In every disaster, natural or otherwise, there are certain givens. One, no matter how prepared one is, there are always situations that were not able to be predicted. Two, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Three, there will always be degrees of panic. Four, there always seems to be someone who rises to the occasion and becomes the unsung hero of the hour.
The Gulf coast states are not strangers to hurricanes. As a matter of fact, hurricanes are as much a part of their way of life as any other aspect of their daily lives. Every year those states in the region spend a fortune in repairing damage from the latest hurricane season. Every year they also try to plan new and better ways to deal with the forces of nature.
But no amount of planning can offset the destruction caused by a hurricane like Katrina. I know the local officials are blaming the state officials. The state officials are blaming the federal government. Democrats are blaming Republicans. Many blame the people who failed to heed the evacuation requests, though they had no where to go. However this blaming is just a jerk knee way to try to comprehend and deal with a force beyond human control or comprehension.
At times we are all faced with a tragedy or disaster that is beyond anyone’s control. We humans hate to accept that fact. It causes us to face our mortality and at times our helplessness against a force of nature or some other force outside our comprehension.
Nine-eleven was such a tragedy. No one could imagine that another human being would inflict such large scale death and destruction of human life and property out of hatred! The bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima with the Atom Bomb that we thought would end World War II turned out to be much more deadly and destructive than we imagined. The death and destruction and after effects are still with us today. It ended the war with Japan; but, it left the world in fear of nuclear holocaust to the point of hysteria. The recent Tsunami in Indonesia and surrounding countries was another tragedy of massive proportions. The world was shocked again and again by the replaying of the video of that massive wave sweeping away human life like so much chaff in the wind. Now, we in America are facing the destruction of life and property by a hurricane, Katrina, that probably none in our lifetime has ever witnessed before.
Communications, one of the most crucial means of staying on top of everything was destroyed. With the power out, telephones and other means of normal communications are useless. Of course there were many companies that donated walkie talkies. But, these were for the police, fire and rescue workers. But for the every day people
there is nothing. No way to call for medical help. No way to let loved ones know they are ok. They are left isolated until emergency workers manage to restore service or find their way to these people.
But in times like this there is one form of communication that has been around for ages. During every major disaster these men and women provide a voice of reassurance and hope when there would otherwise be nothing but silence. They pass along messages from faceless people to loved ones. They notify rescue workers of stranded people or people in need of immediate medical help. These people might be located only a few blocks or a few miles from help; but, the call they send out for help might travel around the world before it reaches its destination, sometimes very quickly, sometimes much longer. That is all determined by the scale of the disaster and the volume of calls for help.
These men and women are Ham radio operators who spend their spare time talking to people all over the world as they indulge in a hobby that most people probably don’t even know about. But they aren’t just indulging in a hobby all the time. They also practice emergency communications skills and emergency drills for providing free services during times of need. They set up networks to more efficiently handle the volume of calls for help they receive during a given crisis. With all our modern marvels, I am always amazed that often in the end, old tried and true methods come through when all else fails.
Go to the link at the top and read about one of these faceless voices of compassion and hope, one of many such people all over the world! More importantly go to the American Radio Relay League[ARRL] website and learn more about ham operators. The league has a crucial need right now:
“Amateur Radio emergency communication volunteers needed! (Sep 2, 2005) — The ARRL now is seeking experienced Amateur Radio emergency volunteers to help supplement communication for American Red Cross feeding and sheltering operations in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle–“
If you can help, please go to the website for more information.