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In times of disaster, REACT

Ravindranath Goswami, President, REACT Trinidad and Tobago Council, lays out the importance of the volunteer organisation during times of disaster.

It is not uncommon to have the perception that the frequency and extent of emergencies and disasters are on the increase globally.  This is especially so with the many hazards that have turned into disasters within recent memory and the attendant impact on lives and property.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, industrial accidents, and the Covid-19 pandemic are a regular staple in everyday  conversation. Before, during, and certainly, in the aftermath of any major disaster, communications become one of the urgent needs.

REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams) is a voluntary, non-profit organisation with the motto ‘Public Service through Communication’. It has a strategic focus on communications in times of emergencies and disasters.

Additionally, the organisation also assists other agencies with projects, including sporting, cultural and national events, religious and other civic activities, by providing radio communications.



REACT operates based on chartered teams, of which there are nine such teams in Trinidad and Tobago. The parent body, REACT International, Inc. founded in 1962, will celebrate the 60th anniversary in 2022.

REACT operations commenced in Trinidad and Tobago in 1964, a mere two years after the international organisation was founded. REACT members train, practise, and hone the skills necessary to make available resilient and reliable communication for emergency and disaster situations.

It is not uncommon for traditional means of communication to be impacted in a disaster. For instance, landlines, mobile phones, and Internet have been known to either be taken down or congested during such incidents.

The equipment used by REACT, as well as the standard operating procedures, allow for message handling, even when the traditional terrestrial communications technologies such as cell towers, fibre-optic lines and other wireless and wired systems may be down.

REACT members are also embedded in the various communities so that verified and reliable information can be made available on the impacts within those areas, with needs being passed on to the relevant first-responder agencies.

REACT is always on the drive to recruit new members to enhance the capability of having trained communicators embedded in every community.

When disaster strikes, all hands are needed on deck. Collaboration and cooperation are necessary to get timely assistance to preserve lives.

In Trinidad and Tobago, REACT works closely with several agencies, including the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, and the Disaster Management Units (DMUs) of the 14 Municipal Corporations.

In addition, the organisation has Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with several international organisations such as FEMA (the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency), Red Cross, and locally, the Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio Society.


Operations and Training

Recently, REACT collaborated with the Anglican Archdiocese in assisting radio operators in St Vincent and the Grenadines, who were impacted by the eruptive events of the La Soufrière volcano.

During emergencies and disasters, information on injuries, location of impact, damages to infrastructure such as roadways, buildings, and watercourses are critical to the disaster management agencies and first responders. This is where REACT volunteers come in.

REACT is deployed to the Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs), command posts, shelters, and to accompany the crews that conduct relief efforts.  Activities such as initial damage assessment, damage assessment, and needs analysis are also facilitated, to aid rapid decision making and action to assist affected persons.

Training is one of the key aspects of the organisation, and several courses are available through the parent body, including certification. Through a partnership with FEMA, REACT members are trained in the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Amateur radio training is also a component of REACT operations. On-demand training via instructor-led sessions is made available online to the public. A complete on-demand course on the first level Amateur Radio Technician Class is available at

There is a saying that goes, ‘When all else fails…amateur radio’. This speaks to the ability of amateur radio to facilitate local, regional, and international communications when the regular means of communications become unavailable.

REACT also participates in projects and drills to ensure that the members are always ready to respond to any situation.  The current pandemic has put a damper on some of the activities. However, the virtual platform is being utilised to pursue activities that can still be undertaken.

REACT operates a channel on Zello called REACT MEMBERS, and all communicators are welcome to join the channel. The Zello PTT Walkie-Talkie app is a free push-to-talk communication tool that uses Voice over IP (VoIP), similar to Skype and WhatsApp, but with a radio-type of user interface and feel.  It is a way to interact with REACT and observe a bit of the organisation operations. The channel can be added after downloading, installing, and creating an account.


For further information about REACT, please email or call 74-REACT.

Be safe and remember, communications underpin every sphere of human endeavour.