eHam.net News — Last month, as Sri Lanka faced its worst floods in 14 years, a few Bengalureans decided to do their bit. They switched on their radio sets, scanned stations for calls of distress from the island country, and relayed the message to radio operators in Chennai. “We hoped our message reached the concerned authorities, and that we could help people looking out for food and rescue,” techie Venkatesh Baliga, one of the volunteers, tells us. Welcome to the world of amateur radio/ham operators such as Baliga. When he and his ilk are not busy making friends over airwaves, or experimenting with the transmitter-receiver technology at homes, in cars, or outdoors, they like to help people out of crisis. How? When floods, earthquakes and cyclones strike, terrestrial communication services, which include mobile telephony and Internet, take a severe beating, throwing family, friends, and authorities out of touch. Wireless radio broadcasts remain unaffected though. And hams hold the license to operate in the bandwidths across High Frequency (HF), Very High Frequency (VHF), and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). That’s why they can continue to talk to-and-fro. One of the most recognisable forms of ham sets is a walkie talkie. Bengaluru, in fact, is the ham capital of India, with almost 5,000 licensees. But now some have decided to put this fun hobby to dedicated public service. Indian Institute of Hams (IIH), located in a tiny office at Kanteerava Stadium, is building a ‘Ham Action Force’ — a team of hams to provide communication in times of emergency. It has 48 ham-cum-disaster management volunteers now, in the age group of 30 to 76. Some are experienced, having chipped in during 1999 Orissa Cyclone, 2001 Gujarat Earthquake, 2004 Tsunami attack and 2013 Uttarakhand floods, others are readying for the future and awaiting their camouflage uniform. The Force is expected to set up ham stations within an hour of emergency to liaison with government agencies, NGOs and the distressed.