Force of Two: In Depth stories from 2 Puerto Rico volunteers on HamRadioNow

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KN4AQ, Oct 28, 2017.

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  1. KG7LEA

    KG7LEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Plan A for the Red Cross was to have the hams working in shelters, fixed positions, with a finite mission in direct support of the ARC mission. When the hams landed this mission was scrubbed. What the hams ended up doing was outside the ARC's pattern. They never contemplated helping replace the communications infrastructure for an island of 3.5 million people with mountains in the middle.

    Square amateur radio pegs in the ARC round hole.
    KX4O likes this.
  2. KM4WUO

    KM4WUO Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't really say the ARRL helped this situation at all, either. It appeared to me that the most important thing to them was the free publicity, it didn't really matter to them what the mission was. ARRL's presence at the FEMA JFO was looked at with disdain more than anything in spite of some good efforts on the part of some of the folks there. It just left a bad impression with the FEMA personnel. ARRL was trying to use their response to springboard a bigger relationship with FEMA (and get FEMA funding, no doubt). I don't see that happening now and I see FEMA's likelihood of working with ARRL to be much, much lower than it was before Puerto Rico. What I do see is FEMA encouraging SHARES members to get more involved, including deployments. I could also see them encouraging state and local EMAs to develop their own relationships with local ham groups. A cadre of distributed first responders, as it were, that wouldn't have to be brought in to be helpful, particularly in the early stages post-disaster. If FEMA learns the right lessons from Puerto Rico, they will incorporate the use of hams, MARS, and SHARES as an integral part of the total disaster response ESF-2 function. It also wouldn't surprise me to see both the ARC and Salvation Army actively start to recruit recruit a lot of hams that could deploy with their existing disaster teams. What they and FEMA both likely WON'T do is rely on the ARRL again.
    KX4O, K1ZYM and KG7LEA like this.
  3. KG7LEA

    KG7LEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    SHARES seems to be a good idea and could be expanded to the VHF/UHF bands in use by local ARES/RACES hams. The pool of qualified ham volunteers available for three-week deployments is not very deep and accountability for conduct and performance is an issue. Paid employees on detail need not worry about paying the mortgage and already fit into a FEMA structure. FEMA can built and maintain a pool of hams who can be called up.

    SHARES volunteers would work well by being folded into existing ARES/RACES groups already on the ground. From there they can expand to fill gaps, e.g., hospitals and fire stations, fitting into existing nets and building their own nets. In PR there weren't enough hams. SHARES could have provided relief for local operators had they brought the right equipment. From the accounts I have gathered the local hams went one direction, the FoF/ARC went one direction, other nets (FBI, Secret Service, etc.) went their directions, and then SHARES showed up. Interoperability—being able to talk to one another—is a big deal, but part of this is inter-manageability—the coordination of communications on common bands.
  4. AA7EJ

    AA7EJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    For all the contributions you have posted here. I still feel you hold very idealistic views.
    From PR experience you can see how both professional ( FEMA) and amateur ( ARC, ARRL etc. ) have a basic issue - they forget what the public actually need and cooperating between themselves is the last item on their list - they are after publicity ( national "news") instead of after real service to customers.

    These organization think they are the good guys, but IMHO they are outsiders without much of understanding what communication is (was in PR ) actually needed.

    I still believe the locals should be the drivers - they have written , or should have , emergency operations procedures and if they fail to execute them...

    Local citizens will let them know at ANY local election - NOBODY will put blame on FEMA, ARC , ARRL for "running emergency " LOCAL public business.

    And it should not matter if 95% of local personnel are out of commission, including volunteer amateur radio operators, and there in no power, water , cell service - that is why it is called emergency state. Duh.

    My biggest concern about how to improve next time we are as amateur operators asked to help is - we , as discussion participants, are still relying on SELECTED FEW, TRAINED , ORGANIZED , "orange jacket wearers " ( sarcasm ) groups.

