(CNN)The phone call from the Red Cross came in late Friday night, just as the full scale of Hurricane Maria’s calamity began taking shape.
“We need 50 of your best radio operators to go down to Puerto Rico.”
In the days after the worst storm in three generations hit the American island — and for many more to come — public electrical, land-line and cellular communication systems showed few signs of life. And radio networks used routinely by police officers, power company workers and other first responder still were down.
Yet, a key mode of communication — one not reliant on infrastructure vulnerable to strong winds and flooding — still crackled: the “ham” radio.
Answering the phone that night in Connecticut was the emergency manager for the American Radio Relay League, the group’s CEO said. For more than a century, this group has served as a hub for amateurs licensed to operate the dependable, if archaic, medium known as ham radio and eager to pitch in when disaster strikes.
When the Red Cross made its latest appeal for heroes, these were the people it had in mind.
When things went dark and quiet in Puerto Rico, a cadre of amateur radio operators became a lifeline on the island.
About two dozen amateur radio operators on the island helped police and first responders communicate when their radio networks failed completely. Some of the radio operators, or hams traveled on trucks to provide communications to the power company, PREPA.
“It’s a less than ideal solution, but it works and that’s the essence of amateur radio – make it work,” said Tom Gallagher, CEO of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.
Now the ranks of operator are about to get reinforcements.
At the request of the Red Cross, the league planned to send 50 radio operators into Puerto Rico with “enormous” radio gear in water proof containers, their own power supplies, new generators and solar arrays. The crew and equipment were to leave Thursday from Atlanta.
Their job, once set up and in place, will be to be the communication pipeline for the Red Cross Safe and Well program, helping people on the mainland trying to connect with loved ones on the island or get news of their status.
“You can relieve a lot of misery by telling people their relatives are okay,” said Gallagher, whose call sign is NY2RF.[…]
Young radio amateurs Zechariah WX4TVJ, Faith Hannah AE4FH, Hope KM4IPF and Grace KM4TXT have released a video about their Go Box
Many people have asked us to make a detailed video about our Go Box, so we decided to make one. We show you what is in the Go Box and how we installed all of the equipment. There is also some funny stuff in the video, too!
These girls do an amazing job with the video–bravo!
I love this setup. While I typically pack very lightly for portable radio work, building a system like this makes for very quick deployment when you require a full 100 watt system with multiple radios and multiple accessories. Radio clubs could easily put systems like this together for events like Field Day or Emergency Comms. It’s grab-and-go at its best!
Of course, a field DXpedition/SWLing station could also be easily built into this portable system. In fact, I bet an SDR with computer, keyboard, and monitor could be mounted and accommodated in this space.
An SWLing Post reader recently sent me the following YouTube video–a recording Hanz (W1JSB) made on the 20 meter ham band several years ago. Here’s his description from YouTube:
Several years ago I was tuning around the 20 meter amateur radio band and heard this lively, engaging, and impressive exchange on the maritime mobile frequency, 14.300 MHz.
Vessel ‘Elusive’ at sea in the North Pacific was being followed by another ship. The occupants felt threatened that it might be a pirate, so they called for help on the HAM radio.
Volunteer radio operators around the country worked together to communicate and relay messages with the Coast Guard in California. They also came up with some brilliant ideas to stay safe and get direct help as soon as possible.
The following is a recording from my location in New Hampshire.
– Hanz W1JSB
Many of us who’ve been long-time SWLs and ham radio operators have heard interesting broadcasts and exchanges on the HF bands. Please feel free to comment with your notable listening moments!
SWLing Post reader, Mehmet Burk, has just published information about the upcoming international disaster test on shortwave radio, coordinated by the High Frequency Coordination Commission (HFCC) for the International Radio for Disaster Relief project.