into the community will be an excellent and worthwhile gesture that will be appreciated for years to come. We are suggesting that one company might want to supply the solar panels or wind generators, while another company can supply the portable computers, transceivers, 12-volt batteries or a 4-wheel drive vehicle to improve our response capability. Here, the RRL also appeals to friends in the diaspora who understand these important needs to assist in whatever way possible. Then, there may be those companies or persons who can supply the “whole hog”, thereby speeding up the process of acquisition and installation of equipment. Whichever way assistance is given (although we prefer that donor agencies purchase and supply the equipment – the government provides hams with duty free concessions on this type of equipment), the RRL will ensure that the equipment is installed and maintained and persons trained to use the equipment.
And while on this subject of disaster readiness and mitigation, I am making a strong appeal to all business houses to conduct at least one fire drill annually as well as to train all staff with CPR skills. The person(s) you afford such training today might save your life tomorrow. The same is true by placing much needed equipment in vulnerable communities throughout SVG.
You may contact me at telephone
No. 527-7972 or electronically at daderiggs@hotmail.com
Donald A. De Riggs Director/RRL