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Tsunami Disaster Relief Amateur Radio Emergency

Communication Network and Related Activities 2004/05

R S

The Radio Society of Sri Lanka


(RSSL)

Compiled by Kusal Epa (4S7KE)


December 2015
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This report (Tsunami Disaster Relief Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Network and
Related Activies 2004/05) gives a first-hand account of the Tsunami Disaster Relief
Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Network Operational activities carried out by the
Radio Society of Sri Lanka (RSSL) and its members in the aftermath of the Tsunami disaster in
December 2004. The RSSL is the national organisation in Sri Lanka representing licensed
Amateur Radio operators also known as ham radio operators. This report was compiled in
2015 by Kusal Epa 4S7KE, Hon. Secretary of the RSSL at the time of the Tsunami disaster
relief operation (2004/05). The initiation for preparing this report was made in Dec 2014 at
the 10 anniversary of the tsunami. The intention of preparing this report was to record
accurately the humanitarian and logistical work carried out by the members of the RSSL, to
appreciate their efforts, highlight the role that amateur radio can play in disaster relief
emergency communications and to learn from the experience to be better prepared and plan
for future emergency communication deployments.

In preparing this report, RSSL members who participated in the disaster relief
communication efforts were invited to submit their experiences to the report, which have
been included here. While every effort has been made to record events related as accurately
as possible, any inaccuracy or omission in documenting events that happened over 10 years
ago in this report are purely unintentional.

The Amateur Radio call-signs of Amateur Radio license holders mentioned here are those
that were held in 2004/05, some call-signs may have changed subsequently due to
upgrading of the class of licenses.

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Introduction
On 26th December 2004 at 0100 hrs UTC (0630 hrs Sri Lanka time) a massive undersea
earthquake measuring a magnitude of 9.1 on the Richter scale occurred with an epicentre
off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.

The earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of many
countries bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people in 14 countries, and was
known as the Boxing Day Tsunami. The tsunami inundated coastal communities with waves
up to 30m (100ft) and was one the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

The tsunami caused massive destruction to life and property along the coastal belt from the
South to the Eastern areas of Sri Lanka. The number of people killed in Sri Lanka was over
30,000.

A massive relief operation was started to provide relief to those affected. A major hindrance
to the relief efforts was the breakdown of the communication facilities to the affected
areas. Most of the landline telephone exchanges were damaged due to flooding and mobile
phone facilities were also disrupted due to the mobile radio base stations being damaged.
The Electricity supply network was also disrupted in affected areas which resulted in the
remaining telecommunication infrastructure facilities being inoperative.

The Radio Society of Sri Lanka (RSSL) spearheaded an operation to provide emergency
communication links to facilitate disaster relief efforts by mobilising the RSSL members who
were Licensed Amateur Radio operators. The RSSL together with the Government
Information Communication and Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Prime Ministers office
coordinated the setting up of the emergency communication network.

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Colombo Hambantota HF (High Frequency) radio link
At the request of the Prime Ministers office, the first communication link was to be set up
from Hambantota in Southern Sri Lanka to Colombo. A room in the official residence of the
Prime Minister- Temple Trees, was converted to house the main communications centre.
The Hambantota communications centre was set up at the Hambantota District Secretariat
building.

The RSSL team to operate the Hambantota communication centre comprised of

Kusal Epa (4S7KE),


Asantha Illesinghe (4S7AK)
Dimuthu Wickramasinghe (4S7DZ)

On the evening of 27th Dec 2004 the team left Colombo to reach Hambantota by early next
morning. The team was accompanied by 3 volunteers, Channa Abeygunawardena, Achini
Abeygunawardena and Manjua Abeygunawardena who provided logistical support
throughout the duration of the relief operation in Hambantota. The team left in two four
wheel drive vehicles, due to the destruction to the coastal route to Hambantota, the team
took the route through Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Udawalawe Embilipitiya, Suriyawewa, area
avoiding the coastal belt to reach Hambantota by early next morning. The party carried with
them ICOM 7400 HF transceiver loaned by the Japanese Amateur Radio group from Kansai,
fully charged sealed lead Acid batteries (with provision to use batteries in the vehicles if
needed), water, food, relief supplies to the affected, and extra fuel for vehicles.

