Ten years ago the Southern England town of Lewes suffered devastating flooding causing residents and local authorities to consider how best to protect the area in the future. This experience makes it ideally suited for a UK disaster response workshop and broadcast field trial which we’ll be running later this month.

Using the scene of the local disaster as its backdrop, we will be training some of its UK staff and partners in how to use radio to respond to disasters, culminating in the setting up of an „emergency radio station‟ which will broadcast to the people of Lewes on 3rd and 4th December. The workshop combines background knowledge about radio with the unique environment experienced in disaster relief work and involves the expertise of local government officials. Once trained, the staff will then transfer their skills internationally and help set up new teams in various disaster-prone parts of the world, ready to jump into action the moment disaster strikes.

For several years in Asia, First Response has been leading the way in the use of radio for disaster response as they have found that besides the need for food, shelter and safety, one of the greatest needs is information. Tsunami survivor Pavita remembers this well:

“I didn‟t want to see another cooking pot – I had as many as I would ever need. I wanted to know where my family was going to be living in a month‟s time!”

Three weeks after the 2004 Asian tsunami there was only one thing she wanted: hard facts about her future. Since then we have worked with broadcasters in Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to further develop “FIRST Response” a project which comprises the needed equipment (including a suitcase studio), a programming system based on the listeners need for critical information and a workshop to teach radio journalists, relief workers and government personnel how to put these into use in the field.