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Rainbow Radio League to the rescue in Fancy

Rainbow Radio League to the rescue in Fancy

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by Don De Riggs Tue, Dec 6. 2011

Successful candidates from a recent amateur radio class conducted a weekend emergency message handling training course in Fancy.{{more}} The course was designed to provide participants with ‘hands on’ experience in processing messages via VHF and HF/SSB radio, and ‘hands on’ in a real sense it turned out to be.

The first emergency message handling session using VHF radios began on Friday, December 2 and ran from 8:00 p.m. until midnight and the following morning on HF/SSB. On Saturday morning, radio operators from Grenada (J39GP) and Bequia (J88DT) sent simulated messages via SSB radio which were copied by the trainees using the standard emergency message forms, while Leon (J88NFJ) helped to coordinate the event from Arnos Vale.

By sheer coincidence, one of the simulated messages involved a scenario with a landslide blocking the main road leading into Fancy and early Saturday morning (December 3), torrential rains for about two days caused a part of an embankment to collapse into the main road, blocking access into and out of that village for about 12 hours. However, quick intervention by a ‘back hoe’ and volunteers with a chain saw and cutlasses, the road was passable by 3:00 p.m., allowing traffic to flow again.

As soon as the RRL members and trainees were made aware of the road blockage early Saturday morning, they journeyed to the scene to make an assessment, but on the way, there was a real emergency involving an elderly man admitted to the Fancy clinic and one of the RRL vehicles (J88EA) had to be used as an ambulance to transport the patient

in critical condition, requiring advanced medical attention, to an ambulance on the other side of the road block.

The newly licensed radio amateurs braved the soggy and precipitous debris field to take the injured patient to the waiting ambulance. Later that morning, a ‘back hoe’, which was performing clean-up duties in Sandy Bay as a result of the same rains, was re-deployed to the area referred to as ‘Block’, just about a mile before entering Fancy.

Chairperson of the Fancy Disaster Management committee Elna Michael was also on the scene in quick time to assess the damage, coordinate the clean-up action and inform NEMO of the road block. Michael noted that there were several other trees in the immediate vicinity of the land slide that needed to be pruned to avert a similar occurrence. She went on to thank the back hoe driver and volunteers from Fancy and RRL members for their input during this short crisis. A few years ago, a massive landslide, just outside Owia, blocked the main road to Fancy for eleven days; that event also disrupted power and communication lines.

The RRL, cognizant of this fact, indentified Fancy as one of the most vulnerable communities in St. Vincent due to the topography and loose nature of the volcanic soil in the entire North Windward area, which becomes very unstable when saturated by rain. The RRL, with help from Gibson Building Supplies, provided that community with a modern HF multimode, multi band transceiver, which has proved its efficacy following the passage of hurricane Tomas last year. Fancy was without electricity and phones for three days. fortunately, the equipment installed by the RRL and later retrofitted with solar panels and storage batteries provided with funds from CIDA, was the only means of communications from that village to report to the rest of the world what had transpired following that storm.

The RRL wishes to use this opportunity to thank the Red Cross for facilitating the importation of the radios; the government for allowing a total waiver of customs duties for the importation of 20 VHF portable radios; and the customs department for the pre-delivery of these radios, which arrived a few days ago, some of which were used for the training exercise, as well as during the ‘rescue mission’ while in Fancy. When customs officials learned that the radios were to be used for the training exercise on Friday evening, they immediately facilitated the pre-delivery process, enabling the Emergency communications first responders to deliver a timely service just hours after receiving the radios. Special ‘thanks’ to Mrs. Elna Michael (J88NEK) who supplied the radio operators with a delectable fish broth; to the new radio operators, for some of whom it was their first visit to Fancy.

On the lighter side of things, the entire group journeyed to the Owia Salt Pond to unwind from a hectic weekend. Taking part in the weekend training and rescue effort were radio operators Ronald Haynes (J88EA), Lavel Mapp (J88NLM), Jeremy Barbour (J88NJB), Karyn Constance, Beverly Richards, Trevor Grant, Jose Clarke (J88NGR), and coordinator of the event Donald De Riggs (J88CD).

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