Motorola radios to the rescue

March/April 2000 IT infrastructure

Emergency workers from around the world have been pouring into flood-stricken Mozambique to rescue thousands of victims left stranded by a series of cyclones that have wreaked havoc in southern Africa over the past weeks.

South African organisation Safety And First Aid Management (SAFAM) took a team of ten volunteers comprising paramedics, divers and a doctor to Maputo on Thursday, 2 March to help rescue operations in some of the worst hit areas. Motorola Commercial, Government and Industrial Solutions Sector (CGISS) and its sole distributor Alcom, provided vital communications services to the SAFAM team through a donation of two-way radio equipment valued at R60 000.

'To make missions such as these possible, we rely heavily on sponsorships,' says Mike van Wyk, National Operations Manager and Disaster Co-ordinator for SAFAM. 'The response from organisations in South Africa was extremely poor, many companies felt their efforts should be focused on addressing situations in their home territory, rather than providing aid to neighbouring territories. What they fail to realise is that this disaster is not limited to Mozambique. Once the floods have subsided, outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera, malaria and typhoid fever, could spread quickly to South Africa,' he warns. 'We put this rescue operation together in 24 hours. Motorola and Alcom were one of four main sponsors who responded rapidly and provided much-needed support.'

Co-ordinating rescue operations

On arrival in Maputo, the SAFAM team worked closely with the United Nations and Mozambique Government to co-ordinate rescue operations. 'We were dropped by helicopter into the hot zones which is where the major crises are.

'Although we had identified various scenarios and action plans, we had no idea what to expect and had to react to situations as they arose,' explains van Wyk. The SAFAM team was the only rescue operation targeting the hot spots, with other emergency teams operating from Maputo.

Dr Paul Kapp, founder member of SAFAM was responsible for acute care and resuscitation of patients. 'This disaster has claimed thousands of victims,' he notes. 'We had to take it one step at a time and decide on the action to be taken once we were on site. This meant decisions had to be made quickly to prevent further loss of life.'

No communications infrastructure

According to van Wyk, there is no communications infrastructure in the remote areas, so the two-way radios donated by Motorola and Alcom were used by the divers and medics travelling on rubber dingys to provide feedback to the base camp. 'Without communication between our teams and the disaster co-ordinator, it would have been impossible to co-ordinate rescue operations. The radios were our lifeline,' he says.

'Motorola two-way radios are designed to operate in harsh environments and are tough enough to withstand rigorous use,' says Philip Hime, Marketing Manager at Alcom. 'In emergency situations, teams need to react rapidly and make decisions quickly. Two-way radio communication is instantaneous and allows teams to communicate simultaneously, saving valuable time and preventing messages from becoming distorted,' he explains.

'The SAFAM team has demonstrated remarkable dedication in their decision to put local business on hold and suffer potential financial loss in order to save lives. We are proud to be associated with them and to be able to contribute towards their rescue operation,' he concludes.

A second SAFAM team left for Mozambique on 9 March to relieve exhausted rescue workers.

For details contact Mike van Wyk, National Operations Manager & Disaster Co-ordinator SAFAM on tel: (011) 896 2342,

Dr Paul Kapp, Founder Member SAFAM on

tel:(011) 896 2342

Philip Hime, Marketing Manager of Alcom on

tel: (011) 807 5185.

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