When all else fails: amateur radio becomes lifeline of communications during a disaster

Gursimran Gill

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Publication date: 16 December 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore the past events where communication challenges have occurred during a disaster, and events in which amateur radio had played a vital role in creating reliable communication links during the disaster response. Furthermore, this paper identifies the modern technology available with amateur radio operators that can be used to create reliable communication networks in order to meet the high demand of disaster communication.


In this paper the author has conducted an integrative literature review, while analyzing case studies of disasters where communication challenges have occurred and the amateur radio has provided communication support during a disaster response.


In today’s world there is a heavy reliance on centralized communications infrastructure such as cell towers, which are very likely to fail during a disaster. Failure or overload of such infrastructure will cause disruptions in communications and make the disaster response inefficient. Amateur radio does not rely on centralized communications infrastructure, and has the ability to be used to meet the demand during many disaster situations. Thus, it is very important for emergency professionals to understand the value of including amateur radio operators in emergency operations plans.

Research limitations/implications

Research is qualitative in nature, with an aim to write a short paper introducing the issues of Disaster Communications.


This paper is intended to provide an insight about the importance of reliable communications during a disaster. Communication interruptions can create a lot of problems and cause inadequate coordination between response agencies. In order to mitigate such challenges it is crucial to study the vital role of amateur radio in supporting the communications when all other mediums of communication fail.


Gill, G. (2019), “When all else fails: amateur radio becomes lifeline of communications during a disaster”, International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-10-2018-0054

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