“Force of 50” Amateur Radio Volunteers Deploying Throughout Puerto Rico

10/02/2017

More than 20 of the “Force of 50” Amateur Radio volunteers now are deployed in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico as American Red Cross volunteers and wasting no time getting down to business. ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, said the volunteers, in general, will provide communications for local law enforcement and utility managers; island-to-mainland health-and-welfare traffic, which has been ongoing, and contact with the more remote areas of Puerto Rico, cut off from the capital of San Juan and not heard from since the Hurricane Maria hit on September 20. Thanks to fire officials in Juncos, all Amateur Radio operators and Red Cross volunteers have been guaranteed safe passage, food, shelter, and water at any fire station on the island, if needed.

ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said volunteers initially gathered at the convention center in San Juan, which is serving as Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) headquarters. Their first night, a local church offered accommodations, and volunteers slept on pews that had been pushed together.

According to one FEMA official, the White House situation room is extremely pleased and enthusiastic about the service Amateur Radio volunteers are providing in Puerto Rico.

Since the storm struck Puerto Rico, ARRL Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, and other volunteers have staffed VHF and HF nets at the American Red Cross temporary headquarters, despite damage to their own homes. The net covers nearly two-thirds of the island and has been handling traffic to and from the power company, Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (Electric Power Authority — AEE), and state and local authorities. The electric distribution infrastructure suffered extreme storm damage, and power has remains out over most of the island. Twelve team members will be assigned to provide communication for engineers getting ready to repair the island’s power distribution centers.

The Red Cross Headquarters net…

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