The concept for First Response Radio was developed by HCR in 2001 and first deployed after the 2004 tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The Rapid Response Radio Unit (RRRU), as it was then called, is a portable radio broadcasting system small enough to fit in a suitcase with a team of radio producers specifically trained to quickly broadcast critical information to communities following a disaster.
The program became independent and was renamed First Response Radio (FRR) in 2012, and continues to deliver life-saving information, via radio to affected communities in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Watch this short video to learn more about how First Response Radio works:
HCR remains involved as a partner and has representation on the FRR management committee. FRR and HCR continue to contribute to each other's activities in training design, training delivery, deployment and research and evaluation.
Jan Bayliss of HCR Australia and Hazeen Latif of HCR Pakistan were part of an international team which recently delivered FRR training in the Philippines. The training was conducted in Tagbilaran in the southwest of the island province of Bohol.
Jan has written this reflection on the latest FRR training in Tagbilaran:
Bohol is a Philippine island subject to typhoons, earthquakes, landslides and other natural disasters. Last year it suffered a major earthquake. It’s also the home of one of the cutest and smallest of the monkey family – the big-eyed Tarsier.
When we held FRR training for the use of radio in disasters, Bohol sent two TARSIER's to the course. Not little monkeys, but two men from TARSIER, the local emergency response agency (Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response). We also had participants from several international organisations with varying skill sets including on-air staff and techies, humanitarian workers and government disaster management people. It was a great mix of talents, experience and contacts – just the thing we aim for in our training.
We learnt how agencies coordinate their responses in times of disaster and the crucial role radio can have in delivering life-saving information. We learnt how to script and speak so that the affected people could quickly and easily understand. We learnt strategies that would involve the communities and help bring healing. We learnt how to operate the studio-in-a-suitcase. A highlight for some technophobes was demonstrating that they could connect an antenna to a transmitter and set up the whole station.
When the team reached Bohol for the Field Trial we saw the great advantage of having TARSIER's on the team, with their local contacts. Even with only 48 hours on air we quickly established an audience and were able to find answers to questions they had about the rebuilding process. After the Field Trial, seven participants stayed for another week’s training of trainers.
So how effective was the training? All the participants were engaged and keen. They learnt new concepts and new skills and they put them into practice in the field trial. FRR Philippines have a cross-disciplinary team with a great network of contacts. These are great beginnings, but the real proof of our training success will come next February when the newly trained FRR Philippines team runs their own first training and we will have worked ourselves out of a job!