In remarks made on International Disaster Reduction Day, Friday, October 13, Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) Secretary-General Bernadette Lewis described Amateur Radio as a “bedrock of sustained communications” during emergencies, and strongly suggested cultivating a new and younger generation of radio amateurs to carry this role forward. She spoke as part of a panel on emergency telecommunications during the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Telecommunication Development Conference 2017 (WTDC-17), now under way in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The CTU, she said, has been considering the role of Amateur Radio in light of this “very, very, violent hurricane season.”
“Amateur Radio has been a staple, and it is because of…the Amateur Radio operators in the region that we get a lot of the information that we need,” she told her audience. Her presentation defined Amateur Radio as one component of the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts on the part of national emergency management agencies.
Moderator Vanessa Gray later asked Lewis what “one concrete step” could be taken to make better use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for disaster management.
“We really have to cultivate a new generation of Amateur Radio operators,” Lewis replied without hesitation. “We found that they are all on the northern side of 50.”
“Amateur Radio has been the bedrock of sustained communications during such emergencies,” she continued, “and one of the things we’re looking at is actually facilitating this process of having a network of disaster-resistant centers that that, in times when you don’t have a disaster, could be used for training new operators and generating that interest across the region.”
Lewis, of Trinidad and Tobago, reiterated her remarks in condensed form during a subsequent interview, in which she called hurricanes “a fact of life” for Caribbean countries, and suggested that hurricane-devastated countries need to think carefully about how to rebuild their infrastructure to make it less prone to storm damage.
WTDC-17, which continues through October 20, considers topics, projects and programs relevant to telecommunication development. The conference theme this year is “ICT for Sustainable Development Goals.” ARRL Technical Relations Specialist Jon Siverling, WB3ERA, and International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Emergency Communications Special Advisor Rod Stafford, W6ROD, are attending.