Upon reaching Hambantota, the RSSL team quickly started setting up the radio
communication link from the Hambantota District Secretary office. Within half an hour, a
40m wire dipole antenna was installed and an HF Transceiver was operational. Electricity
supply to the area had been disrupted and was not available. A vehicle battery taken with
the team was used to power up the transceiver. Until that time there had not been much
contact with the outside world from Hambantota except from a Satellite phone sent there a
few hours earlier which worked only outdoors till the batteries lasted and there was no way
of recharging the batteries. After contacting fellow RSSL members in Colombo the HF link
was optimised to operate with the minimum power required to establish clear
communication with Colombo in order to conserve the battery. The link operated at 5W of
transmit power in Single SideBand (SSB) mode on 7.060 MHz frequency .

The main communication operation room in Colombo was set up in a room at Temple trees
the official residence of the Prime Minister. The Colombo communication facility was
operated by the following members of the RSSL.

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Victor Goonetilleke (4S7VK)
Kamal Edirisinghe (4S7AB)
KKG Kulasekara (4S7KG)
JT Wijeratne (4S7VJ)
Bharat Aponso (4S5BA)

The HF communication link from Hambantota to Colombo was used to pass messages
primarily originating from Hambantota to Colombo. This was the only communication link to
the outside world from Hambantota at that time. The messages were provided by
Government and military officers who were leading the relief operation requesting
operational assistance and specifying food supplies, medicines that needed to be sent to
various locations which were airlifted from Colombo. The number of causalities, steps taken
to identify the victims, provision of health and sanitary facilities to the areas, additional
personnel required for relief support were among the other operational messages
exchanged through the communication link.

In addition a vehicle with mobile VHF (Very High Frequency) transceiver setup was used to
provide information from surrounding areas through a VHF link to Hambantota District
Secretariat office for relaying to Colombo though the HF link.

After two days, other telecommunication facilities were gradually restored in Hambantota,
with mobile phone networks being the first to be restored. The Police also set up a
communication post at the Hambantota District Secretariat. After the restoration of other
communication services, the communication link set up by the RSSL was withdrawn.

Disaster relief emergency communication operations at Hambantota District Secretariat. Asantha


Illesinghe (4S7AK), Kusal Epa (4S7KE) Dimuthu Wickramasinghe (4S7DZ) and Achini
Abeygunawardena

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Communication operations room in Colombo at Prime Ministers official residence (Temple trees).
Kamal Edirisinghe (4S7AB), JT Wijeratne (4S7VJ), KKG Kulasekera (4S7KG), Bharath Aponso (4S5BA)
and Victor Goonetilleke (4S7VK)

Mobile Reporting Team


A mobile reporting team with communication facilities was hurriedly set up to provide
information on the amount of destruction along the coast from Colombo to Dickwella. This
team consisted of

Nalaka Muthukumarana (4S6NM), and


Wimal Manage (4S7WI)

The mobile team communicated using VHF radio and through the RSSL VHF repeater,
information on destruction along the coastal route from Colombo to Dickwella and details
including the vehicles that were found destroyed along the route. This team embarked on a
a hazardous journey as little was known of what lay ahead with the destruction to the areas.

Galle-Matara relief efforts


Following the successful conclusion of Hambantota operation, the team that was in
Hambantoata was redeployed in Galle and Matara. Thustha Goonetilleke (4S6TP) and Dr.
Vathsala Jayusuriya joined the team that proceeded to Galle and Matara. In Galle an HF
Base station was set up at Angulugaha, in a tea estate at the alternate residence of Asantha
Illesinghe (4S7AK). Siri Abeysinghe (4S7SA) and Udaya Jayantha joined the team from Galle
and provided valuable support. A mobile team visited relief camps in Matara and provided
medical and material relief to the displaced people. Information was relayed to the Base
station in Galle using Mobile VHF/HF links.

A survey was carried out on the facilities available in relief camps in the Galle area and
assess further requirements of the camps to facilitate the smooth operations of the relief
camps. The information collected was relayed to relevant authorities in Colombo. Udaya
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Jayantha joined the RSSL team in Galle to assist the survey. It should be noted that it was
Udaya Jayantha who first alerted the amateur radio community by a radio message on the
morning of the disaster from Galle.

