First recorded instance of amateur radio being used in an emergency is 1936 in the United States for the Eastern States Floods, followed in 1937 by the Ohio River Valley Flood. Though our American colleagues claim to have been established since 1917.

Radio amateurs played an important role in the UK at the outbreak of hostilities in 1939. MI5 introduced a contingency plan to deal with the problems of illicit signals. The Radio Security Service (RSS) was set up and recruited all radio amateurs who, for one reason or another, were not called up. They were requested to monitor Morse code (CW) radio transmissions and submit logs. Within three months of starting work, RSS had recruited fifty Voluntary Interceptors. By August 1941 23,00 complete logs were being received a month, comprising up to 10,000 sheets a day. Their HQ was in ‘C’ Block of Wormwood Scrubs.

On January 31st 1953, high spring tides, held upstream by high winds, were reinforced when the next flood tide came in, driven down the North Sea by north easterly gales. Sea coastal defences were swept away, and overhead telephone cables were brought down by wind or fallen trees. The police sought help from the few radio amateurs and the Home Office permitted the use of amateur radio to direct and co-ordinate the land and waterborne rescue teams and ascertain the scale of the relief measures required.


The following year, RA-EN was formed. The Home Office reluctantly conceded the “desirability” of an organisation which, in times of emergency, could affect the passing of messages facilitating the rescue operations of the professional services. It was the introduction of the permission to transmit messages on behalf of a user service which had been illegal prior to this time.

RAYNET, The Radio Amateurs’ Emergency Network is the UK’s national voluntary communications service provided for the community by licensed radio amateurs.

While sea defences have improved enormously since 1953, and Canvey Island is now one of the best protected areas of land in the country, our coastal areas are still subject to risk of flooding.

The first storm of 5 December 2013 brought very strong winds to Scotland and northern England, and a major storm surge affecting North Sea coasts. The combination of low pressure, spring tides and strong northerly winds caused this tidal curve at Lowestoft. In the northern part of England the surge levels were above those of 1953. The winds eased slightly from predicted allowing the astronomical tide and the surge to be out of sync so  the level fell below 1953 levels by the time it reached our coasts.

The storm saw Scotland’s rail network shut down, 100,000 homes without power, flight cancellations at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, fallen trees, traffic accidents and two fatalities. During the morning of the 5th, concerns increased regarding coastal flooding mainly affecting eastern England due to a storm surge. Several hundred homes were flooded on parts of the east coast of England (for example at Boston, Lincolnshire) and many thousands of residents were evacuated from vulnerable areas. At Hemsby (Norfolk) cliff erosion resulted in several properties collapsing into the sea, while in North Wales, Rhyl (Denbighshire) was badly affected by coastal flooding. However, hundreds of thousands of properties were protected by flood defences and the Thames Barrier was closed to protect London.

In 2017 the Independent, RSGB and Network affiliated groups joined together to create one unified group called RAYNET UK.
( http://raynet-uk.net/ )