Emergency radio

Why emergency radio?

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or major avalanches, as well as other events such as terrorist attacks and serious accidents, often damage or destroy telecommunications facilities. It is irrelevant whether these are older or state-of-the-art systems; if their supply infrastructure, i.e. power and telephone lines, is destroyed, they collapse within a short space of time. It can often take days or even weeks for normal communication channels to be restored.

During this time, the voluntary work and technical “know how” of radio amateurs is required. With their mostly independent and mobile radios, they can establish emergency communication over long distances in the shortest possible time and maintain it for longer periods of time. In this way, they enable the authorities and aid organizations to receive information from the cut-off areas and coordinate the aid efforts. Abroad, these findings have already been successfully implemented in various countries, as examples from America (ARES) and England (RAYNET) show.

The development of emergency radio in Switzerland can look back on an eventful history. In the late 1970s, hobby radio operators (CB radio, 11m band) made efforts and spontaneous deployments during events. The earthquakes in northern Italy in particular had shown that radio communications of all kinds were useful in areas with a weak infrastructure. Over time, these major events have been forgotten in Europe. Amateur radio was important in almost all major events, but emergency aid was mostly provided as part of a few actions that went largely unnoticed by the public. In September 1995, on the initiative of Peter Waldner, HB9MMM, the HB9KF Association for Disaster Radio was founded, marking the birth of organized emergency radio in Switzerland. Unfortunately, however, the initial enthusiasm slowly waned after the death of the founder and the association was dissolved in 2007. In the meantime, in the summer of 2006, Stefan Rott, HB9NBA and Stefan Streif, HB9TTQ founded a new organization, IG-Notfunk. This organization has set itself the goal of bringing together radio amateurs who volunteer their services to the public in a database and taking over their alerting. In addition, interest in emergency radio is to be aroused and interested radio amateurs are to be provided with manuals and checklists as a guideline for their demanding work in emergencies and disasters.

At the 2008 delegates’ meeting, the USKA decided to assign the task of coordinating emergency radio in Switzerland to a member of the board. The board then assigned this task to Stefan Streif, HB9TTQ. In the meantime, the coordination of emergency radio has been assigned to a board member, currently Jean-Michel Clerc HB9DBB emergency@uska.ch

Sense and purpose of emergency radio

The strengths of amateur radio operators generally lie primarily in these areas:

  • Switzerland-wide network with around 4000 amateur radio stations, independent of telecom infrastructure and partly with autonomous power supply.
  • Local, national and international connections possible.
  • 4000 operators with modern equipment and proven expertise in the field of telecommunications/operating, improvisation skills.
  • Operators with field experience from emergency operations at home and abroad and from work in the army and blue light organizations
  • Switzerland-wide radio relay network with high-altitude sites, some with autonomous power supply, relay linking and Internet connection. 85 radio converters on 145, 435 to 1250 MHz.
  • Compatibility between the amateur radio networks in the various cantons.
  • Functioning model of cooperation between radio amateurs/authorities (e.g. Canton ZG)
  • Ready for use very quickly. Everyone has their own device, is familiar with its operation and the device does not have to be captured in an emergency.

Agreements at regional level

The amateur radio emergency service provides regional services in the event of a disaster and as part of emergency radio exercises. To this end, the regional authorities and organizations conclude corresponding agreements with the USKA, USKA sections or amateur radio clubs. Such agreements already exist with the following organizations, associations and cantons:

Region Association Information
Switzerland USKA IFRC

There has been a Memorandum of Understanding between the IFRC and our umbrella organization, the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), since 2008. The IFRC (The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) is the umbrella organization of the 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations worldwide (not to be confused with the CICR!). There has been no cooperation in Switzerland to date.

Link: Memorandum Of Understanding IFRC IARU 2008

Switzerland USKA SRK – Swiss Red Cross

Natural disasters occur extremely rarely in Switzerland. The last major event was the earthquake in Basel in 1356 with an estimated magnitude of between 6.2 and 6.5. Natural disasters of all kinds are still possible in Switzerland at any time, including a blackout caused by a natural phenomenon. As civil defense and the army are constantly reducing their resources and services, there are increasingly significant gaps in Switzerland in the area of disaster management, especially in the medical service. The Swiss Red Cross SRC is preparing to compensate for this deficit.

Last year, the USKA Executive Board contacted those responsible at the Swiss Red Cross and proposed a collaboration. We already reported on this in the USKA News on March 7, 2018. This initiative met with great interest from the SRC’s managers. On Friday, January 18, 2019, the planned memorandum of understanding between the SRC and USKA was signed at the SRC’s premises in Wabern/Bern.

Bernard Wehrli HB9ALH and Willi Vollenweider HB9AMC from the USKA Board and Enio Castellan representing the emergency radio activities in western Switzerland were present at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding. The Swiss Red Cross was represented by Beat von Däniken (Head of the Department of International Cooperation) and David Grolimund (Head of Emergency and Disaster Relief Switzerland).

News: Swiss Red Cross: Cooperation with USKA

Link: Letter of Intent USKA SRK

Canton Zug HB9ZG

ZG – Canton Zug

Radio amateurs in the service of the public.

23 radio amateurs from the USKA Zug section are united in the Zug emergency radio group. They regularly undergo further training with radio and message transmission exercises in order to be able to transmit emergency messages from the authorities quickly and correctly in an emergency.


Schwyz HB9CF

UR / SZ – Canton Uri – Canton Schwyz

Services of the Schwyz emergency radio organization
The members of the emergency radio organization of the USKA section Uri/Schwyz are able to provide the following services in case of need:

Establish radio connections in the cantons of SZ / UR and Zug and beyond if necessary
Transmitting messages using radiotelephony (FM and SSB)
Transmission of data (e.g. text and still images)
Radio calculations and measurements (area coverage and forecasts for connections and connection quality)
Establishing connections without the need for public power or telecommunications networks.
Use of manned and unmanned relay stations to provide radio coverage in areas that cannot be reached directly.

