(Source: NBC News)
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.[…]
Continue reading the full article at NBC News…
(Source: The Miami Herald)
Normally, Rubén Sánchez would not interrupt a live interview with as prominent a newsmaker as Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
But Wednesday was anything but normal.
Less than an hour after Hurricane Maria plowed into Puerto Rico, Rosselló was updating Spanish-language radio listeners by phone on the Category 4 storm’s destructive path when host Sánchez suddenly interrupted.
The studios of Univision’s WKAQ-AM (580) had become “vulnerable,” Sánchez said, his voice tinged with tension. He and his broadcast colleagues would have to abandon the premises — and fast.
“Stay safe,” Rosselló said, urging them to seek shelter in an internal hallway.
Finding refuge — and a safe place to keep broadcasting — turned out to be complicated. The station and a handful of others became vital listening posts for Puerto Ricans starved of information Wednesday as their electricity went dark and their cellphones silent. Several news outlets continuously reported online, but relatively few people on the island could click.
[…]“A few of the offices exploded,” he said, describing how Maria shattered street-facing office windows and forced itself into the building, in the Guaynabo neighborhood west of San Juan. “It even changed the smell of the environment, and the temperature in WKAQ.”
The on-air staffers scrambled, making their way into the studios of a sister station, WKAQ-FM (104.7), known as KQ-105. But even that proved insufficient. Moments later, News Director Jaime Cosme grabbed the microphone to say they were devising a makeshift studio deeper in the building — a structure that, until Wednesday morning, the station had considered a “bunker.”
Sánchez likened the scene to a grenade blast. “It was a bunker,” Sánchez said. “We could see the sky because the roof blew off.”[…]
Click here to read the full article at The Miami Herald…
A follow-up from our post yesterday. Most impressive response from the amateur radio community–incredible…
(Source: ARRL News via Eric, WD8RIF)
Fifty of the nation’s most accomplished Amateur Radio operators responded within 24 hours to the call of the American Red Cross to deploy to Puerto Rico and provide emergency communications. At the behest of Red Cross, ARRL rallied the US Amateur Radio community to provide up to 25 two-person teams of highly qualified hams. 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 & Well” website.
The group will deploy the middle of this week and remain on the island for up to 3 weeks.
ARRL will equip each two-person team with a modern digital HF transceiver, special software, a dipole antenna, a power supply and all the connecting cables, fitted in a rugged waterproof container. In addition, ARRL is sending a number of small, 2,000-W portable generators as well as solar-powered battery chargers of the variety the US military uses on extended deployments. The hams and their equipment will be sent to Red Cross shelters extending from San Juan to the western end of the island.[…]
Click here to read the full article on the ARRL website.
Source: Screen shot from CNN
This morning, I received a message from a friend. Knowing that I’m an amateur radio operator, she asked if I could contact someone in Puerto Rico and verify that her friends’ family are safe–no one has heard from them since Hurricane Maria hit the island.
The situation in Puerto Rico (and many other islands in the path of Maria) is bleak. CNN describes the devastation as “apocalyptic.”
At the moment, amateur radio is one of the only ways communications are being established on the island. The ARRL has taken the unprecedented move to ask operators to volunteer for the relief effort on behalf of the American Red Cross. Here is the ARRL press release:
(Source: ARRL News)
American Red Cross Asks ARRL’s Assistance with Puerto Rico Relief Effort
The American Red Cross (ARC) has asked the ARRL for assistance with relief efforts in Puerto Rico. ARC needs up to 50 radio amateurs who can help record, enter, and submit disaster-survivor information into the ARC Safe and Well system. In the nearly 75-year relationship between ARRL and ARC, this is the first time such a request for assistance on this scale has been made. ARRL now is looking for radio amateurs who can step up and volunteer to help our friends in Puerto Rico.
- There are very specific requirements and qualifications needed for this deployment.
- Due to the nature of this deployment you will need to process in as ARC volunteers. This includes passing a background check. The ARC has indicated that it will cover all expenses for transportation, lodging, and feeding while on deployment. ARC will also provide liability coverage for volunteers. The only out-of-pocket expense to the volunteer would be personal items purchased during deployment.
- ARRL and ARC will require training for volunteers being deployed. ARC will provide general deployment training and advanced training in working in austere environments. ARRL will provide to ARC training on Amateur Radio equipment and modes to be used, reporting guidelines, and operating guidelines.
- Deployment will be for up to 3 weeks.
- General class Amateur Radio license or higher
- Familiarity with WinLink, HF voice, and VHF simplex communications
- Strong technical skills
- Ability to work under difficult conditions
- Ability to deploy for up to 3 weeks
- Ability to work as part of a team
- Spanish language skills
- Previous experience in disaster response
- Previous or current work as a Red Cross volunteer
- Previous experience with shelter operations
If you feel that you meet these qualifications and would like to be considered for this deployment, please contact ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U (860-594-0222), who will make the introduction of qualified volunteers to ARC.
Here’s hoping all of our friends and families are safe and that some order is restored to Puerto Rico and surrounding islands very soon.