With mobile towers failing and network curtailed in large parts of flood-affected areas in North Karnataka, the postal department has gone back to basics and deputed officers and HAM operators to provide robust line of communication to relief personnel.
A group of 12 trained postal officers and four amateur radio operators from the Indian Institute of Hams (IIH), Bengaluru, aided rescue and relief operations in Belagavi on Monday. This is the first time in the country that the postal department, which started its HAM radio club last year, is using amateur radios in flood relief operations.
Shankar Sathyapal, director of IIH, said three vehicles fitted with HAM radio equipment was fanned out in the region. HAM radio utilises radio frequencies and walkie-talkies to enable two-way communication. “This is the second line of communication. Relief officers will be provided with walkie-talkies, while each vehicle can cover about a radius of around 10-15 km depending on the topography,” he said. The low-tech approach uses batteries that can last for over six days, while even heavy rainfall will not curtail its operation, said Dr. Sathyapal.
While IIH and other amateur HAM radio operations have offered help in numerous disasters in the country, this is the first time that the postal department has formalised their participation.
Charles Lobo, Postmaster General (Karnataka), said the idea came after witnessing the Chennai floods in 2015 and the Kodagu floods last year. “Communication networks are always the first casualty in disasters like this. Electricity is cut off and mobiles can’t be charged, while generators at mobile towers fade. Post offices are in every nook and corner of the village and they can act like communication centres if we have trained radio operators there,” he said.
In 2018, Meghdoot HAM Radio Club was formed in the Postal Training Centre in Mysuru and 17 officers have been trained so far. “We hope to increase the numbers over the coming years,” said Dr. Lobo.
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