APPLAUSE: VIU ready for emergency communications

Commitment to safety helps radio event

To the Editor,

With Japan’s earthquake and tsunami damage still fresh in people’s minds, the question arises are we ready to survive for 72 hours on our own here in one of  the highest probable earthquake zones in Canada?

Are members of the amateur radio community able to provide viable long-range communications without being tied to conventional  power grid or using conventional communication modes that invariably fail as each disaster unfolds?

This had lead to a discussion of whether Vancouver Island University with it sizable student body could be considered ready to handle emergency communication if needed.

The answer is yes as there are several amateur radio operators who attend VIU and some are quite involved in that idea.

On the Canada Day  weekend, Radio Amateurs of Canada asking its licensed amateur  radio operators to make sure their equipment was in working order and could be put to use during an emergency.

To this end, I set up mobile amateur radios station on the grounds of Vancouver Island University to prove this point.

With less than a full days notice, we contacted the offices of the president, health and safety, facilities and even parking enforcement groups at VIU.

I was given permission (and assistance) to put the temporary station in place to demonstrate that this could be effectively accomplished if needed.

The tall antennas and radios were set up and over the next 24 hours the point was proven the system can and does work if needed from the campus of VIU.

More than 100 radio contacts were made with local radio clubs, across the province, and as far away as Newfoundland, Florida, California and Mexico. The farthest contact was Brisbane, Australia, a country because of flooding and fires is well aware of the  importance of reliable emergency communications in a disaster.

A big thank you goes to all the guests who came out to see the system in action and Mark Egan,  health and safety coordinator at VIU and Stewart Ralph, associate director of facilities services and campus development at VIU.

It was good to see the high level of commitment to student and community safety from the various departments at VIU and to see the cohesive and rapid deployment of resources that support that end.

Ian Turner