THE INTERNATIONAL RADIO EMERGENCY SUPPORT COALITION
Within individual countries, most emergency planning authorities are familiar with national organizations of Radio Amateurs that voluntarily pledge their effort and equipment to aid in disaster relief.
IRESC is similar, in that the members are volunteer radio amateurs who give their time and facilities to help with emergency communications.
However, rather than working at the local or national level within one country, IRESC is a world-wide organization that tries to provide communication links across country borders from disaster zones to anywhere in the world that needs to make contact. Of course, many IRESC members are also members of their own national bodies.
The permanent facility developed by IRESC centers on ’RF and Echolink’ voice-over-Internet network, which is exclusive to licensed radio amateurs and therefore secure and controlled.
When a major emergency occurs, the IRESC organization strives to link up to ham radio communications in and out of the disaster zone, interfacing speech (and even text) with their dedicated network at the nearest point of Internet connectivity or RF.
In this way, direct two-way communications can occur between the disaster area and agencies that can help, even if they are located on opposite sides of the planet.
This concept was first put into practice during the Indian Ocean Tsunami relief effort in 2004 when a VHF repeater in Sri Lanka was interfaced to an Echolink terminal so that local efforts on the ground could be coordinated using direct speech communications via the Internet.
The radio amateurs involved in that exercise realized the usefulness of such interfaces in quickly establishing remote support during disasters and our organization was formed out of this event. IRESC is born so, please watch the Video CNN.wmv TRN.wmv
Because the long distance part of the communication path is Internet-based, there are no radio propagation problems (as with short-wave radio) and no cost (as with satellite usage). By streaming the communications audio to the web, anyone can monitor traffic regardless of location while not interfering with busy radio channels.
With its dedicated Echolink Conference facility, IRESC has full control over traffic flow and manned networks follow agreed amateur radio emergency communications protocols. All traffic is logged for future examination and training, and background teams use varied Internet tools to both research and publish live information for the benefit of all.
The IT hardware is hosted by IRESC members, meaning that access to the base servers is always possible and under full control. While the potential power of this facility is clear, IRESC would not wish to exaggerate what it can achieve. Often, communications can be slow to establish and the solutions are sometimes unique and fleeting. Modest amounts of information on misplaced people were successfully relayed during the East Asia Tsunami in 2004, the major Pakistan Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the Philippines mudslides of 2006.
Success can still be thwarted in areas where there is a lack of ham radio links into the zone. At present, too, voice-over-Internet facilities do not readily exist in some parts of the world.
The IRESC command and support structure offer several advantages due to its truly international nature. Because there are active members in different time zones all over the world, efforts can go on around the clock without anyone controller or support team becoming exhausted. Background data and logging are web-based. If any of the systems suffer a loss of connectivity, the facility exists to re-establish them from an unaffected part of the world.
Personal data, such as ‘lost and found’ information, is handled discretely and is passed only to agencies with appropriate credentials.
IRESC will deploy members to disaster zones once funding is available, another approach is to galvanize and use the ham operators who are local to the disaster zone, to enhance the official communications channels and perhaps re-route lower priority traffic away from them. However, if asked, IRESC would provide and operate Internet and RF communications terminals at the premises of support agencies.
Being an international body, IRESC strongly adheres to the rule of LAW of all countries and the principals that also bind together the worldwide amateur radio movement. It aims to bring together fellow voluntary enthusiasts where ever they live, to work together to help others regardless of their race, color, religion or politics.
IRESC is pleased to link the national organizations of countries whenever this could be advantageous, working with any group but without any predisposition or allegiance. IRESC members are currently working to make the backbone Internet and RF operation as resilient and robust as possible.
The development of portable Echolink-to-Radio interfaces is proceeding with the desire to ship these to disaster zones if needed. And the establishment of RF internet gateways