Amateur Radio Helping in Relief Efforts After Hurricane Maria

I know this is off-topic from writing, but I am very proud of my amateur radio brethren, who have answered the call for help in areas ravaged by Hurricane Maria. I am new to this hobby, better called a service, but I am looking forward to someday assisting in disaster relief. The text below is from a recent ARRL newsletter.

If you are having trouble reading this message, you can see the original at:
http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter/?issue=2017-09-28

The ARRL Letter

September 28, 2017
Editor: Rick Lindquist, WW1ME

“Force of 50” Steps Up to Assist Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico

Members of the Amateur Radio community have volunteered to assist in the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and Dominica and, to a lesser extent, the US Virgin Islands. This week, 50 of the most accomplished US radio amateurs responded within 24 hours to a call from the American Red Cross (ARC) to deploy to Puerto Rico and provide emergency communications assistance there. At the ARC’s request, ARRL rallied the US Amateur Radio community to provide up to 25 two-person teams of highly qualified hams. ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, said that more than 350 answered the call, from nearly every state.

“This generous outpouring of response represents the finest qualities of the Amateur Radio community,” he said. “These individuals are dropping whatever they are doing now, heading off to an extended hardship-duty assignment, and offering their special talents to Americans who have been cut off from their families, living amid widespread destruction and without electrical power since Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean region last week.”

The group’s principal mission will be to move health-and-welfare information from the island back to the US mainland, where that data will be entered in the Red Cross Safe and Well system. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has been asked to assist these operators when they check in with tactical, health-and-welfare (H&W), and Safe and Well messages.

SATERN and other active nets are not accepting incoming H&W inquiries. The Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) is taking incoming H&W inquiries via e-mail for Dominica. The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) is taking inquiries (only one per sender) via e-mail for Puerto Rico. Inquiries should include the full name and location of both the sender and the individual(s) being sought and the sender’s e-mail address.

The group will be in Puerto Rico for up to 3 weeks. ARRL has equipped each team with an HF transceiver, software, a dipole antenna, a power supply and all connecting cables, fitted in a rugged waterproof container. In an unprecedented and crucial move, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed to help get the Ham Aid gear to Puerto Rico.

The League also is sending two VHF repeaters, a dozen hand-held transceivers, five mobile radios, what Gallagher described as “5 cubic feet of batteries,” a number of small 2-kW portable generators, and solar-powered battery chargers. The hams and their equipment will be sent to Red Cross shelters extending from San Juan to the western end of the island.

In addition, ARRL has committed to purchasing up to $50,000 worth of new Ham Aid gear for this and for future emergencies.

Ham Aid kits are packed and ready for shipping at ARRL Headquarters.

ARRL’s Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said this was the first time in the nearly 75-year relationship between ARRL and the ARC that such a request for assistance had been made. “Hurricane Maria has devastated the island’s communications infrastructure,” Corey said. “Without electricity and telephone, and with most of the cell sites out of service, millions of Americans are cut off from communicating. Shelters are unable to reach local emergency services. And, people cannot check on the welfare of their loved ones. The situation is dire.”

The Yasme Foundation announced this week that it has made a grant to ARRL’s Ham Aid fund, in support of the Amateur Radio response to the recent hurricanes in the US and Caribbean. The Ham Aid fund was created in 2005 in response to the need for equipment and resources to support the Amateur Radio response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

A September 27 CNN report documented the personal impact of the storm on Puerto Rico and Amateur Radio’s role in the recovery.


Donate to Ham Aid: http://www.arrl.org/ham-aid (external link)

Denis Santiago, WP4KJJ (right), and Raul Gonzalez, KP4RGD, organized the communication network in Puerto Rico and operate the station at American Red Cross’s temporary San Juan headquarters, “with a great number of hams who left their families to help Puerto Rico to recover,” ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, told ARRL.

Ham Aid kits are packed and ready for shipping at ARRL Headquarters.

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer who specializes in history, technology, and human interest stories.
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