Monday, May 28, 2012

'Promote use of amateur radios in rescues'

KUALA LUMPUR: Amateur radios could be the key to communicate with people in distress and, therefore, collaboration between government agencies and amateur radio users should be intensified.

Booth owner Roslin Hasan, (left) selling an amateur radio set to Harun Kamaludin (second from left) at the Hamfest festival in Taman Metropolitan Batu, Kuala Lumpur, yesterday. Pic by Iqmal Haqim Rosman
Information Department director-general Ibrahim Abd Rahman said integration between the two should be encouraged as it helped the agencies to build good rapport and teamwork spirit.

He said agencies like the Fire and Rescue Department, Civil Defence Department (JPA3), police, Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS), hospitals, Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation should work together with amateur radio users.

"Working together will ensure search and rescue (SAR) missions are carried out more efficiently and professionally," he said at the opening of Hamfest Malaysia 2012, while representing deputy Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D'Cruz.
Ibrahim said Hamfest Malaysia could be a platform for these agencies to exchange information and knowledge with each other and forge friendship with the public.

Next year's Hamfest Festival, he said, would be grander and located at a better location to show the government's commitment. The two-day affair, which ended yesterday, attracted 5,000 enthusiasts.
"We may also organise such festivals in other states, especially in Kelantan as there are many amateur radio users there."

He added that places like Gua Musang had weak communication signals, hence the rise in the number of amateur radio users there.

"We had a request from organisers of Hamfest Malaysia and that was to reduce, and, if possible, abolish the sales tax of amateur radio equipment. I think it could be discussed at the higher level of the ministry and I will make sure it does."

He said Malaysia was nowhere on the amateur radio world map because there were only 10,000 amateur radio users in the country, or less than one per cent of the population.

"Thailand has more than 176,278 users, Indonesia has 27,815 while Japan has the highest users with more than a million users."

Hamfest festival organiser Azli Paat said radio frequencies could reach over 3,000km and even communicate with people in space.

"We have spoken with people at the International Space Station (ISS) using the radio."

He said during a natural disaster, phone lines go dead and communication becomes a problem.

"Satellite phones are expensive. With radio, you are also in contact with other users around you and that comes in handy during an emergency."

He said there were hopes to establish links with government agencies so they could work together during natural disasters.

"This could be used as a leverage by them, just like the tsunami in Aceh recently."
He said during a mission to Gaza, radios would be more effective than satellite phones because messages from radio cannot be stopped.

He said besides natural disasters, radios were also key for search and rescue efforts.
"When people go missing during hikes or mountain climbing, radio becomes the only life-saver," he said at the festival in Taman Metropolitan Batu, Jalan Ipoh.

Azli, who described amateur radio users as the first form of social networking worldwide, said some radios could also be used underwater.

He said radio had become a quick tool for help even during emergencies, like running out of fuel while driving or a punctured tyre.

"You may call for help and if there is anyone near you, help could be just around the corner."
Amateur radios could also be crucial for neighbourhood watch and convoy trips that involved many vehicles.

He warned that many did not know that buying, selling and using a radio without licence is against the law.

"Anyone caught using such equipment without a licence can be jailed up to three years and fined RM100,000."

It's 'DX-ing', 'Fox Hunting' time

Hamfest Malaysia founder Azli Paat at Ada Vista Sdn Bhd, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Pic by Yong Chee Choong

KUALA LUMPUR: WHAT do you do when natural disasters like earthquakes, landslides or floods strike? What if the power is down and all communication is cut off?

At the Hamfest festival, an amateur radio opportunity, visitors will be exposed to how to use amateur radio for search and rescue operations in case of an emergency as well as interacting with other amateur radio enthusiasts worldwide.

"We want to create awareness of this communication tool and its usefulness.

"It becomes the last frontier when other communications are down and the public can learn it when they attend this festival" said event organiser, Azli Paat.

Back for the third time, the carnival will be held at Taman Metropolitan Batu, Jalan Ipoh starting today and ends tomorrow.

Themed "Hamfest community 1Malaysia", the event is organised by Ada Vista Sdn Bhd in conjunction with World Telecommunications and Information Society Day which falls on May 17.
Azli said this year, they wanted to take the event outdoor where visitors could camp on the ground for a more carnival-like atmosphere.

"We will provide 20 tents and 20 sleeping bags for visitors during the event.

"But they are encouraged to bring their own," he said adding the festival starts from 10am until 10pm.

Based on feedback from previous years, this year's festival is expected to attract about 5,000 people.

"The response we had last year was overwhelming.

"We attracted about 3,000 people when we held it at the Kuala Lumpur Tower," Azli said adding that visitors from abroad like Indonesia, Germany, New Zealand and India would be joining the fest.
He added the two-day event would have activities like a treasure hunt competition where participants had to use a two-way radio to communicate with others and obtain clues for the hunt.
Other amateur radio activities are "Fox Hunting" and "DX-ing".

Fox Hunting or transmitter hunting is an activity where participants use radio direction finding techniques to detect one or more radio transmitters hidden in a designated search area.

DX-ing is a technique used to receive and identify a remote radio signal via two-way amateur radio contacts with other operators usually from far outside the country using only an antenna.
Visitors too will be able to witness amateur radio demonstrations by licensed operators at their "homebrew" booths, featuring their own homemade radio transmitters and equipment.

Why is it called a Hamfest festival? Azli said "hams" often refers to the amateur radio enthusiasts that have long operated in Malaysia.

He said before hams were allowed to operate a ham radio, they had to pass a Radio Amateur Examination under the regulatory control and supervision of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

"Then, they will obtain operator licences from the MCMC to transmit on the designated frequencies," Azli said adding that to date, there were almost 10,000 licensed ham radio operators in Malaysia.