Field Day is ham radio’s open house. Every June, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio’s science, skill and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933, and remains the most popular event in ham radio.
The ARRL released their after-action report on the 2017 hurricane season. Click here to download the pdf. (11MB file) This is actually a bunch of separate reports glommed together, so it doesn’t read very smoothly. Much of it does not get into very good detail on what went wrong and what could be improved, but it looks like they spent more time on that at the ARRL level rather than the responder level.
From the Puerto Rico response, what amateur radio equipment did you need but not have?
Items mentioned included electrical tape/duct tape, volt-ohm meter, cable ties, SO-239 connectors, insulators, soldering iron, 50′ runs of coax and barrel connectors, mini mag-mount VHF/UHF antenna, VHF/UHF J-pole antenna, compass, headset with boom mic and footswitch, extension cords, power strips, hook-up wire, wire strippers, end-fed antenna, cheat sheets for radios.
Generally, additional equipment was acquired through the Red Cross, FEMA, fire stations, local radio amateurs, or home improvement stores. Items acquired were left with the Red Cross in San Juan. Items included: Extension cords, antenna wire, car battery, hex nuts (used as weights for antennas), rope, notepads, pens, markers, electrical tape, crimpers, wire connectors, pulleys, shackle, slingshot, power strip, coax seal, HP OfficeJet printer, printer paper, headphones, batteries, terminals, PVC pipe, hose clamps, tape measure, power inverter.The key observations offered on lessons learned included (Puerto Rico):
- Clearer chain of command
- ARRL representation at the staging point
- Deployable VHF repeaters
- Better screening of volunteers
- Screen out those who have no experience in Amateur Radio disaster communications
- Screen out those who have no experience in the needed forms of communications
- Factor in personality to the screening process; some personalities are not suitable for such deployments
- ARRL needs to provide education to Red Cross on the capabilities of Amateur Radio
- ARRL representative on site during deployment (at JFO/EOC)
- Form a national response cadre that is pre-screened for deployments such as this
- Smaller and lighter Ham Aid kits
- Encourage radio amateurs to volunteer with Red Cross Disaster Services Technology
- Language was a barrier; being bilingual is important
- Clearly defined list of capabilities of all deployed volunteers
- Substantive pre-deployment briefing
- Substantive debriefing
- Better net structureWhat do we need to change? (Irma and Maria)
- Radios worked well. Possibly replace Icom IC-7200s with IC-7300s for consistency and ease of use.
- Make sure every radio is digital-capable, with all needed cables and accessories.
- Vetting process.
- Improve training, especially with digital communications.
- Multiple band antennas or several antennas for individual bands.
From ARRL.org, Radio Amateur on St. Lucia Relays Reports of Hurricane Devastation on Dominica, a reminder of the usefulness of alternative communications methods during a disaster:
As “potentially catastrophic Hurricane Maria” is headed for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Frans van Santbrink, J69DS, on St. Lucia checked into the VoIP Hurricane Net to relay damage reports he gathered via repeater conversations with hams on Dominica, which was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Maria.
He recounted a damage report from Kerry Fevrier, J69YH, in Roseau, Dominica. “Trees down, river has flooded half the village, cars are all over, most houses have lost their roofs or are destroyed, the area between his house and the church is just flattened…in his words, ‘devastation is total,’” van Santbrink told the net.
He also heard from J73CI, who has lost his roof; J73WA on the northern end of the island, who lost his tower and was uncertain how he was going to weather the back end of the storm, and J73MH, who also lost his roof and was “just hunkering down and hoping for the best.”
The FMRE National Emergency Net has activated on 7.060 MHz following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in the central Mexico state of Puebla at 1814 UTC on Tuesday. The net also uses 3.690 MHz and 14.120 MHz as well as IRLP reflector 9200, channel 08.
The epicenter was some 75 miles southeast of Mexico City, which felt the temblor. Preliminary reports indicate a lot of collapsed buildings and missing people.
The FMRE net has been handling traffic to make up for the loss of some cellular networks, FMRE President Al Tomez, XE2O, told ARRL. The earthquake came 32 years to the day after a 1985 magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the Mexico City, killing some 9,500 people in and around the capital city.
Just one week ago, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off Mexico’s southern coast, killing more than 60 people and causing considerable damage.
The National Emergency Net of the FMRE — Mexico’s national Amateur Radio association, has activated on 7.060 MHz (the Net also may operate on 3.690 MHz) to handle any emergency traffic after a late evening earthquake occurred off Mexico’s coast. Radio amateurs not involved in the earthquake disaster should avoid those frequencies.
The potent magnitude 8.2 earthquake off Mexico’s Pacific Coast — the strongest in 100 years — has resulted in multiple fatalities so far, including 23 in Oaxaca, seven in Chiapas, and 2 in Tabasco. Rescue and recovery efforts are under way to free victims trapped in the rubble.
The tremor was felt around Central America. At 0500 UTC, Jose Arturo Molina, YS1MS, reported feeling a strong temblor within a few minutes of the earthquake in Chiapas, which is near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. In Honduras, Antonio Handal, HR2DX, located on the North Coast, also reported feeling the quake.
The Central American Network operates at 7.090 kHz, and Guatemala at 7.075 MHz. No reports have been heard yet from Guatemalan radio amateurs. In Southeastern Mexico, FMRE has a link to the WL2K Network with capacity to cover Mexico and Central America. — Thanks to IARU Region 2 Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, for some information
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…
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…
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.
- Puerto Rico: 3.803, 3.808, 7.188 MHz. Radio amateurs in Puerto Rico also will cooperate with the HWN on 7.268 and 14.325 MHz.
- Cuba: Daylight hours, 7.110 MHz (primary) and 7.120 MHz (secondary); Provincial Net — 7.045, 7.080 MHz, and on other lower frequencies as necessary. Nighttime, 3.740 MHz (primary) and 3.720 MHz (secondary) and on other lower frequencies as necessary.
- Dominican Republic: 3.873 MHz (primary), 3.815 MHz (secondary), 7.182 MHz (primary), 7.255 MHz (secondary); 14.330 MHz (primary), 21.360 MHz (primary), 28.330 MHz (primary).
- Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN): 3.815 MHz and 7.162 MHz (when necessary). NOTE: Net will activate continuously starting this evening until the hurricane has passed through…
The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) reminded licensees this week that FCC rules address operation during emergencies. “These rules allow licensees to provide emergency communications during a period of emergency in a manner or configuration not specified in the station authorization or in the rules governing such stations,” the FCC said.
Amateur Radio resources are marshaling to assist in the response to Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make landfall along the Texas coast on Friday (August 25) as a Category 3 storm. It would be the first storm to hit the US coast in more than a decade. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) already has swung into action, as the storm, which bears the threat not only of high winds but extensive and life-threatening storm surge flooding. Nearly 3 feet of rain could fall, if, as predicted, Harvey stalls along the Texas shoreline. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said he and his staff are keeping close watch on Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Watch Net
The Hurricane Watch Net activated on August 24 at 1500 UTC on 14.325 MHz, subsequently shifting to 7.268 MHz at 2300 UTC. The net planned to operate overnight and will resume daytime operation on 14.325 MHz at 1200 UTC. “Should band conditions dictate, we will operate both frequencies simultaneously,” Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said.
Click here for ARRL Texas incident plans for Hurricane Harvey, including HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies. There are many frequencies in the plan.