RAYNET began in response to the severe flooding in the East of England in 1953. The North Sea flood was one of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded in the Britain. 307 people were killed in the United Kingdom, in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. Over 1,600 km of coastline was damaged, and sea walls were breached, inundating 1,000 km². Flooding forced 30,000 people to be evacuated from their homes, and 24,000 properties were seriously damaged. The floods also damaged communication cables hampering rescue rescue efforts and mopping up operations so the police called upon the help of amateur radio enthusiasts. It was illegal at the time but the Home Office permitted the use of amateur radio to direct and co-ordinate the rescue teams.
The following year a fledgling organisation known as RA-EN was formed and the Home Office recognised the value that such an organisation could play in the passing of messages to facilitate rescue operations at a time when the professional emergency services did not have instant access to radio communications.
RA-EN began on a small scale with a handful of operators and has grown into the Nationwide organisation we now know as RAYNET. I believe RA-EN became known as RAYNET as a result of a secretaries typographical error. When the printed letterheads arrived it was decided to stick with the new name.
The existence of Cold War paranoia on behalf of governmental organisation played its part in RAYNET's continued support as it was recognised that in war time normal lines of communications could be targeted and while it is easy to cut telephone lines and destroy radio masts it is near impossible to stop thousands of individuals with their own radio equipment and expertise.
RAYNET is now regarded as a professional support organisation by both the statutory and volunteer emergency service organisations.
It states in the amateur radio licence that "The Licensee shall use the Station for the purpose of self-training in communication by radio telecommunications, which use (without limiting the generality of the foregoing) includes technical investigations".
RAYNET is split into regionally organised and independent groups which provide training to members who volunteer their free time, equipment and vehicles to attend public events . We work in conjunction with other Emergency services and volunteer organisations such as St. Johns Ambulance Service, WRVS, Air, Army and Navy Cadets, RNLI and a host of others to ensure the safety and smooth running of events. These events help members to hone their operating skills and can be used to give members of the public an insight into the wonderful hobby of amateur radio. Members are on 24 hour standby in the event of a real emergency.
One of the strengths of RAYNET is the range of frequencies and modes available to radio amateurs. Commercial organisations may provided similar coverage for events but their equipment is likely to be low power short range VHF or UHF that provide poor coverage in rough or built up terrain and they will charge you for it. The very nature of the hobby means the so called amateur is often more technically capable, has access to a wider range of frequencies (HF, VHF, UHF and Microwave), has more efficient antenna systems and is more used to operating weak signals under extreme conditions than his professional counterpart. RAYNET do not charge for their services and do not receive financial backing from any governmental or other outside source, but do have expenses such as 3rd party liability, equipment and personal accidence insurances, and necessary equipment such as dayglo jackets, signs etcetera so any voluntary donations are always welcome.
The Towyn Floods in 1990 saw East Clwyd, all four Gwynedd Groups and Wirral Group assisting West Clwyd RAYNET for five days and nights handling many hundreds (probably thousands) of emergency radio traffic for police, social services, doctors, relief centres, homeless, clothing requests, food, clothes washing and drying, baby needs, abandoned pets among many others. The list was almost endless.
The scale of the Lockerbie air disaster meant that emergency and service personnel were drafted from all over the country. Different services and even the same services from different counties had radios that were on different frequencies making communication and co-ordination near impossible. The world's press added to the problem as they descended on the area and proceeded to tie up all the available telephone lines, both on the mobile and land line networks. In an effort to get the breaking news to their editors, once they had got through journalists stayed on the line 24/7. The solution was to draft in RAYNET and there was a minimum of 80 operators on duty at any one time for the first ten days and at the peaks there were up to 130.
RAYNET have also provided personnel for International incidents such as the Mexican earthquake.
Useful Raynet Links
Please note this a not an official RAYNET page this is my personal page and any opinions expressed here are that of the author alone and do not in any way reflect upon the views of RAYNET, Flintshire RAYNET or or their management committees.
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