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.
“This generous outpouring of response represents the finest qualities of the Amateur Radio community,” ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, 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.”
ARRL’s Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said this was the first time in the nearly 75-year relationship between ARRL and the American Red Cross that such as 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.”
In a letter to all ARRL members, ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, asked for contributions to ARRL’s Ham Aid fund. “Equipment has been flying out the door since Hurricane Harvey struck the US mainland,” he emphasized. “From meeting requirements in aid of Hurricane Irma victims in the US Virgin Island and Florida, our store of Ham Aid kits has been depleted.”
ARRL’s Ham Aid program loans Amateur Radio equipment kits to established Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) groups and partner agencies during disaster responses, in order to establish Amateur Radio communication support. Ham Aid is supported by donations from individuals and corporations, including many of our ham radio industry partners.
ARRL has previously staged Ham Aid equipment in Texas, and in the last few weeks, ARRL has supplied kits to Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. With our Ham Aid inventory depleted, your donation is needed now. Contributions to Ham Aid are 100% tax deductible.
To make a donation online, go to the ARRL donation form and select “Ham Aid.” To donate by mail, print a donation form, and mail it with your check payable to ARRL, noting “Ham Aid” on the memo line of your check. Mail to ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111 USA.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
The FCC said 95 percent of Puerto Rico’s wireless cell sites are out of service in a Sept. 21 statement
“Hurricane Maria has had a catastrophic impact on Puerto Rico’s communications networks,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The FCC is proactively reaching out to communications providers in Puerto Rico to gather additional information about the situation on the ground and find out if there is anything that the commission can do to assist with restoration efforts. We are also working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and providing all requested support.
“Unfortunately, getting Puerto Rico’s communications networks up and running will be a challenging process, particularly given the power outages throughout the island. But the FCC stands ready to do whatever we can to help with this task. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Puerto Rico.” The FCC said it will be available 24 hours a day to address emergency communications needs as Maria approaches and threatens U.S. coastal areas and U.S. territories.
Hurricane Irma, making its way through the Caribbean with the possibility of affecting South Florida by week’s end, has, in the words of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), become “an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane.” The NHC urged that hurricane preparations be rushed to completion in areas now under hurricane warnings.
As of 1800 UTC, Hurricane Irma was some 180 miles east of Antigua and 185 miles east-southeast of Barbuda, with maximum sustained winds of 185 MPH. The storm is moving west at 14 MPH.
The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the VoIP Hurricane Net will activate later today. “Yogi Berra once said, ‘It’s déjà vu all over again!’” quipped HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. “Just as Harvey rapidly intensified overnight, Irma did the same.”
The HWN will activate at 1800 UTC (2 PM EDT) on its primary frequency of 14.325 MHz and will remain in continuous operation until further notice, Graves said. Daytime operation will begin at 1100 UTC each day continuing for as long as propagation allows. Operation on 7.268 MHz will start at 2200 UTC and continue overnight. “If propagation dictates, we will operate both frequencies at the same time,” Graves said. The HWN marks its 52nd anniversary this week.
He noted that HWN operation on 7.268 MHz will pause at 1130 UTC, and, if required, resume at approximately 1230 UTC, to allow the Waterway Net to conducts its daily net.
The VoIP Hurricane Net has announced plans to activate no later than 2200 UTC on Tuesday; WX4NHC at the NHC will activate at 2200 UTC on Tuesday. Both the HWN and the VoIP Hurricane Network relay hurricane “ground-truth” information to the NHC to assist forecasters. Any Amateur Radio operators in the affected area of Irma or with relays into the affected area of Irma are asked to provide surface and damage reports into the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center.
Any SKYWARN Nets active as Irma moves into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that can pass reports to the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC are asked to designate a net liaison or connect directly to the *WX_TALK* EchoLink conference node: 7203/IRLP 9219. Stations on All-Star can connect to the Echolink side of the system by dialing *033007203.
IARU Region 2 Emergency Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, has compiled a list of emergency frequencies, subject to change, for use in the Caribbean in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.
The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has not yet announced plans to activate, but SATERN is encouraging its operators to start monitoring the HWN. On Wednesday, September 6, the International SATERN SSB Net will move to a Delta II (extended monitoring) status from 1400 until 2300 UTC. SATERN National Liaison Bill Feist, WB8BZH, said that schedule could hold through the end of the week. Stations on the net will seek information on emergency, priority, or health-and-welfare traffic; situation and hurricane damage, and communication disruptions. SATERN will not accept health-and-welfare inquiries.The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that several FEMA Regions will activate the 5 MHz/60-meter band interoperability frequencies in support of a possible response to Hurricane Irma on September 5.
These suppressed-carrier reference frequencies, also known as dial frequencies or window frequencies, 5330.5 kHz, 5346.5 kHz, 5357.0 kHz, 5371.5 kHz, and 5403.5 kHz, may be used as part of the event.
Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers have been pitching in to support communication at some Red Cross shelters in south Texas in the ongoing aftermath of catastrophic and unprecedented flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey, now a Tropical Depression. ARES members also have been serving as net control liaisons to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management (OEM). At mid-week, some 3 dozen volunteers were assisting at shelters. Another dozen were on tap to serve as OEM liaisons. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said the Red Cross is in need of Red Cross-trained shelter managers and volunteer management specialists.