Why emergency radio?
The purpose of emergency radio
Our services
Amateur radio operators as emergency radio operators

Friburg HB9FG FR – Kanton Fribourg

The RAF-ORCAF group

Association between the RadioAmateurs Fribourgeois (RAF)
and the ORgane CAtastrophe du canton de Fribourg (ORCAF)

Since 2018, an agreement has linked the Organe Cantonal de Conduite (OCC) Fribourgeois and the RAFs to guarantee emergency communications within the ORCAF in the event of a blackout and/or failure of the internet or other communications networks.

The RAF-ORCAF group is made up of 17 RAF members and led by Michel HB9EZV (Technical Manager and Chief) and Dominique HB9CYY (ORCAF Liaison Officer).

The HB9FG go-kit: standardized go-cube with peripherals. 4 portable units of this type and 2 mobile units mounted in a vehicle can be used autonomously (independent of power and internet networks) for voice (FM) and digital (Winlink-VARA radio e-mail) links.

Link: https://www.hb9fg.ch/index.php/activit-topmenu-hb9fg-49/raforcaf-topmenu-hb9fg


BL – Canton Basel Land – Emergency radio Birs

We support the BORS with our expertise, infrastructure and personnel when commercial communication systems fail in a crisis. We started out as a small group of amateur radio enthusiasts. Since then, we have grown into an organization with a number of professionals. We invite you to participate in our development activities.




Aargau HB9NA

IG Notfunk Aargau – HB9NA

The IG Notfunk Aargau – HB9NA was founded by a small group of radio amateurs and sympathizers on August 1, 2014 in Mellingen AG. Its primary goal is to actively participate in the redesign of the building and usage regulations at cantonal and communal level and to help ensure that the antenna construction paragraphs contained therein are drawn up as non-discriminatory as possible for radio amateurs and infrastructure operators or, in the best case, even completely deleted.

Link: https://hb9na.ch

ZH HB9NF Emergency Radio Zurich – HB9NF

The non-profit organization Notfunk Zürich provides an important service for the Swiss civilian population in the event of a disaster. Notfunk Zürich also offers its services to authorities that no longer have the necessary means of communication in an emergency or whose radio channels are fully utilized.

In an emergency, we deploy with all the means of communication at our disposal. Communication is transmitted exclusively by radio. We have a broad frequency spectrum at our disposal for this purpose. Regional transmissions are mainly made via VHF / UHF (ranges around 145 MHz & 435 MHz) and Switzerland-wide / cross-border communication via shortwave (range from 1.6 MHz to 30 MHz). Broadband connections for data transmission are realized in the range between 1.2 GHz and 27 GHz (preferably 5 GHz).

Link: http://www.hb9nf.ch

Where were radio amateurs working as emergency radio operators around the world?

  • May 2014 – Floods in Serbia
  • November 08, 2013 – Typhoon in the Philippines
  • May 2012 – Earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 in northern Italy
  • December 2011 – Storm Dagmar, Scandinavia
  • June 2011 – Landslide in Engelberg, Switzerland
  • March 2011 – Earthquake and tsunami in Japan
  • January 10, 2010 – Earthquake in Haiti
  • January 2008 – Refugee family of six rescued from a mountain emergency on Monte Lema TI (CH)
  • August 23, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina (USA)
  • December 26, 2004 – Seaquake in the Indian Ocean
  • August 14, 2002 – Elbe floods in Germany
  • September 11, 2001 – Attacks on the World Trade Center (NY)
  • February 23, 1999 – Avalanche in Galtür (A)
  • December 07, 1988 – Earthquake in Armenia
  • August 28, 1988 – Plane crash in Ramstein (D)
  • November 01, 1986 Major fire in Schweizerhalle Basel (CH)
  • July 1983 – Flood in Blumenau (D)
  • December 28, 1978 – Snow disaster in northern Germany
  • February 16, 1962 – Storm surge in Hamburg (D)
  • February 01, 1953 – Flood disaster in the Netherlands
  • June 02, 1928 – Nobile North Pole expedition

And now, what next?

Have you ever thought about what would happen in your everyday life if the power suddenly went off? How would you organize yourself if the power grid had to be switched off regularly? Interruptions to the power supply can also occur in Switzerland. In our high-tech society, the failure of all electrically powered machines and devices would have serious consequences – so we should be prepared.

We would like to encourage you to deal with the issues of power cuts and power shortages in good time. This will enable you to take important precautions at home and know what to do in the event of an outage – in the hope, of course, that you will be spared as much as possible.

Leaflet for the population, crisis preparedness Download file
Good advice, emergency supplies Download file

You can obtain detailed information directly via this link or directly on the website of the Federal Office for National Economic Supply BWL
please click here…..

Information / Presentations

Event Event Date Agenda Report / Minutes Author
Presentation to the Federal Commission for Telematics BORS (Authorities Organizations for Rescue and Security) 26.2.2020 News: Schlussbericht SVU-19 Verbindungsübungen und Notfunk-Contest 2020


KomTm BORS Vortrag5

HB9ALH Bernhard Wehrli

HB9XBG Walter Kägi

Meeting with BABS USKA 23.2.2021 Bespr BABS USKA 2021 02 23

HB9ALH Bernhard Wehrli

HB9DBB Jean Michel Clerc

HB9XBG Walter Kägi

Sources: http://www.hb9cf.ch/ and the respective websites of the sections

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