COBBLE HILL, B.C. — When every way of communicating was cut off during an earthquake exercise on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, amateur radio operators were the first to step in with a call for help to the outside world.
Telephone lines, cellular and wireless communications were knocked out in the simulated scenario, but volunteer ham radio operators managed to contact a Canadian Forces long-range patrol aircraft flying over the Rockies to broadcast rescue information.
“There’s the old amateur radio saying that when everything else fails, there’s amateur radio,” said Steve Bradshaw, president of the Cowichan Valley Amateur Radio Society, who participated in the $1.2 million government exercise earlier this month with about a dozen other radio operators.
Naomi Yamamoto, B.C.’s emergency preparedness minister, said the operators made history by communicating directly with the Canadian Forces aircraft on amateur radio frequencies. She said the radio volunteers proved their worth as a vital lifeline during a disaster.
“If there is an emergency, the only communication may be these amateur radio guys,” said Yamamoto. “All I know is that if they weren’t there for that first hour, we would be behind the eight ball. We wouldn’t know what happened to Port Alberni or the west coast of Vancouver Island.”
Exercise Coastal Response was based on a scenario where a magnitude 9 earthquake, followed by at least two tsunami waves, struck Port Alberni, a coastal community of about 18,000 people, 200 kilometres northwest of Victoria…READ MORE