I have been blogging what I observe about the possibility of amateur radio (ham) backup communication support in light of the earthquake disaster in Haiti. The worldwide ham community has been standing by ready to receive message traffic from Haiti, only to sadly learn that not only are there few hams there, but the disaster is so pervasive that the few there have not been able to be on the air much. And now it gets worse.
A ham radio club group from the Dominican Republic was attempting to get repeater stations into Haiti to support the communication needs when their convoy carrying the equipment was attacked by thugs, driving them back to the DR, and killing one of the porters helping to transport the equipment. All of the amateur radio operators were reported to be safe, but they have apparently retreated to the DR.
The amateur radio repeater system was to be an essential communication tool for both officials and the NGO’s in carrying out the recovery and relief effort. I heard this report just now on the Echolink(1) conference conducted by the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition (IRESC) relaying a report that was shortly to be published by the International Amateur Radio Union, Region 1 (IARU).
It is a sad commentary indeed when in the face of one of the worst natural disasters of all time, volunteers are attacked and their lives are put at risk. Of course, it happens in every disaster that thugs loot and pillage. It’s just worse, in my perception, when a simple public service hobby turns deadly.
(1) Echolink is a system that connects radio amateurs worldwide through a network of radios and the internet. From the Echolink home page we learn:
EchoLink® software allows licensed Amateur Radio stations to communicate with one another over the Internet, using voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. The program allows worldwide connections to be made between stations, or from computer to station, greatly enhancing Amateur Radio’s communications capabilities. There are more than 200,000 validated users worldwide — in 162 of the world’s 193 nations — with about 4,000 online at any given time.