For a week, Tom K. Jose kept his studies aside, travelled to a cyclone-hit city and used his Ham radio skills to contribute to disaster management.
When Hudhud swept through Visakhapatnam disrupting its communication network and a team of amateur radio (Ham) operators from the city were sought, the 15-year-old student of Little Flower Junior College, Uppal, volunteered for the task.
With his call sign, VU3TMO, Tom was stationed in the control room set up at Visakhapatnam Police Commissionerate and spent long hours collecting messages from other team members spread over the cyclone affected areas and passed them on to the administration for relief measures.
The intermediate first year student, who got his Ham licence at the age of 13, along with colleagues, operated under adverse conditions, often skipping meals and spending long hours before the radio, waiting for it to crackle with messages. “For seven days, I was at the Visakhapatnam Police Commissionerate and one day at the District Collector’s office at Srikakulam and made anywhere up to 500 contacts,” says Tom.
One contact talked about trees falling at a Jain temple in Bhimli and resulting in precarious conditions. The young Ham immediately passed on the information to senior officials, who in turn directed their field personnel, and the situation was attended to. Another was a contact from Bangalore who was desperately trying to locate his brother and sister in the Hudhud affected area. “We operated without checking the watch or caring whether it was day or night. We had to just sit in front of the radio and wait for a contact,” he says.
Tom, who got his licence when he was in class 9, explores the Ham world and so far, has contacted more than 150 countries and received appreciations for his operational skills from Ham associations from different parts of the globe, including US, Germany and Japan. He comfortably juggles his hobby with studies and says, “Each night after studies I spend 30 minutes to 45 minutes with the radio apart from a brief tryst in the morning before going to college.”