The Earthquake…

Scouts and Emergency Radio Communications: programme package:

The theme for JOTA-JOTI 2011 was centered around emergency radio services. the theme material that was used before and during the weekend is available for you here in the library. It is still up to date and can be used for an exciting weekend programme with your Scouts. How can the use of modern means of communication help save lives?

earthquake imageHow can each Scout prepare to intervene to save his or her fellowman or woman during great natural or climatic disasters? During the earthquakes and Tsunamis that affected Thailand in December 2004, Haiti last year or more recently Japan, Scouts have shown that they know how to quickly and efficiently react. Scouts are often the key contact people for professionals that work in the field, thanks to their self-sacrifice and determination; they are often in the front line during disasters that affect their immediate environment.

To act accordingly to prepare youth to be confronted to difficult circumstances and reinforce the existing partnerships with National or International Humanitarian Organizations, the National Scout Organizations are invited to organize activities in partnership with locally active NGOs which operate in these three areas (Peace, Environment and Natural Disasters).

The 2011 JOTA activity enjoyed the specialist support of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), material made available by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as well as support from various amateur radio emergency communications teams.

Why are Scouts always there first when disaster strikes?

There are Scout Groups nearly everywhere, well organized, with good contacts in the local community. The Scouts are usually trained in basic first-aid medical techniques, orienteering and they have the material that is needed to set up a temporary shelter real quick: tents, cooking material, construction material, it is all there, waiting for the next troop camp, or, yes, it can be used in case of emergency.

……………………….Scout Set: simulated emergency test……………………….

During the JOTA-JOTI weekend we organized a small-scale emergency test. It is a challenging activity in which an Earthquake emergency is simulated and Scouts can respond using techniques, materials and skills that they can train this JOTA weekend.

What you need to take part:

  • an amateur radio station
  • a scout-built improvised antenna
  • battery power or alternatives
  • a small computer with the NBEMS software (see Amateur radio technical package below)
  • The IARU message form
  • a photo camera

==> download the full instruction set here.

Rules of the game:

To simulate as close as possible a chaotic situation in the aftermath of a natural disaster, please apply the following:

  • only the use of the battery-powered radio station is allowed (mains power from the city grid has been taken out by he disaster)
  • land-line phones and mobile phones do not work, and your internet connection is down too, so these cannot be used to transfer information.
  • set a time limit for the activity: there is always a need to act as fast as possible
  • be prepared: make sure your Scouts know what to do when disaster strikes. (Do they know the assembly point, what to wear, what to bring?)

……………………….The Programme support package……………………….

Short course:

An excellent introduction to the theme is a short youth course developed by the ITU. It is an on-line course that can be followed in English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.Not surprisingly, the course introduction starts with the Scout motto: “Be Prepared”. Highly recommended for staff preparing the JOTA weekend as well as for Scouts to enjoy.

To start the course click here. (It downloads a start-up file called “menu.exe” you need for this).

Involve local emergency services: consult e.g. with your local fire brigade, the closest first-response medical unit, local authorities who handle emergencies from your town hall.They may be more than willing to demonstrate their capabilities, support you with your exciting JOTA activity, look and see what your Scout group can do for the local community and even have a link to you lasting longer than just the JOTA weekend.

Promotion material to illustrate your JOTA activity:

……………………….The Scout programme package……………………….

To organize an exciting JOTA weekend for your Scouts, have a look at the following material:

Radio techniques: different possibilities are offered for radio communications under emergency circumstances. Have a look here at what UNHCR recommends to use. An explanation about radio propagation is available here .

How to arrange for electrical power? A necessity to transmit messages by radio is electrical power in some form or the other. Usually mains power will not be available anymore. It is one of the first things that are lost when disaster strikes. Can it be improvised? Yes, if you are somehow prepared for it. Read all about ideas how to generate electricity in the ITU guidebook.

Improvising antennas: any antenna is better than no antenna for transmitting your messages. Your Scouts can certainly help to improvise an antenna.Lots of possibilities are illustrated here in the ITU guidebook. And there can be more. Consult with your JOTA radio amateur.

Message handling: taking messages during an emergency is somewhat of a challenge. Information is often fragmented and it is delivered amidst a usually chaotic situation. Therefore great is needed in transferring messages, as their content can be life saving. The IARU has developed a standard message note that is very useful for this.  Download the note, photocopy it and make it available at your station. Have some example messages available to instruct your Scouts. Oh yes, it is not intended to use this electronically of course; this is for handwriting only. (your electricity supply was down, remember?). To transfer messages in difficult circumstances, radio operators often use short codes. A list of possible codes is found here .

First-aid training: the best first-aid training can be done locally. However, there are several on-line courses available that your Scouts may want to look at before the JOTA weekend. In particular if you plan to include first-aid response into your weekend programme. Here are a few examples:

Improvised shelter: Scout groups with their camping material are a valuable source for setting up the first temporary shelter in a disaster area. Some ideas and items to consider when setting up temporary shelter, can readily be found in the UNHCR handbook. Setting up a temporary camp, could well be part of your JOTA emergency exercise. Unfortunately, sometimes a temporary camp has to stay in place longer than anticipated. How these tent cities look like? Here is an example of a refugee tent camp (UNHCR video).

Amongst the first responders to a disaster is Shelterbox, a organization that can provide quick relief by delivering tents and other material for shelter.Learn about Shelterbox and run some of their suggested activities with your Scouts during the JOTA weekend. Shelterbox will be involved and supports the JOTA activities in various places in the world. The Shelterbox activities are also available in French here / les activitées de Shelterbox sont également disponible en français içi.

Emergency Preparedness: how can you prepare yourself and your Scout troop against disasters and other emergencies? Is that posibile at all? Yes it is. Have a look at the Emergency Preparedness guidelines.

……………………….The Amateur Radio Technical package……………………….

“Keep it simple” is now more important than ever. Simple things may still work when everything else fails. Simple things that work do attract the Scout’s attention and enthusiasm. Much more than complicated things that may or may not work under less favorable circumstances.

NBEMS Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software: something you may try and see if this would be useful and interesting for the Scouts. It is a software protocol; that allows you to transmit and receive digital messages via a variety of radio equipment. No complicated computer to radio interface needed. It even works holding the rigs microphone in front of the computer speakers. The software is free and can be downloaded here . It will require some advance preparation to familiarize yourself with it. So please do this well in advance of the JOTA weekend.

IARU emergency traffic handling procedures: the radio communication during emergencies is organized somewhat differently from regular amateur radio traffic. Operating procedures are found here.

Some more inspirational ideas for an exciting JOTA weekend can e.g. be found in the ARRL handbook for emergency communications.

National emergency coordinators: several countries have an amateur radio emergency co-ordinator. These trained radio amateurs will be able to assist your Scout group and your radio operators to take part in the JOTA theme activities. They may also point you to additional resources in your area. Find the coordinator in your country here.

Echolink linking of stations: you can set up an Echolink node that serves as a direct interface between internet and radio. In this way, Scouts can span large distances with a simple handheld radio. A possible suggestion is to have a try-out with another Scout group during JOTA, some distance away.Detailed instructions on how to set up an Echolink node are here.