Radiocommunication Study Groups

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First Response Radio


First Response Radio delivers critical information, via radio, to affected communities in the immediate aftermath of disasters.

First Response Radio is a network of radio broadcasters, NGOs and government partners. Our members have been working in disaster areas since the Tsunami of 2004, providing critical information via radio, as aid.

In times of disaster, radio not only saves lives, it can also bring hope and critical information to the affected community. When the 2004 tsunami struck Banda Aceh, Indonesia all the radio and TV stations went off the air. During the 2005 South Asian earthquake the only radio station near the epicentre lost its tower and went off the air. In times like these, people are in desperate need of news, information on how to get to safety and how to survive. The unfortunate trend seen recently is that when radio is so important, many times it goes off the air and does not come back until well after the emergency is over. A trained team or Rapid Response Radio Unit is able to begin broadcasting within 72 hours, sending out critical information.

After the Asian Tsunami it took several weeks for any radio station to get back on the air. Our first Rapid Response Radio Unit took 4 weeks to get on air – a good effort, but which highlighted the obvious need for the radio community to learn how to respond faster. Following the lead of humanitarian and rescue organizations, First Response Radio has taken the same challenge; the goal is to have a radio station on the air within 72 hours of a disaster. To meet this goal requires preparation in several areas: equipment, programming, training and practice.

Since 2004 First Response has responded to the following disasters:

  • 2013: Central Aceh, earthquake, Indonesia

  • 2012: Uttarakhand flooding, India

  • 2012: Assam Flooding, India

  • 2010: Mt Merapi Volcano, Indonesia

  • 2010: Pakistan flooding

  • 2009: Pangasinan flooding, Philippines

  • 2009: South India flooding

  • 2009: Earthquake, Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia

  • 2008: Flooding, Bihar, India

  • 2005: Earthquake, Northern Pakistan

  • 2004: Tsunami, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.


The "Radio in a Suitcase" kit is described below. We find it helpful to have the studio and transmission equipment in separate cases. This keeps the weight of each suitcase below 23kg, and also allows for deployment of just the pieces that are needed in any given disaster.

With the 600W FM transmitter and single dipole antenna mounted at 20 m, we find that the coverage is up to 15 or 20 Km. If the station is positioned in the centre of the affected community, this can reach a very large group and would, for example adequately serve the 500,000 refugees in Dadaab, Kenya.

Some other "Radio-in-a-Box" kits have all items in one box and cannot be easily transported. Airlines will refuse equipment over a certain weight and "all in one" box solutions cannot be checked as luggage, but must be sent as air freight. While good equipment is essential, we also learned it was the easiest problem to solve and next we looked into critical information and training.

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