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HF/SSB radio email services

HF/SSB radio email for natural disasters

BRUNEI BAY RADIO's HF/SSB radio email service provides effective communication in the case of natural disasters or other emergencies - such as a ferry sinking or bus crash - even if local area terrestrial communication facilities are damaged, destroyed or overloaded.

For example, during the 2004 tsunami that stuck SE Asia, many yachts using BRUNEI BAY RADIO's HF/SSB email services became communication relay points because the normal local communication facilities were damaged or overloaded. 

BRUNEI BAY RADIO is located in Brunei, on the NW coast of Borneo, where it is protected from those areas where natural disasters - such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tropical storms - commonly occur, or where they can impact.

Brunei's local internet networks and connections to the rest of the world have proven extremely dependable. Two separate undersea cables and a satellite telecommunications link provide redundancy to Bruneiís internet service, to help guarantee a reliable flow of emails  between our HF/SSB radio email base and the rest of the world. For example:

  • When a ship dragged its anchor over an undersea cable off China a few years ago, all of Australiaís Bigpond internet subscribers lost their email and web browsing service, because Bigpond had only one link to the Internet; via that cable. Brunei also uses that cable, but because Brunei also has two other links to the Internet, BRUNEI BAY RADIO's HF/SSB radio email services were not affected. 
  • In the earthquake off Taiwan on Christmas Day 2006, many countries in SE Asia lost their international internet connection for days, and some had seriously reduced service capacity/reliability for weeks. Brunei did not suffer the same problems and our BBRemail HF/SSB email subscribers had no change in their service quality; their emails were moving like normal.
  • When the Tsunami hit the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Andamans and Malaysia in 2004, many shore internet and email facilities were destroyed or overwhelmed with traffic. BBRemail subscribers continued their normal email operations with no disruption.
  • Brunei is located on the west coast of Borneo, facing the South China Sea. It is 5 degrees north, so our antennas and internet infrastructure are beyond the reach of Tropical Storms. There are no active volcanoes and we are not on or near any fault lines that could initiate earthquakes to disrupt communication or electricity services.
  • The adjacent South China Sea and countries around this enclosed sea are also free of volcano and fault lines that could create tsunamis to impact Bruneiís coast and infrastructures. Brunei is a stable and well established nation, with the longest serving family monarchy in the world. Shell International staff confirm that Brunei is their most reliable and dependable oil and gas production operation outside of Europe.

    Because our
    BBRemail services are based in Brunei and use the same reliable internet infrastructures, our HF/SSB radio email services  provide a high standard of reliability. 

BRUNEI BAY RADIO's HF/SSB radio email service utilises a similar low-cost  equipment/software integration solution that is already deployed by governments for important and time critical tasks:

  • In the USA, the government has established a HF/SSB radio email service as the principle nationwide public communications email system for Natural Disasters. HF/SSB radio email was chosen because it works without a complex network of high maintenance linking facilities that require multiple relays, lots of electricity and highly trained technicians to keep them running. The USA government chose HF/SSB radio email ahead of more complex and therefore more vulnerable technologies. 
  • In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology established a HF/SSB radio email system to gather important weather data from remote islands in the Pacific. It's far cheaper than more sophisticated systems, simpler to maintain where advanced electronics technicians are not available, plus installation, operation and trouble shooting is within the capability of most people. It only needs a limited power supply, can be installed by almost anyone, and can be easily moved if required. Therefore the system is far more dependable and adaptable.  

This recent evidence demonstrates that the relative simplicity of HF/SSB email communication systems, the low cost, ease of maintenance and strategic reliability, is generating an expansion of use by individuals, aid-agencies and governments; especially for critical services. This is despite Ė or perhaps because of - the advent of more sophisticated but expensive and fragile systems.

The easily transportable BBRemail subscriber terminal (radio, radio modem and antenna) can be quickly deployed to immediately address important email communication requirements.

BBRemail HF/SSB radio email terminals can also be established ahead of time for regular use by isolated communities - eg: for medical, educational and community tourism needs - so local people are already familiar with their use.

The software to create and read emails, and control the radio/modem, can be run on a low-specification (eg: used) notebook.

Power for the entire system - radio, modem, and notebook - can be from a 12v car battery charged by solar panel, micro-hydro, wind generator, and/or small portable generator. This makes the system independent of major electrical distribution networks that are likely to be disrupted in a natural disaster.

The antenna can be as simple as a single wire suspended from one tree at it's centre, with the ends pegged out to the ground, to create an unverted V shape. Easily raised to install and easily lowered if it needs to be moved elsewhere.

The radio that transmits and receives emails, can also be used for voice communications direct from one radio to the other, without the need for intermediate relay towers on hilltops, or complex exchanges, or buried cables or big power supplies.  Voice communication will facilitate local area co-ordination, and email communication will facilitate co-ordination with support services etc in more distant locations. 

Some HF/SSB radios have smart technology built inside that allows each to have a unique ID, so they can be called like a telephone. They can also swap short text messages. An ALL CALL facility allows a signal to be sent to all radios in the network and they will all go into an alarm state, triggering external alarms etc.

The whole system can be pre-deployed and regularly used for routine email and voice communications so people are familiar with its operation. This can be especially useful in isolated communities without normal communication services, and where a part of the local economy involves people working offshore in boats, or inland in farms, forests and mining areas.

After a natural disaster, the equipment is very suited to fast deployment, local maintenance and  operating independently with no other supporting infrastructure, such as town  power supply, terrestrial phone cables or hilltop communication relay towers.

The February 2009 bushfires near Melbourne (Australia) are an example of how even a well prepared natural disaster capability can fall into complete disarray and become almost irrelevant because communication systems did not work: 

  1. The sophisticated communication services - including trunked VHF/UHF radio networks used by fire services, police, ambulance and emergency services all stopped working. So did the mobile phone service and the FM radio service, which meant the early warning system designed to tell residents to evacuate also failed. This occurred in areas just 50 to 200 kms from Melbourne, where the levels of awareness, preparedness, pre-deployed equipment and trained manpower was high.

  2. Because the sophisticated communication systems failed, the heads of Police, Fire and Emergency services in their "War Room" in Melbourne had almost no communication with their massive manpower resource and limited capability to direct millions of $ of equipment and resources to effectively manage this progressively moving natural disaster. They did not have the information they expected to have about the movement of the fires. They were not aware of the large scale destruction and hundreds of deaths until almost midnight.

  3. All this occurred principally because the hilltop communication relay towers and local exchanges that contained the sophisticated systems stopped working. Mostly because they ran out of electricity (some had short term battery backups and some had generators with a small fuel supply), or in some cases they - or the cables linking them - were damaged by the fires. Those that lost mains electricity lost it because of cable damage, power poles falling down, or because the fire services turned off the power; a very normal action in bush fires to prevent electrocution deaths from falling power wires. 

  4. It took eight days for minimal communication services in the affected areas to be restored and months for everything to be back to normal. This in a location where highly trained technicians and a multitude of spare parts are just one to three hours drive away.

A HF/SSB radio based communication service - voice, data and email - provides reliable communications despite all the normal communication system failures that can be predicted to occur during a natural disaster.

For more information, please use the link below.


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