Matara Disaster Relief communication station operated by Sarath


Wimalasuriya 4S7SW
Dr. Sarath Wimalasuriya (4S7SW) operated a Disaster relief communication station from one
of the relief camps in Matara set up at Rahula College. This was an independent operation
and was not coordinated by the RSSL.

Amateur Radio Communication links provided to aid Disaster relief communication

Communication facilities to Social Services Ministry


Calvin Fernando (4S7CF) initiated discussions with the Social Services Ministry to provide
communication facilities if required for their relief efforts. A VHF station was set up at the
Nawala office of the Social Services Ministry and was operational for 3 days, after which the
station was shifted to the Ministry office in Rajagiriya.

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J.T. Wijeratne (4S7VJ), K.K.G. Kulasekara (4S7KG), Nishantha Perera (4S7NI), Ernest
Amarasinghe (4S7EA), Victor Goonetilleke (4S7VK), Sena Fernando (4S5SS), Nalantha de
Alwis(4S5NX) A. A. Sam Silva (4S7GF)and Jaliya Lokeshwara assisted in the operations of
this network.

Echolink Setup
The RSSL received a complete Echolink station kit to link RSSL repeaters to Internet as a
donation from a Group of American amateur radio operators. This was initiated by Doug
McKay (KD7LRJ) and Adam Steed (KE7BZX), who came to Sri Lanka for tsunami relief service
delivered the equipment. Adam Steed spent a week in Sri Lanka traveling to Tsunami relief
camps on the Southern Coast many time purchasing relief supplies locally and donating
them to the affected parties.

.
Visit by UK Amateur Radio Operators Malcolm Harwood M0XAT and John Baker G0MTQ

On the 11th of January two Amateur Radio operators from the UK, Malcolm Harwood
(M0XAT) and John Baker (G0MTQ) arrived in Sri Lanka with amateur radio equipment,
medical and disaster relief supplies. The RSSL arranged for them to visit Eastern area of Sri
Lanka including Arugam Bay and Poththuvil for disaster relief supply distribution along with
Dammika Fernando (4S7DF) and Sarath Kothalawala (4S7SK). The team travelled up to
Poththuvil in a hired vehicle arranged by the RSSL which was fitted with HF and VHF Mobile
transceivers and antennas. The RSSL maintained communications with the team right
through the journey. The effort to deliver relief and medical supplies was a great success.
The installation of an Icom IC-706MKII mobile radio in the vehicle facilitated vital
communication links to affected areas, which was not contactable otherwise due to the
disruption of other regular communication facilities.

Malcolm and his wife Lily Harwood visited Sri Lanka again a year later with a collection of
educational supplies donated by well wishers and distributed them to children of affected
areas

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John Baker donating medical supplies and the team from UK that travelled to the Eastern
Coast of Sri Lanka. The team that travelled to Eastern region, From left John Baker
(G0MTQ), Sarath Kothalawala (4S7SK), Dammika Fernando (4S7DF), Wicky, Malcolm
Harwood (M0XAT).

VISIT BY JARL KANSAI GROUP


Three long standing friends of the RSSL from Japan, Yoshihiko Hasegawa (JA3HXJ), Toru
Tanaka (JR3QHQ) and Kunio Miagawa (JH3LS) from JARL (Japan Amateur Radio League)
Kansai Group were in Sri Lanka from the 3rd Feb to the 6th 2005 to see the wellbeing of their
friends from RSSL. They brought with them a financial donation from the JARL (Japan
Amateur Radio League) and 3 ICOM MKII G transceivers to RSSL towards our efforts to
develop Amateur Radio in the disaster situations.

JARL Kansai Group visiting tsunami affected train at Peraliya, the team from Left, Kunio
Miyagawa (JH3LS), Toru Tanaka (JR3QHQ) and Yoshihiko Hasegawa (JA3HXJ)

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Relief supplies container from French Hams:
Daniel Barrot (F5LQG) from France came to Sri Lanka within a few days after the tsunami
with portable amateur radio gear to help out in disaster relief communication efforts.
On initiation by Alan Duchanchoy(F6BFH), the French Radio community sent a 40 foot
container full of relief supplies to Sri Lanka. Using the great trust and relations built with the
Ministry of Social Welfare through the initiation of Calvin Fernando with the offer of RSSL to
provide communications help, RSSL was able to help the French Radio hams to clear the
humanitarian aid container from the Port and send it to Matara. Daniel Barrot (F5LQG) was
there to clear the container from the Colombo harbour and take the items to Matara for
distribution.
Daniel Barrot was able to distribute the aid with the help of Mario de Silva (4S7SKR) and
helpers from Matara under the supervision of the Divisional Secretary and Daniel himself.
Many people affected by the Tsunami received material aid from this project. Amongst the
material were sleeping gear, bicycles, tools, wheelchairs, clothes and many household
goods.

