Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KN4AQ, Oct 28, 2017.
ARRL officials interviewed
I made a presentation to our local emcomm group about my experiences in PR:
This is the body of an email from Jim Drown KP3BR a local Puerto Rico ham who operates the only repeater to have survived Hurricane Maria. The repeater is co-located with an Emergency Broadcast System AM radio station with three backup generators.
Restoring the power to remote repeaters sites has been slow by the PR Electric Power Authority (PREPA) because of the lack of equipment and materials to repair the power lines grid. Remember that a major disaster will likely isolate the impacted areas from outside help. Reconstruction will be slowed down.
A few sites worked with generators. Those using generators provided by the owner of the repeater have the dificulty of taking care of the fuel expenses and the security of the equipment. Those with on-site power generators have to wait for the owner of the site to find the money, fuel and companies to refill their units regularly.
I know of 1 or 2 with baterries recharged with solar panels, but the panels were damaged by the huricanes. In order to use lead-acid baterries in remote mountain areas requires permits with the Natural Resources Deparment because they are in forest protected areas. All kind of baterries scarced badly at stores after the disaster event.
There has been incidents of stealing of generators not only in repeaters sites but also in celular tower facilities. The celular companies, government and FEMA had to provide security thru private companies, police or military personnel.
Getting access thru the roads in rural mountains and hills is dificult because the main cleaning efforts were focused in the metro and towns areas. The main problem facing the owners of the repeaters is the loss of antennas, cables and towers that went down with everything twisted in a metal mess. One repeater was moved and installed in an Hospital building with diesel emergency power generator.
Trying to recharge baterries with portable generators has the logistic dificulty of moving them in and out filled with oil and fuel. I will sugest you to identify facilities and buildings that already has emergency power generators and coordinate with them for future acces to install temporarily or permanent repeaters although this sites does not have great radio coverage. Communications will be crucial during and after the first hours of a major disaster event for the local first responders and road cleaning crews in order to start the relief efforts and continue later with the mitigation processes. Expect little or no outside help during the first hours or days.
As a matter of fact when the celular services started to come up there were better long distance communication from here to Florida than into the island. I called to Florida to a friend of mine who then called back to the island to convey my messages to coordinate by phone with non amateurs. Also the Wassap app worked better than the text messages.
Beginning on page 14 of the linked document is the official ARRL version of the Force of Fifty (twenty-three) and local amateurs.
https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10122279117760/2018 January FINAL Comments PS Docket 17-344.pdf
34. Equipment dispatched with the “Force of 50” to Puerto Rico included data transmission equipment capable of PACTOR 4 operation, but it could not be legally used in the Hurricane Maria disaster relief effort.
Did the PACTOR 4 modems actually make the trip with the Force of 50?
They did not. According to some witnesses, the offers of the Pactor IV modems were declined.
Makes me wonder if the proper cables were offered with the P4 modems.
Mike, you might be referring to modems deployed for ShaRes volunteers at the FEMA EOC rather than the Red Cross HQ used by the Force of Fifty (23) hams. The Red Cross hams never saw the Pactor IV modems. As I recall, the ShaRes volunteers arrived as the Red Cross hams were demobilizing.
They were there before I got there and I was the first of the SHARES folks to get there. I just know the Red Cross folks didn't use them. I think the ham folks passed along a lot of messages even without using the Pactor modems so props to them.