Last week, an earthquake silenced telephone landlines and mobile services, leaving Haitians in the dark in more ways than one, but it’s getting better now, as tens of thousands of radios are distributed by U.S. Marines. Haitian families can now hear important public service and safety announcements, and learn when and where food and water will be distributed.
The small radios don’t even need batteries: they are powered by the sun or by hand cranking. A U.S. Air Force C-130 has been flying in pallets of the hand-held emergency radios from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida for earthquake survivors — 43,800 radios so far, with another 6,200 due tomorrow.
(Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Mark Leuis showed Haitians how easy the US radios are to use)
The specially equipped radios have another advantage: they can be used to charge cell phones and as modest flashlights.
The U.S. military’s Joint Task Force Haiti coordinated with the Préval government to use a special communications aircraft to broadcast on certain FM and AM frequencies. Messages about the international relief efforts and health information are broadcasting over three frequencies: 92.4 FM, 104.1 FM and 1030 AM.
In addition to the radios, the military is distributing 60,000 stickers advertising the AM/FM frequencies. Sixty thousand fliers that provide operating instructions in Creole and French have been produced.
The U.S. Southern Command provided the money to buy the radios, delivered as part of “Operation Unified Response.”
There are around 6,400 U.S. military personnel supporting the mission by tending to the wounded, providing security at food distribution points, carrying out evacuations or ferrying in humanitarian supplies. That number is expected to grow to as high as 10,000 in the coming weeks.