Contribution from Paul Kluetz DK4FV DX Group


On initiation by RSSL President Victor Goonetilleke, German Amateur Radio operator Paul
W. Kluetz DK4FV and his DX Group raised funds and made a financial donation to RSSL for
disaster communication related work.

Voluntary Contribution by RSSL Members


Apart from the members of RSSL who are mentioned elsewhere in this report, the following
members of the RSSL also voluntarily contributed to the emergency communications efforts
in various ways including relaying messages and coordinating the logistical operations.

Denver Wijesuriya (4S7DA)


Nihal Wijesuriya (4S7WN)
Sunil Pathmakumara (4S6PK)
Colin Pieris (4S7CP)
Hemantha Gamage (4S7HG)
P.K. Premachandre (4S7HP)
Ranjith Gunawardena (4S7RR)
Ananda Jayatileka (4S7AI)
Sarath Mapa (4S7MM)
M. Nazim (4S7MZ)
Nalantha de Alwis (4S5NX)
Ron Goonetilleke (4S7RO/6Y5)
Peter Perera (4S7PE/G4AJG)
Trevor Abeysundara (4S7TZ)
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Vasanth Guruge (4S7VG)
Glen Wickramaratne (4S7GV)
Sam Silva (4S7GF)
Ekendra Edirisinghe (4S7EF)
Asgar Alibhoy (4S7AA)
Fauzullah Moulana (4S6FM)
John Meyer (NZ9Z/4S7NZG)

(Above name list was extracted from RSSL Newsletter of January 2005, contribution of the
services by all including those who may have not been mentioned here are much
appreciated)

RSSL Website
RSSL web page had a special page on Tsunami Disaster Net which also carried a list of
essentially needed medicines by Health Ministry submitted by Dr. Nihal Wijesuriya (4S7WN).
There was a 15 fold increase in hits to RSSL website over the normal daily average in the
days after the Tsunami disaster.

Media Coverage
The effort taken by RSSL in providing emergency communication facilities gained worldwide
media attention. The perception that ham radio has not much significance with the advent
of hi tech communication facilities like mobile phones, internet, satellite phones etc. was
shattered with the tsunami disaster. Most of these communication services required
reliable power supply and were interdependent on the backhaul connectivity to the core
communication network. A single point of failure or disruption to any single point in the
interconnected network or the power supply would make these communication services
unavailable. Comparatively Ham Radio relied on multiple sources of power supplies ranging
from car batteries to household power and could provide communication links from point to
point or point to multipoint without the need of any intermediate network points. The
ability to quickly deploy communication gear to required locations and the availability of
trained and licensed amateur radio operators who are willing to volunteer their services to
provide emergency communication services makes amateur radio a valuable service in
providing disaster relief emergency communication services.

RSSL President Victor Goonetillekes statement So when Mobile and all other
communication means failed Ham radio stood tall, just plain uncomplicated Short Wave
saved lives was a profound statement which was widely hailed among the amateur radio
community throughout the world.

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The media reported how Victor Goonetilleke described the situation:

I am here with a lot of papers, telephone numbers and all that, taking calls, answering calls,
running to the VHF and HF and trying to coordinate something of a disaster communications
link. It is no easy task when a disaster as terrible as this was beyond our thinking plane.

The magnitude of the issue is such that sometimes I wonder how we are going to address this.
We are holding, or the tragedy is holding everyone's attention, but soon it will be just another
page in history, that is what I fear for these people who have been traumatised for generations
to come, for we are an island surrounded by the sea. There are heart breaking situations where a
single child remains, a mother, father and someone lost, all too familiar, be it Sri Lanka, India or
anywhere else.

