As Hurricane Ian, now a tropical storm, moves through Florida, amateur radio operators continue to provide communications support for weather updates and requests for assistance.
The hurricane made landfall at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, September 28, 2022, just south of Tampa, Florida as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 miles per hour. Millions of residents are without power and damage was reported to be extensive along the storm’s initial track.
ARRL Director of Emergency Management, Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, has been in regular contact with ARRL Section Chiefs and Section Emergency Coordinators in Florida and throughout the Southeast States -United. Johnston said the ARRL is also in contact with partners at the national level, including FEMA and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in the event requests for direct emergency communications via amateur radio are needed.
Johnston said many ARRL Amateur radio emergency service® (ARES®) volunteers and their groups are involved in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. “Many ARES groups across Florida have been in readiness since before the weekend,” Johnston said. “These amateur radio volunteers are well connected with their state and local emergency management partners in governmental and non-governmental organizations.” Johnston also said there were ARES members, at the request of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, serving in the state’s emergency operations center. Many ARES groups also operate in multiple accommodation locations.
The ARRL has already deployed Ham Aid kits in the area. Kits include amateur radio equipment for disaster response when communications equipment is not available.
W1AW, the Maxim Memorial Station at ARRL Headquarters in Connecticut, activated its Winlink station to handle PACTOR III and IV messages and traffic, as well as its SHARES station, NCS310.
“In our [ARRL’s] experience, the amateur radio response will continue to play out, sometimes even more significantly, after the storm passes and communities enter a period of recovery,” Johnston said. “As needs are assessed, such as power and communications disruptions, our ARRL Section Chiefs and ARES Groups may receive additional requests for more activations and deployments.”
Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, network manager for the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), said the net is now switch from receiving weather data to collecting post-storm reports (read “Hurricane Watch Net Update for Ian”, ARRL News, 2022-09-29).
“These reports include damage and flooded areas,” Graves said. “It gives forecasters the additional information they need. Also, because FEMA has an office at the National Hurricane Center (NHC), they review these reports to get the big picture of what happened, which helps them get help and help. humanitarian aid where needed.
Graves added that the HWN will assist with emergencies, priorities and any health and welfare traffic. The network can continue to operate for days. The HWN will release an after action report to detail the number of amateur radio operators who participated on the net.
HWN Net Deputy Director Stan Broadway, N8BHL said they have been filing reports since September 26, 2022 and more than 125 specific reports have been filed with the NHC by stations in the region. “We processed other reports, not included in the database, for damage and other storm-related situations,” Broadway said. “One such call involved a relayed report of a woman trapped in her home with a collapsed wall in the Fort Meyer neighborhood. This report was forwarded to Lee County Emergency Communications to dispatch a rescue team.
VoIP Hurricane Net was also active. Director of Operations for VoIP Hurricane Net and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts ARES Chapter Emergency Coordinator Rob Macedo, KD1CY, said the network would potentially remain active until 11:00 p.m. EDT Thursday night, supporting WX4NHC, the National Hurricane Center’s amateur radio station in Miami, Florida. WX4NHC will be active during this time as long as needed.
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About the ARRL and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service®
The ARRL is the National Association of Radio Amateurs®. Founded in 1914 as the American Radio Relay League, the ARRL is a non-commercial organization of radio amateurs. The ARRL has the vast majority of active radio amateurs (or “amateurs”) in the United States in its ranks, and has a proud history of accomplishment as the standard bearer for the promotion and protection of amateur radio. For more information on the ARRL and amateur radio, visit www.arrl.org.
Amateur Radio Operators use their training, skills and equipment to provide emergency communications When All Else Fails®. The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES management, for the duty of communication in the public service in the event of a disaster.