After much online discussion it seems that Amateur Radio can provide a ham’s assistance in responding to the emerging Coronavirus in three main ways:
- Dissemination of Practical Information
- Moral Support to those in Quarantine or otherwise affected
- As an “Honesty Check” for Media and Official Information sources
As a disease and its spread do not directly challenge other means of communication beyond limiting some face-to-face conversations, the traditional role of Emcomm/Freecom to provide a viable backup during communication disruptions won’t be in play.
Let’s look at the three ways the ad hoc conversations suggested would be helpful:
Dissemination of Practical Information
When anyone is facing a challenge, they benefit from being first mentally briefed, then by being prepared. Ham radio can do a lot to provide substantive information for that briefing.
Please remember that this virus is considered “novel” which means it is a new type that information is being learned and shared in real time. So expect the best prevention and response to change as we understand the virus better.
“Getting the word out” would be a useful role for ham radio.
Moral Support to those in Quarantine or otherwise affected
Challenges usually come with a good amount of fear. Helping each other move the coronavirus threat from “that monster under the bed” to a scientific set of facts we can respond to, will help tame the emotions behind our fears. Rightfully we should be wary of anything that kills some of us and leaves other rather sick, but we can’t let fears keep us from fighting back. The moral support to those in quarantine or otherwise affected could be a huge role for amateur radio.
As an “Honesty Check” for Media and Official Information sources
There are so many wildly different pieces of information out on the internet and in the media. Everything from “it’s just another flu, so don’t worry” to “the sky is falling.” Claims range from natural mutation of a bat carried virus to biowarfare or alien assaults. While we may not know what is exactly true, we sure know what is conjecture.
But of a bigger worry is the steerage and distortion the Media is causing, and the unreliability of some of the Official Information sources. There is a propaganda war underway, with countries in denial, countries more worried about the economic affects over science, and other active bias in discussing the virus event.
Ham radio, provided individual hams have accurate information and are true to that information, can be a useful “honesty check” to the games going on.
“Honesty Checks” are things like how the North Korean government insisted they had no virus cases, then reports that they had executed their patient-zero (the first one with the disease) and had threatened to execute their politburo members if they failed to contain the virus started leaking out. Eventually the NKs had little choice other than to admit they have a virus problem.
In this case it was media that created the awareness that led to the changes.
Ham radio may need to take a similar role if reality is suppressed. Say if in Caracas the official line is “no virus” but the hams all are reporting everyone is sick and mass graves are being filled with the dead until they can be cremated, that “honesty check” would be highly useful for world organizations to help that country respond to a threat they officially are denying.
If you can other ideas, please add them in the comments.
73 and keep safe & healthy,