As President of the Amateur Radio Society in Sri Lanka, it was wonderful, even at a tragic time to
link up South of Sri Lanka with the Prime Ministers office. So we went in and established this HF
link. RSSL Members Kusal Epa (4S7KE), Asantha Illesinghe (4S7AK) and Dimuthu Wickramasinghe
(4S7DZ) went in a 4 wheel drive approaching the coastal town of Hambantota from the interior
as the main road along the coast was badly battered and full of debris and was impassable.

I knew my propagation thanks to George Jacobs and I could be 100% sure that we could keep a
link going on 3 and 7 MHz. So when all the cellular and all other means failed Short Wave stood
bold and proud. It is so simple and we didnt even have a TS 50 or such a small mobile HF set, but
took an Icom IC7400 the best radio we have and two 12v batteries and dipoles, some food and
water and filled the rest of the vehicle with food for the displaced. I stood by in Colombo at the
Prime Minister's office to run the link in and coordinate.

I wish I could scream aloud and tell people in some high places that when all else is dead,
SW(Short Wave) radio is alive. What do you do when your power goes out, telephones go dead
and you can't even charge your batteries of your Satellite Phone or Mobile Phone? We had our
Morse key handy if we had to operate with just 1 or 2 watts but the batteries held.

We operated for 48 hours from the Prime Ministers residence disaster relief communications
room and moved out later when normal communication services were restored. We are in fax
communication with them now, passing info to the coordinating centre. We have 3 stations out
there and we are trying to connect lost people, pass info on displaced camps and people and the
movement of food and essentials. We are trying to expand our coverage but our resources are
limited.

We will go one day at a time because the task before us is awesome. How do you get into the
mindset of such a disaster. The lives of the coastal area people folded like a pack of cards in just
a few minutes. The whole country is dazed and some people are so dazed that they don't realize
they are. But then life must go on and every day we get a little stronger to meet the next dawn.

Victor Goonetilleke 4S7VK President RSSL 2004/05

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Local press reported RSSL tsunami relief communication activities as follows.

Daily News of 6th January 2005

Amateur radio helps tsunami rescue

The Radio Society of Sri Lanka (RSSL) the national body representing licensed Amateur Radio
operators, mobilized its members to provide vital communication links immediately in the
aftermath of the tsunami disaster. There was a breakdown in communications with the
disaster-affected areas due to land and mobile telecommunication infrastructure being
damaged and the networks being congested with unprecedented number of call attempts.

The RSSL established a high frequency communication centre at the Disaster Management
Centre in the Prime Minister's Office in Temple Trees. This was linked to communication
points in Hambantota, Matara and Galle and also with mobile units.

The system was used to pass vital information needed for rescue and relief operations and
was in operation till the normal telecommunication facilities were restored. The RSSL is also
now working closely with the Ministry of Social Welfare to provide communication facilities
needed for relief operations.

Licensed Amateur Radio operators set up and operate organized communication networks
for governmental and emergency officials, in the event of disaster situations. Amateur Radio
operators provide their services voluntarily when disasters damage regular lines of
communications due to power outages and destruction of telephone, cellular and other
infrastructure-dependent systems.

Radio amateurs are able to go into the disaster areas quickly and establish communication
links with their equipment and knowledge acquired by self training.

Web link : www.dailynews.lk/2005/01/06/new36.html

Lanka Business Online

Radio amateurs on the job.


29 Dec, 2004 00:00:00
Sri Lanka's amateur radio operators are offering their services to any area that needs
communications services.
Sri Lanka's amateur radio operators are offering their services to any area that needs
communications services.
Until yesterday The Radio Society of Sri Lanka operated a short wave radio link between
Hambantota and the Prime Minister's disaster management office at Temple trees, and
government offices in the stricken area.
"We closed the link after the police got a communications link up in Hambantota," Victor
Goonetilleke, President of the Radio Society of Sri Lanka said.

