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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ham radio task force sent to Puerto Rico
In a year that's top heavy with natural disasters, amateur radio is once again living up to the slogan: "When all else fails, ham radio." That phrase, created by the ARRL to promote ham radio in emergencies, has been decried in the past by public safety leaders who believe professional radio infrastructures don't fail. At least not very often.
In all fairness, public safety radio usually keep working - except when a massive hurricane topples towers and phone lines, wrecks the electric grid and floods stand-by generators.
I’m obviously referring to Puerto Rico, slammed a week ago by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that overran the Caribbean island and left 3.4 million residents with no basic services or sanitation in tropical, sweltering heat.
Relief agencies like FEMA, the Red Cross and the Navy are trying to deliver shipments of essentials, but moving it around is nearly impossible because of roads clogged with trees and debris. No repeaters are working, and public works personnel are said to be using the ham frequency of 146.52 MHz - two meter simplex - to coordinate debris removal.
One of the pressing problems is that residents can't get word of their conditions to the outside world and the reverse is true as well.  With this in mind, the ARRL has sent 25 two-person teams to Puerto Rico, equipped with digital HF transceivers, power supplies, dipole antennas, connecting cables and military-grade generators. Once HF radio is established, contact will be maintained with the U.S. mainland and other countries to allow messages into and out of Puerto Rico.

The so-called "Force of Fifty" deployment will last about three weeks. Radio equipment and operators will be sent to Red Cross shelters from San Juan to the western end of the island, Their main purpose will be to gather health and welfare information in the cities and rural areas, even if they have to go door-to-door to get it. The data will then be entered enter into the Red Cross's Safe & Well website, a central clearing house of information.
For a detailed look at the deployment, view this news report from Connecticut television station Fox 61.
"This generous outpouring of response represents the finest qualities of the amateur radio community," ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher said. "These individuals are dropping whatever they are doing how, 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."

Many charitible organizations are accepting donations to assist Puerto Rico. These include the Salvation Army, AmeriCares, Catholic Relief Services and American Red Cross.

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