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Frome man in emergency response in Tacloban

Mike Adams (left) in Tacloban.

Mike Adams (left) in Tacloban.

FROME resident Mike Adams, international coordinator of First Response Radio (FRR) recently returned from Tacloban City in the Philippines.

Mike, and a team from local partners, FEBC, had established an emergency radio station to broadcast critical humanitarian relief information to the disaster affected community. Mike and his wife Brigit were, providentially, in Manila when typhoon Haiyan struck.

The strategy of FRR is to buy equipment, train teams and practice in disaster prone countries BEFORE disaster strikes, with the goal of being on the air within 72 hours after a disaster. Mike had previously trained some people in the Philippines who formed the core of the team.

Due to a lack of information coming out of the affected area it took three days to establish if there was a need for First Response, but once the need was confirmed (ie, all communications were down) it took only 72 hours to deploy and get a complete radio system established and broadcasting to the affected populations around Tacloban city.

While this may sound straightforward, the practical and logistical hurdles to be overcome were considerable. Permission for a radio frequency was requested – and granted on the spot! The radio station consists of a ‘radio studio in a suitcase’, a transmitter, an antenna, and wind-up or solar radios to give away, all of which were available, but they also needed to purchase a generator, camping equipment, and food for five people for twp weeks.

Even with tickets and boarding passes in hand some of the team got bumped off some flights and had to fight hard to keep their seats even after they boarded the planes. At one point Mike wondered why they were working so hard to get into a place that so many people were trying to flee.

Landing in Tacloban airport 30 minutes before dark, he was never so happy to see the UN OCHA flag at the UN ‘Reception Center’, where as a member of CDAC they were warmly welcomed. After signing in and getting a short briefing they were directed to a relief truck that was going to City Hall.

The drive at night through the worst part of the city felt like a scene out of some ‘end of the world’ type sci-fi movie. The team set up in what used to be the VIP suite in the City Hall – which was now a shambolic mess of shattered glass and broken furniture.

The next morning it took them just one hour to set up and begin broadcasting emergency messaging to local communities about: water, food, shelter and health.

Mike returned to the UK after a week, leaving the team to continue to the work. The station aims to remain on the air until after Christmas, when they will transition the gathering and broadcasting of information to the re-established radio stations in the area. Mike plans to return to evaluate and follow-up on the situation after Christmas. FRR has been featured on the BBC, ABC Australia and the Voice of America.

While in Frome Mike is a member of Frome FM, is a member of Holy Trinity Church, and helps with the HOPE coffee van in town on Friday nights.