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"We went in because the District Secretaries office only had a satellite phone and
communications was difficult."
Amateur radio operators, popularly known as 'Ham' operators are hobbyists who are
licensed to operate two-way communications equipment.
The Hambantota station was operated by Asantha Illesinghe (4S7AK), Dimuthu
Wickremesinghe (4S7DZ), Kusal Epa (4S7KE).
Mobile signals also began to come up later. As landlines went down, Sri Lanka's mobile
networks provided vital links to many tsunami-hit areas.
Amateurs used to be the only line of communication to disaster struck areas in the past,
playing a vital role in disaster recovery and mitigation, though resilient mobiles in Sri Lanka
kept many areas covered in the current disaster.
The Radio Society is standing by to relay messages from any area that need their services,
subject to the availability of manpower and resources.
At the moment a team is being deployed to Tangalle to help relay messages from the
members of the public to their loved ones.
"We are preparing to operate a mobile unit between Matara and Galle," Goonetilleke said.
"We can establish links especially government offices do not have proper communications
facilities."A few years ago, a disaster mitigation plan proposed by the Telecom Regulatory
Commission of Sri Lanka listed the integration amateurs in a national disaster recovery
action plan.
But the amateur community in Sri Lanka is not getting enough young blood to keep it going
partly because getting an amateur radio license is a tedious process, requiring defence
clearances, in addition to an examination and licensing by the telecommunications
regulatory authorities.
Often Hams residing in disaster struck areas are the only link to the outside world.
An amateur who gets on air can be virtually guaranteed to talk to a counterpart as soon as
get on to a crowded 'ham' band, where others of his ilk are chatting away.
Short waves, which propagate by bouncing off the ionosphere and the earth's surface, can
cover large distances.
A small desktop transceiver with an output of a few hundred watts can even establish
communication between two countries, thousands of miles apart.

Web link:

http://archive.lankabusinessonline.com/news/radio-amateurs-on-the-job./2066379833

Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference (GAREC)

Emergency communication facilities established by the ham radio community in the


aftermath of the tsunami for disaster relief work generated a lot of interest in using
Amateur Radio as a means of emergency communications in the immediate aftermath of a
disaster situation. To exchange ideas in this area, a conference titled Global Amateur Radio
Emergency Communications Conference (GAREC) was held for the first time in 2005 in
Tampere, Finland. The RSSL received a special invitation to present its experience in tsunami

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emergency communication operations at this conference. RSSL Secretary Kusal Epa (4S7KE)
and Treasurer Asantha Illesinghe (4S7AK) who worked in Hambantota having first hand
experience in the operations attended the seminar and made a presentation titled
Amateur Radio in Tsunami Disaster Relief Communications Sri Lankan Experience The
presentation slides could be downloaded from following link.

www.rientola.fi/oh3ag/garec/documents/Srilanka.ppt

GAREC has been an annual conference since 2005 and has been held in many cities around
the world.

GAREC 2005

The First Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Conference was held on 13 & 14
June 2005. The event took place in Tampere, Finland, a town with a long tradition in
emergency telecommunications and known throughout the world through the Tampere
Convention, the first international treaty on the provision of telecommunications in support
of disaster relief. Participants from various countries and representatives of all three IARU
(International Amateur Radio Union) Regions exchanged and discussed information on the
role of radio amateurs in emergency communications.

The major topics were the cooperation between hams and the institutional emergency
response providers on national level, and the exchange of experiences from recent events.
The presentations showed how hams support the emergency responders, as skilled
volunteer telecommunication operators for the responders' networks as well as by
providing their own global networks.

The Conference also discussed ways to improve and facilitate the work of emergency
communications networks. It concluded that the establishment of a "Center of Activity
Frequency" for emergency traffic would be desirable. The IARU band plans already include
this type of frequencies for a number of activities. Given the fact that the dynamic allocation
and use of frequencies within the amateur bands is one of the key elements of the flexibility
of this service and thus of its value in disaster situations, such an arrangement appeared as
most appropriate and feasible. A respective proposal was formulated, and SRAL-The Finnish
Amateur Radio League, as the host of GAREC-2005, and forwarded to IARU for consideration
by the next competent regional conferences, the first of these being the Region 1
Conference in Davos, Switzerland, in September 2005.

In a separate statement, the conference summarized the value of the amateur radio
services in emergency communications. This statement was submitted as an input
document to the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) taking place in Tunis,
Tunisia, November 2005.

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GAREC 2005 Conference in Tampere Finland, Sri Lankan presentation being made by
Secretary of RSSL Kusal Epa (4S7KE) and Treasurer of RSSL Asantha Illesinghe (4S7AK).

RSSL RECEIVES A SPECIAL AWARD FOR DISASTER COMMUNICATIONS


On the 18th of April the National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR) based in Hyderabad India
conducted an International seminar on Disaster Management, Communications
Preparedness with special emphasis on the lessons learnt from the recent Tsunami disaster.
The seminar was sponsored by the Ministry of Communications and IT Central Government
of India with the Minister as the Chief Guest. The President of the RSSL Victor Goonetilleke
was invited to make a presentation sharing our experiences with the participants. The RSSL
received a Special Award for its disaster relief work during the Tsunami and a silver medal.

This seminar was very well attended by nearly 350 Indian hams and delegates from the US,
Germany, Sri Lanka and Finland. RSSL President Victor Goonetilleke thanked the Indian
Government and amateur radio operators especially VU2GMN Gopal who extended great
moral support and stood by with a team and equipment if needed, during the disaster. The
RSSL also placed on record its appreciation of the great efforts by Indian Radio Amateurs in
the Andaman and Nicobar Islands through the DX-pedition organised by the NIAR which
turned into a disaster communications effort. Amateur Radio showed to the world what it
can do in great disasters.

Golden Antenna 2005 award for RSSL


Every year since 1982 the town of Bad Bentheim in Germany presents the 'Golden Antenna'
award to a radio amateur or an amateur radio group that utilises technology in connection
with humanitarian work and to appreciate an outstanding humanitarian achievement on the
field of amateur radio. The winners have all helped people in an emergency caused by
accidents or natural catastrophes. While performing this work their health or life may have
been in danger. Whatever the cause, all recipients of the prize have been honoured for their
intensive and unselfish personal risks. They established and maintained radio contact,
without which urgent humanitarian help may not have been possible.

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The award is the result of a worldwide convocation. The jury evaluating the nominations
includes the President of IARU Region 1 and the President and Chair of the Dutch and
German amateur radio societies.
After sifting and evaluating the valid proposals, the jury awarded the Golden Antenna 2005
to The Radio Society of Sri Lanka to honour its important part in emergency amateur radio
communication operations after the tsunami catastrophe in December 2004.
The award ceremony took place on 26th August 2005 in the Castle of Bad Bentheim during
the opening of the German Dutch Amateur radio meeting. The Mayor of the City of Bad
Bentheim Mr.Gunter Alsmeier handed over the award to the President of RSSL Victor
Goonetilleke. Victor Goonetilleke 4S7VK also addressed the gathering here.

Victor Goonetilleke President of RSSL with the Golden Antenna award with The Mayor of
the City of Bad Bentheim Mr.Gunter Alsmeier

The Prime Minister appreciates RSSL efforts


The RSSL received a letter of appreciation of its efforts in providing emergency
communications during the Tsunami from the Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse, Prime Minister Sri
Lanka at that time. While thanking the RSSL and members who helped in the hour of
nations need, the Prime Minister also emphasised the value of Amateur Radio.

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CONCLUSION

Undoubtedly the Tsunami of the 26th of December 2004 was beyond the imagination of any
Sri Lankan who has been used to a calm carefree life thanks to the blessings of mother
nature on this beautiful peaceful Indian Ocean island. Thus the Tsunami was a shock which
dazed the country which was never prepared for such a calamity. However, after the initial
shock the country came to grips with the situation. The radio amateur community which
was considered by many as a group of hobbyists demonstrated beyond everyones
imagination how a small but dedicated group of civic minded people with the help of radio
communication technology could play a major role in the wake of the disaster.

With minimum equipment to meet such a situation the radio amateurs show what can be
achieved if people are prepared make a commitment to go out to disaster stricken areas to
help their affected countrymen. Such situations also demand discipline and also the ability
to perform duties in the most difficult of conditions. With death and destruction right
around, helpless dazed children looking for parents, people looking for their loved ones lost
and clutching at anything that could give them hope the situation could be quite chaotic.
The after-shocks generating new tsunami waves were a real danger and there was the
threat of diseases breaking out at any moment. Those radio amateurs who volunteered
specially who went into the unknown territory to work tirelessly under very difficult
conditions should be thanked for their tireless efforts. The support group could come from
anywhere with amateur radio skills, even from radio amateurs who are unable to go out of
their radio rooms by helping in secondary activities such as relaying messages and keeping
radio watch.

The value of amateur radio has been proven beyond doubt as an emergency communication
method in disaster relief operations by the activities conducted by members of Radio
Society of Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the 2004 December tsunami disaster.

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