Earthquake Safe Communities in Nepal

Training Practicum on "How to use ham radio in disaster circumstances"

Nepal faces a variety of natural hazards. The frequency and intensities of natural hazards are very high. Earthquake is one of the most significant natural hazards the entire country faces. The entire country falls in a high earthquake intensity belt.

The country has a long history of destructive earthquakes. Kathmandu Valley had suffered a devastating earthquake of magnitude 8.4 on Richter Scale in the early afternoon of January 16, 1934. The 1988 earthquake with epicenter in Udayapur District and recent Himalayan earthquake of September 18, 2011 both hit eastern Nepal and are in fresh memory of Nepali people.

Several earthquake risk reduction initiatives have been implemented in Nepal for improving seismic performance of existing as well as new buildings. One of the pioneering organizations in this quest has been NSET, whose numerous successful initiatives have contributed significantly to reducing earthquake risks by raising earthquake awareness, developing and implementing methodologies and procedures for enhancing knowledge and capacities in aspects of Earthquake risk management. But there is yet to go long.

When we talk about post disaster situation specially while executing Emergency Response activities, Emergency Communication Systems are the key elements to consider. NSET has been engaged how such facilities and systems could be explored and developed to build capacity at national as well as local level. After a large-scale earthquake, for example, the existing communications systems may not be available either due to physical damage or system overload. Wires to telephones may be damaged and cellular phone towers and antennas may fail or lose power. Amateur Radios also known as Ham Radios are the best option to work in such adversities available and adopted globally. Nepal can also benefit from this no-operation-cost technology particularly in case of emergencies not only due to earthquakes but in all types of disaster situations.

Nepal is actually a hotspot for geophysical and climatic hazards and faces high magnitudes and intensities of a multitude of natural hazards such as flood, landslide, earthquake, fire, cyclonic winds and hailstorms, cloudburst, drought, famine, epidemics and many others. Industrial accidents, explosion, traffic accidents and hazardous events associated with poisonous substances are also recorded. Emergency Communication Systems are pivotal in responding all these disaster situations and Ham radio can be one such option even for the last resort.

Nepal’s first Ham operator was an American missionary, Father Marshall Moran (9N1MM). In contrary to its long history, today, Nepal still has only a handful of licensed amateur operators. To add up in the list of just half dozen operators, 21 persons have recently passed exams for Operator’s License conducted by MOIC (5 persons are NSET Staffs!). NSET has in fact mainstreamed ham radio into its plans for strengthening the emergency communications network in the Kathmandu Valley and countrywide.

To begin with, Nepal Amateur Radio League (NARL), Computer Association of Nepal-USA Chapter (CAN-USA) and National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) in association with Institute of Medicine (IOM), Institute of Engineering (IOE), Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) & Integrated Disaster Communication Consortium (IDCC) jointly organized a Training Practicum on “How to use Ham Radio in Disaster Circumstances?” for the Licensed & potential Operators and also useful to key actors from Emergency Communication Systems in Hospitals and other critical facilities as well as policy makers, DRR activists and emergency service providers during April 6 & 8, 2012 at NSET premises, Bhainsepati, Lalitpur, Nepal.

The Activity Report has been attached herewith.

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