Tuesday, April 5, 2011

HAM - Nanaimo father uses Facebook, ham radio to find son in Japan

By Chris Koehn and Danielle Bell, Nanaimo Daily News March 13, 2011

NANAIMO — Trevor Jones employed new and old technologies to locate and contact his son Jonathon on Sunday. He was listed as missing after an earthquake rocked Japan last week.

Jonathon had been teaching English in Japan for the past four years and was living in Sendai City when the disaster occurred. His family in Nanaimo was distraught when they were unable to learn of his fate. Forty-eight hours after the earthquake, Trevor was able to wish his son a happy belated birthday after making use of Facebook and ham radio to locate him.

"Facebook helped find him. If this were 25-30 years ago, it would have taken weeks or a month to find him," Trevor said. "We're flying pretty high."

Jonathon and his girlfriend, Aya-Chan Izaka, are fine, Trevor said, and have survival kits and enough liquid and food for the time being. They are without power and if they do run low on water, Jones suggested to his son to drink from the hot-water tank.

The Government of Canada has been in touch with Jonathon and has offered to evacuate him, he said, but he has decided to stay with Izaka and her family to help out.

If you're a Canadian abroad, Trevor's advice is to register with the Canadian government and make use of every media source at your disposal to stay in contact with family and friends during emergencies.
"I don't know how to describe it. The proliferation of Internet, phones, websites and stuff like that can turn around and in 48 hours I can get a response from somebody. I was at the beginning quite critical about some things, then I started to realize that the system is in place, and I figured out how to use it to get information."

Trevor called embassies, checked social media sites and made use of a ham radio operated by Jonathon's grandfather. The reliability of ham radio during emergencies makes them an excellent tool, he explained. Within an hour they were able to get someone in Sendai City to talk with them over the radio while others were unable to get through on overloaded phone lines.

Trevor said he hopes that rescuers and governments haven't forsaken the radios for newer technologies.

"I think they've forgotten about ham radios. If you went back to the time when I was 32 years old that was the only system that wouldn't break down."

The Jones family has made arrangements to be in touch again today.

Another Nanaimo family is relieved their son and his wife escaped unharmed. Louise Brittain was able to get i touch with her son, Douglas, shortly after the earthquake and waves rocked the region.

Doug and his wife, Ayako Takano, live in Toyoko and were not injured although several tremors shook the ground as Brittain spoke to her son. She feared the worst when she woke up to news of the tragedy.
"I was very concerned," said Brittain on Saturday. "I'm a very fortunate person."

Douglas, 37, a private school teacher, has lived through smaller quakes in his dozen years in Japan, where he met and married his wife. He had just returned back to the country after attending a funeral in Coombs in early February.

Douglas had stayed at his school with students for hours after the quake as people tried to get home. A 10-minute journey by car had turned into three hours.

On Friday, long lineups met the pair as they went to buy food but Douglas plans on staying in Tokyo, according to Brittain. Their new house escaped major damage.

Brittain has visited Japan, including Sendai, several times, most recently for his wedding five years ago.
"I said, keep being thankful you're alive and well," Brittain told her son when they last spoke.

As many as 300,000 people countrywide have been evacuated so far, including 90,000 from areas near a nuclear plant, as massive relief efforts continue in Japan.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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