“Communication is aid . . . I keep repeating that because it brought about a very different perspective to me.”

So comments a participant of the Emergency Response training workshop held in India earlier this year by First Response Radio (FRR), highlighting the vital role that radio can play in times of crisis.

Setting up a transmitter mast

Setting up a transmitter during training

First Response Radio is a network of partners, including Feba, working together to equip and train emergency response teams and to deploy teams to respond to emergencies as needed.

First Response Radio teams ideally comprise of radio, humanitarian and government workers, a particularly successful mix of skills for emergency response.

The training in South India is part of a capacity-building strategy where not only are more responders trained but also local people are trained to train others. As a result of this workshop there are now 12 new responders and 6 trainers certified to run future courses.

Communication through radio - how important that could be during the disaster – that was one thing which I learnt from this workshop.

Subjects such as aspects of radio programme production, co-ordination with other agencies, and using equipment and technology are included in the training. The participants also undertake a field trial involving interviewing people in a community which has been affected by a past disaster, producing radio programmes using the content gathered and broadcasting live.

Interviewing community members

Training participants spoke about what they had learnt about the role of radio in emergency response with one saying:

“Communication through radio - how important that could be during the disaster – that was one thing which I learnt from this workshop.”

“What I learnt is radio is one of the best tools to communicate with people during a time of difficult situations . . . Radio is one of the tools to reduce the risk during a time of disaster.”

Material provisions, such as food, water and shelter are vital in saving lives following a disaster but it’s easy to forget that during these times communication services – such as internet, TV and radio – and the power supply may no longer be functioning, increasing people’s feelings of vulnerability.

In a disaster situation, First Response responders work to set up a temporary radio station using a suitcase studio. They gather information and interviews which are broadcast into the area giving those affected access to life-saving information and enabling them to find practical help, reducing the uncertainty that rumour and speculation bring.

See also: Training the Trainers - Emergency Response Radio for more insights into training teams for disaster response.