Submitted by Lou VK5EEE
Written by James Wades (WB8SIW)
Published in the December 2016 edition of QNI magazine.
The creation of Radio Relay International has catalyzed a surprising amount of interest in a professional, systematic approach to disaster communications. Often, this interest comes from radio amateurs with a professional or military background and they understand the value of standard procedures, a cogent approach to network and frequency management, and the need for accountability when acting as a carrier of important message traffic.
One such group is located “down under.”
In recent years, a group of former maritime and military radio operators in Australia decided to form their own national traffic network. In the process of investigating analogous networks and situations in other parts of the World, they stumbled across Radio Relay International and our various documentation, publications and “YouTube” videos.
After a variety of e-mail correspondence, a representative of the Australian organization was invited to attend an RRI Board Meeting. It turned out that we had much in common in terms of both experience, mutual associations and, most importantly, a vision for the future of disaster communications and traffic handling. As a result, Australia will now join the European Union as a component in the Radio Relay International system.
The expansion of RRI to Australia will do more than simply “add” a country to our International network. Our colleagues in Australia bring with them the benefit of existing relationships with other serious radio amateurs located throughout Asia. As such, the opportunity exists to lay a foundation for systematic traffic exchange throughout Southeast Asia. This could prove of significant benefit during major Asian disasters, particularly for International NGOs, consulates and expatriate communities who require emergency communications support during events such as the disastrous 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami.
There are also real national security implications. The majority of the World’s communications traffic does not travel via satellite as is commonly imagined. Rather, undersea cables are the backbone of the Internet and International, public switched telephony. The loss of connectivity with foreign countries, particularly in the developing World, remains a possibility.
RRI Digital Traffic Network (DTN) personnel are now working with our new colleagues overseas to implement an automated digital connection. This full-time, automated digital gateway between the RRI system in the United States and Australia will be supplemented by a redundant high-speed CW link, which can be pressed into service to handle additional message traffic or to serve as an “order wire” in support of the digital circuit in time of emergency.
The new Australian digital hub can also serve as a gateway for other Asian nations, which wish to start integrating with the Radio Relay International system.
So what can one expect from this arrangement?
North American traffic operators can anticipate routine traffic exchange with Australia. This will serve as a foundation for organized disaster response when needed.
The integration of US and Australian assets in future International disaster exercises.
The appearance of regular columns in “QNI” featuring news and information submitted by our Australian and European colleagues. This information will not only facilitate internal organization within the respective country, but encourage the exchange of ideas and information between nations regarding best practices for EMCOMM planning.
Future issues of QNI will contain statistics from our foreign partners. This will also help place traffic handling on an International basis.
On a final note; our recent experience with our colleagues in Australia demonstrates what CAN happen when a group of motivated, serious operators dispense with politics and break the shackles and hidden agendas of their national Amateur Radio societies, most of which are vested primarily in promoting contesting or, worse yet, desperately trying to re-invent Amateur Radio in the image of the Internet and social media.
From December 2016 issue of QNI Newsletter