Odisha government should promote amateur HAM radio enthusiasts in all blocks of Odisha to increase preparedness at the time of communication failure, especially during natural calamities, says members of Amateur Radio Society of Odisha (ARSO).
But ARSO laments that during cyclone Fani, Odisha government did not take their direct help, and preferred to use HAM operators from West Bengal and Hyderabad, who faced problems with respect to language and lack of knowledge of localities.
The group has 25 licensed HAM radio operators who regularly update the technology along with their operational skill. In February this year, they had tested their communication skills at an uninhabited island within Chilika lake to check their preparedness for natural calamities like cyclonic storms.
During the cyclone Fani, members of ARSO reached Puri on May 4 to provide support to the public after all conventional modes of communication had gotten snapped after landfall of the cyclone. Connecting to internet in Berhampur via HAM, they were able to reach out to social media; they asked people living outside to provide address of their family members in the cyclone-devastated regions so that news about their condition could be checked and passed on. Hundreds of families of Puri and Chandanpur areas are said to have benefited from this.
According to ARSO member Gurudatta Panda, cyclone Fani has again proved that importance of HAM radios during natural calamities has not diminished. During harrowing times with lack of conventional communication, HAM radio becomes mean of communication with the outside world. Amateur radio operators too can link up with other HAM enthusiasts through ‘Short Wave’ radio frequency.
But amateur HAM radio has not been promoted in major way in cyclone prone Odisha. “In Telangana and Kerala, State governments provide free electricity and space on high rise buildings for antennas and ‘repeaters’ of HAM operators. But due to lack of support of government agencies, in Odisha we are in search of private high rise building to place our ‘repeater’ in Bhubaneswar,” said Mr. Panda. (A ‘repeater’ increases range of HAM signals.)
ARSO says that an increase in the number of amateur radio enthusiasts in all parts of the State can not only be a major support to government but also provide succour for the public in the cyclone and flood-prone Odisha. Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) should build up a strong force of amateur HAM operators in the State and keep them united and ready by the time this coast faces another devastating cyclone, they opine.
“Educated youths, retired communication experts, NGOs in all parts of Odisha can be motivated to take up amateur radio as a hobby to help their own community at the time of need,” said president of ARSO, Chandrasekhar Patnaik. The organisation feels that some educational institutions in every block can become HAM Radio centres with its students using it regularly to increase their scientific temperament.