A variety of emergency, health-and-welfare, traffic, and tactical nets in south Texas have been active on HF at various times of the day as well as on a wide array of VHF and UHF repeaters, which remain available as needed. The Salvation Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has been convening on 14.265 MHz, while the Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS) has been using the 5.330.5 (USB) MHz interoperability channel on 60 meters.
On August 31, the National Hurricane Center reported that flooding rains were continuing across far eastern Texas and western Louisiana, with heavy rainfall expected to spread northeastward through the lower Mississippi Valley and into the Tennessee Valley over the next day or two. ARES volunteers are on standby in Louisiana.
Harvey from the vantage point of the International Space Station (ISS). NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston has closed to all but mission-essential personnel through Labor Day, due to the effects of Harvey. Most US astronauts live in the Houston area. JSC said closing would allow the center to focus on its priorities, including the return to Earth this weekend of ISS crew members Peggy Whitson, ex-KC5ZTD; Jack Fischer, K2FSH, and Fyodor Yurchikin, RN3FI. [Jack Fischer, N2FSH, photo]
"During the storm response, all Amateur Radio operators -- and perhaps especially those involved in contest activity -- are advised to listen first and respect any frequencies in use for emergency response communication," Corey said. He cited the SATERN Net on 14.265 MHz and the South Texas Traffic Emergency and Health and Welfare nets on 7.285, 7.290, 3.873, and 3.935 MHz. Digital emergency and health and welfare frequencies are 3.5925 and 7.095 MHz.
Earlier this week, ARES team members were advised that the impact to the region's communications infrastructure had been relatively minimal, considering the strength of the storm and the magnitude of the flooding. The storm did ravage cellular service in some Texas counties, however, especially Aransas (84%) and Refugio (73%) counties, the FCC reported. Overall, however, the FCC deemed the cellular system 95% functional.
ARRL South Texas Public Information Officer Mike Urich, KA5CVH, told ARRL on August 30 that "hardening" of the telecommunications infrastructure to make it more immune to storm damage has diminished the need for Amateur Radio communication support and altered hams' traditional role there. Urich pointed out, however, that the Amateur Radio telecommunications infrastructure in South Texas has remained analog, as "the lowest common denominator" of technology -- VHF/UHF FM, and HF -- and has the highest degree of interoperability. "That's what we train to, that's what we teach, that's what we practice," he said.
Urich spent more than 40 hours alternating shifts at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Urich said the area's extensive system of repeaters makes it possible for local radio amateurs to serve as "another set of eyes and ears" in spotting and reporting problems that may require official attention.
The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) suspended operations for Hurricane Harvey on August 26 after 51.5 continuous hours of activation. The VoIP Hurricane Net, and WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the NHC in Miami, also activated as Harvey approached landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. The VoIP Hurricane Net has been informally monitoring EchoLink 7203, IRLP 9219, and AllStar *33007203 for requests from the affected area at the request of Humanity Road, said Lloyd Colston, KC5FM.
He said a station checked in via EchoLink to request the rescue of a grandmother and children. "That request was relayed to the United States Coast Guard Houston," Colston told ARRL. He said hams in the affected region needing to relay rescue needs should first call 911, then their local emergency operations center, and, if those aren't available, then the US Coast Guard -- in that order. He also said individuals in the flood zone are reporting cellular telephone degradation.
ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, told ARRL on Monday that the disaster would remain in the response phase for several days, although needs may change later in the response phase or when it transitions to the recovery phase. ARRL South Texas SEC Jeff Walter, KE5FGA, said ARES members could participate in any nets related to the storm response from home.
"Harris County and the City of Houston have issued a shelter-in-place order," Walter pointed out over the past weekend. "The local region is paralyzed. Resources are stretched to accommodate all calls for assistance. Take care of your family first, then if you are able to help in the recovery phase, contact your local Emergency Coordinator or District Emergency Coordinator for instruction on what to do. Do not show up without approval from your local EC."
As of August 31, some 195,000 customers were without power in Texas. American Red Cross shelters were reporting more than 34,000 occupants in Texas; more than 980,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. The Texas Emergency Operations Center is at full activation, and Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 50 Texas counties, while evacuation orders and advisories are in effect for eight counties and several independent communities in Louisiana, where the state EOC is fully activated. A state of emergency also exists for all Louisiana parishes in preparation for widespread flooding.
As Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast in the USA, various nets are activating as part of the emergency response. In addition to tropical and hurricane-force winds along the Texas coast and further inland, the main concern with this storm is heavy rain and flooding in an area which has not has a hurricane make landfall for 9 years.
Many of the frequencies used will be outside Region 1 allocations in 80m and 40m but there are some in 20m which may suffer from European QRM if operators are not careful.
The US National Hurricane Centre station WX4NHC will activate at 1900UTC 25th August on 14.325 MHz
The Hurricane Watch Net is operating from 1500 UTC on their daytime frequency of 14.325.00 MHz. When the 20 meter band closes they are likely to move over to 7.268.00 MHz or from 0000 UTC.
VOIP Hurricane Net likely to activate at 2 PM EDT/1800 UTC on Friday 25th August
The Southern Territory SATERN Net will activate for one day (so far) on Saturday, 26 August 2017 during local daylight hours on its regular frequency of 7.262 MHz.
Radio Amateurs are encouraged to listen carefully before transmitting to avoid QRM to Emergency activities.
Published: Friday, 25 August 2017 10:43
Written by Greg Mossop
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