The following is a translation of a Spanish language TV report on the amateur radio response in Chile.
As parts of earthquake-hit Chile again this week were shaken by severe aftershocks there has been further news of the role of radio amateurs, including them being a highly sought after reliable source of information.
A television news report describes them as a collection of dedicated ham radio operators scattered across the country, proving to be an information lifeline during the recent devastating earthquake, tsunami and its aftermath.
Interviewed was RCCH Secretary Alejandro Jara CE3JWF and Director of SER (Servicio de Emergencia de Radioaficionados) Rafael Riesco CE3FFR, the Spanish language report, translated to English said “They were on air within 10 to 15 minutes of the quake – where possible. ”
“While telephones and the internet largely failed, many of the radio operators have back-up power and were able to provide vital lines of communication, picked up by National Radio Chile and rebroadcast, giving status of various affected areas.”
The report added that, “Even where internet still worked, gossip social networking pages could not be trusted, exaggerating and getting things wrong.”
“Ham radio operators of the Radio Club of Chile are more honourable, dedicating many hours of their lives to their radio networks and broadcasting, in some cases, from damaged equipment, even after the collapse of antennas. Thanks to them – Save Chile in a crisis!”
“The ham operator callsign enabled national radio and authorities to trust the information as members of the club have ‘honorable’ status, a great asset in a crisis where messages can get distorted through normal communiciation channels, if available.”
The report went further to say “Claims that ham radio is dying were put to rest as these operators provided such vital communication links, and the operators are voluntary and definitely don’t want to be paid.”
When the massive earthquake struck early February 27, the Red Chilena Nor Austral de Servicios (RECNA) and RCCH networks worked in coordination with the army handling information about locating missing persons, condition of roads and support for the emergency administration.
The magnitude-8.8 earthquake resulted in more than 720 deaths, 1.5 million destroyed homes along with damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The RCCH has expressed its thanks to the world’s radio amateurs for keeping emergency frequencies free during their nation’s time of need. All previously announced HF frequencies are not currently required for emergency communications.
(Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman, IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee)