Ham Radio Boosts Philippines' Disaster Preparedness

The Republic of the Philippines is a group of more than 7600 islands over a vast, largely undeveloped area. The country’s location, near the equator, leaves the population at risk for typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

United Methodist communication specialist April Mercado says around the world, ham radio is a hobby but in her home country, the Philippines, amateur radio can be a lifesaving tool in a natural disaster.

Script:
Dumaguete, Philippines

(radio traffic) “copy that Delta Alpha Foxtrot…”

(voice of April Mercado) “The first communication that came out from Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan was from a ham radio.”

In 2013, April Mercado was part of a United Methodist Church communications team coordinating relief for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

April Mercado: “All cell phone communications were, you know, down. I had difficulty contacting my family to tell them I’m okay.”

Mercado says the experience helped her realize how amateur radio can be a lifeline in a country that sees typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic activity.

April Mercado, Sr. Project Specialist, United Methodist Communications: “We will be able to communicate back to the people in charge of medical assistance. We have a direct link to the office of civil defense where we can directly provide them with data straight from the ground.”

 (people singing at tower dedication) “We have a message to give to the nations…”

Fast forward to 2019 and this day of celebration. Five radio antennas have been constructed, this one in the back yard of a church superintendent in dumaguete in the southern philippines.

April Mercado: “This is the culmination of many months of work dealing with a lot of government personalities, bureaucracy in the government. But yes. It’s through the grace of God that the antenna’s up And we can start communicating to the community.”

Lay leaders and local pastors can use amateur radio for day-to-day communication, and devotions and prayers are offered during “net calls” regular check-in meetings of the radio community.

Ricna Lou, Ham Radio Operator:  “Copy. Very clear audio here in Dumaguete.”

(speaking back and forth with a man in Tagalog)

Ricna Lou:  “He said we have a strong signal there in Manila.”

Operating a ham radio requires a license and engineering skills. These pastors are getting hands-on training.

Alex Salboro, Ham Radio Operator: “You can use wire here to connect your portable. And then you can bring it anywhere you want.”

April Mercado: “So, this is an emergency antenna which is made from a bamboo stick and a 19 inch copper rod. This is like a setup… especially after any disaster, you can pick up any stick that is available, if you have a 19-inch copper rod, you can stick this up in the air and you will be able to communicate in…. In ham radio communication, height is might. The higher your antenna goes, the wider your scope is. With this type of antenna, you can reach probably without any obstruction, a good 30 kilometer radius.”

The plan is to establish a church communications network throughout the Philippines.

(man test the newly made radio cable and everyone cheers)

(testing radio and celebration)

For these church members, Amateur radio has opened an exciting world of possibilities.

April Mercado: “It’s like a fingerprint. Being a Ham radio operator is like having your unique fingerprint where my call sign is unique all over the world. So, I’m not known as April in the Ham radio community. I’m known as Delta Victor1 Yankee Indian November, from The Philippines.”

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This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Joe Iovino.

This video was first posted on February 6, 2020.