Hams who took on the Ockhi onslaught

Aiding the rescue teams was a Ham radio network based at Cheruthoni

Updated - December 06, 2017 08:35 am IST

Published - December 05, 2017 07:37 pm IST - Giji K. RamanIDUKKI

 The repeater station of Ham Radio at Calverymount, near Cheruthoni, in Idukki district.

The repeater station of Ham Radio at Calverymount, near Cheruthoni, in Idukki district.

As sea waves battered life around the Kerala coast when Cyclone Ockhi hit the State on November 30, a group of amateur radio operators from the Ham Radio Club and Emergency Communication got busy. Their network, to tune to frequencies from the sea of SOS calls and such signs of life, was in place within minutes of them getting the news of the damage that Ockhi had brought in its wake.

Their swift action was probably taking a cue from Ham radio networks across the globe that had helped in rescue work during major hurricane disasters. Yet, this was not the team’s first such effort in the district.

The Ham radio has helped even before when major accidents occurred here.

It has also provided communication link during the first local body elections in Edamalakkudy, the remotest tribal grama panchayat in the State.

“On November 30, we set up the network on the Kollam coast first, but it was not very effective. We could trace the boats only up to 20 km, after which the communication got disrupted. But when the communication link had begun from the repeater station at Calvarymount at Cheruthoni, which is 5,000 ft above mean sea level, there were no such hiccups. District Collector G.R. Gokul provided all the help to start the Calverymount station,” says Ham radio operator (vu2dth) Manoj Galaxy.

The Calverymount facility was immediately turned into an emergency control room. The radio system worked very efficiently in tandem with the wireless and GPS facilities in most of the boats that by themselves wouldn’t have helped much. From the station, there was regular flow of information to the Coast Guard and other rescue agencies. Stranded boats were spotted and there was better coordination in communication between the rescuers and the those stranded. Information was also handed over to the district administration, who kept track of the details provided.

The radio system was so in tune to capture any signs of calls for help that it could immediately aid the fishermen, out in the sea in four boats for rescue work, back to the coast, Mr. Galaxy says.

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