In times of disasters, citizens and Red Cross Responders turn to radios for help

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Red Cross Action Team (RCAT) member Ricky Broniola, 29, checks in with one of the members of the United Kabalikat CiviCom, a radio group between other Red Cross members located in different areas of Northern Samar. © MJ Evalarosa/IFRC

By Mary Joy Evalarosa / IFRC

A few hours before typhoon Melor (local name: Nona) struck Northern Samar, Reynald Fidel, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Northern Samar chapter administrator, completely lost contact with the National Headquarters in Manila. With no signal bars on his cell phone, he picked up the only single-band radio in the office and called a friend who works at the local airport control tower to get updates on the coming typhoon. The radio proved to be a critical lifeline, as the chapter received vital and timely information on where and when exactly Melor would hit in their area, and they were able to quickly dispatch rescue teams to evacuate residents into safer locations.

On the ground, Red Cross emergency responders relied heavily on single-band radios to communicate with other emergency response teams in different areas.

“We used our car antennas and batteries and placed it on top of our building to get it to work after the main antennae snapped into two, just so we could continue communicating with our emergency response teams on the ground. It really helped us during our rescue operations,” said Ricky Broniola, 29, a member of the Red Cross Action Team (RCAT) based in Northern Samar.

Typhoon Melor slammed the province of Northern Samar on December 14. With winds as high as 175 km/hr, the typhoon toppled communication and transmission lines along its path. At the aftermath, the typhoon claimed 42 lives all over the Philippines and damaged over 379,000 houses.

Over in Manila, the Philippine Red Cross utilized its public service radio programme to keep citizens updated on the situation on the ground following the brunt of the typhoon.

For almost ten years now, “Kalinga Hatid ng Red Cross” (Support from the Philippine Red Cross) which airs every Saturday between 7-8 am over state-owned DZRB 738 AM Radyo ng Bayan has delivered disaster news bulletins, disaster operations, and other activities of the Philippine Red Cross.

Over the years, the program has interviewed members and officials of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement on topics ranging from emergency response, disaster preparedness, livelihood projects, to personal experiences of working with the Red Cross. The radio show are hosted by veteran broadcaster Francis Cansino and former Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Cora Alma de Leon.