Taipei, July 30 (CNA) Amid the threat of conflict from an increasingly assertive China or even the growing risk of a major natural disaster due to the climate crisis, civil defense in Taiwan is taking on greater importance than ever before.
Taiwan has a professional military supported by young conscripts who perform mandatory military service and national reservists to defend its territory against a possible attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
If war were to break out, however, Taiwanese civilians would also likely have to contribute to the war effort, and several groups have formed to prepare people for a possible conflict either as potential combatants or emergency first responders.
That preparation can take many forms, whether learning to shoot a weapon, communicate by radio, or develop first aid skills.
Taiwanese shooting clubs are among the entities that have gained new relevance as more focus is put on civil defense, with applications for membership on the rise since the outbreak of the war between Ukraine and Russia.
Speaking with CNA, “32D Shooter’s Club” co-founder Liao Chien-hung (廖健宏) said approximately half of the new members of his club over the last two years signed up to train themselves in marksmanship due to concerns over cross-strait relations and the Ukraine-Russia war.
Liao said that while the mood in his club is generally pleasant and relaxed, a number of the new members are looking to boost their chances of survival and combat readiness through paid-for training.
Many participants, Liao said, pay for lessons to equip themselves with the right shooting skills and tactical know-how under the tutelage of professionals to familiarize themselves with firearms.
Though the weapons used at the club are exclusively airsoft guns, which have softer audio booms and weaker recoils than live rounds, members can still get accustomed to proper shooting positions and aiming techniques, Liao said.
Those skills would help them if they had to take up arms in an emergency, he said.
Huang Chia-feng (黃嘉楓), a member of the club, said he often brings his son along to the club to practice target shooting because while he did not wish for war to happen, he also could not turn a blind eye to the possibility.
“At least we can get a semblance of preparation by training to shoot,” Huang said.
Keeping lines open
Aside from combat readiness, open communications are equally valued by experts who have wondered how resilient Taiwan’s communications would be in wartime, especially after two submarine internet cables relied upon by residents of the Taiwan-held Matsu Islands were severed earlier this year.
Ham radio enthusiasts who understand the importance of communications in a war zone, such as Chinese Taipei Amateur Radio League Chairman Randson Huang (黃文杰), told CNA that his league has continuously invested in studying wireless communications applications.
Huang said he and his fellow radio aficionados want to promote and expand the use of wireless communication because modern day 4G and even 5G technologies would be rendered useless if cell towers were brought down during an attack.
Even when not at war, 4G and 5G cell towers are vulnerable to events such as natural disasters, league secretary-general David Kao (高大為) said.
In times of emergency, Kao said radio would be the quickest way to get updates out, as was the case with wireless stations set up during Taiwan’s massive September 21, 1999 earthquake and the Typhoon Morakot disaster in 2009.
Huang revealed, however, that there remain barriers to making this a widespread pastime, including that operating wireless communications technology in Taiwan needs national certification.
Another form of civil defense preparation in Taiwan is first-responder readiness among civilians, who are trained and acquainted with the standard protocols.
The Forward Alliance is at the forefront of promoting and leading the movement. Its Forward Volunteers program provides individuals with enough knowledge to support professional first responders and provide on-site aid before medical experts are available.
Lecturers of the program who provide essential first responder training are recruited from among firefighters, EMTs (emergency medical technician) and surgeons.
A member of the program, surnamed Wu (吳) who participated in an automobile accident simulation, said the course instilled in him the importance of households to have an emergency go-bag to prepare for all crisis situations and not just war.
Wu said he believed that if Taiwan was able to consolidate emergency response capabilities among civilians, such groups will be of great benefit to Taiwan’s civil defense.