    From PR we know that these groups can be put out of commission in a big hurry.

    This may be asking way too much - but we as an amateur radio operators of variety of skills should be able to "just pass traffic " in any format and using any technology when we actually CAN HELP.

    During PR there were such "unorganized / free lance " operators and they were not mentioned in any "news".
    Anybody care to start an "honor role" for them?
    Or not - they probably do not want unnecessary "atta boy" publicity anyway.
    They know who they are and here is my ATTA BOY for them.

    73 Shirley

  5. KG7LEA

    KG7LEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    You did not finish your sentence.

    In Puerto Rico local hams were overwhelmed and understaffed. They had a plan and they had some practice with Hurricane Irma a few weeks before. The plan is called RACES.

    Survivors are always quick to blame FEMA, the ARC, and their local governments for perceived failures. I have yet to hear of an election that hinged on the quality of local emergency management and certainly not the quality of amateur radio volunteers. No one votes for the ARRL or the ARC. No national election has ever been impacted by FEMA's performance. By the time a local emergency plan is shown to have failed, it is too late.

    I don't understand this statement. It seems to be a non-sequitur.

    I will disagree. Emergency managers and served agencies are looking for people who can do more than "just pass traffic." They want volunteers who also have radios. In Puerto Rico FoF hams became drivers, observers, interviewers, paper shufflers, and general problem solvers. In my locality we often activate and never touch ham radios.

    If a licensee can only "pass traffic," his or her knowledge and skills will better benefit their own community than mine.

    My focus in this thread is to be prepared for the event that licensee volunteers show up in a disaster recovery and how best to manage them on our bands and repeaters.
  6. KG7LEA

    KG7LEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    The SHARES operators were volunteer licensees whose day jobs do not involve disaster recovery.
    KX4O likes this.
  7. AA7EJ

    AA7EJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    "You did not finish your sentence."

    Is that grammatical gotcha or my failure to SPECULATE ?

    If in the future amateur radio involvement we already speculate that PHYSICALLY
    amateur radio operators will fill other needs of community as any other able body volunteers will -
    I still maintain THEY should do what LOCAL authorities request , not what FEMA, ARC , ARRL and others dream what they should do.
    In simple words - dirty job volunteering takes precedence before "communication" AKA collecting H@W statistics as originally perceived by ARC.

    Maybe in your quest to be BETTER prepared for next one you need to look what went RIGHT during Harvey in Houston and quit nitpicking on and rehashing what went wrong in PR.

    Check out neighborhoods churches involvement - on their own , no FEMA , ARC assistance was required.
    Check out "Cajun navy"... ( incomplete sentence )
    Get a hold of group of firemen from Sandy (OR) , you should know where that is,
    who traveled to Houston to gut out flooded houses.
    Check out numerous citizens , and LOCAL businesses, who delivered FREE food ( and beer ) to dirty volunteers. Did not see neither FEMA nor ARC to do that. Salvation Army did!

    Family of four - a year old baby in mother's arms and four year old boy were canvassing the hood and giving away cool icy treats. It was in 90's on smelly street decorated with piles of plaster and wet memorabilia.

    73 Shirley
  8. KM4WUO

    KM4WUO Ham Member QRZ Page

    There are many kinds of SHARES Operators, many of whom man EOCs for their respective agencies when the time comes. I'm not one of them, my day job is designing, building, and flying what most people call "drones" for NASA. But, I do know how to run a radio and I learned very, very quickly how to pass traffic and what kind of traffic it makes sense to pass. Nothing like practicing your disaster communications skills by being sent to a real disaster to communicate...
    KX4O likes this.
  9. KG7LEA

    KG7LEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    There are so many advantages to this arrangement. Skilled volunteers can be deployed with some measure of control by the served agency and the volunteers' salary and liabilities are covered. What would have happened to a FoF ham if he or she had stepped in a hole and broken a leg? Earlier in this thread is a suggestion for a pool of trained licensee volunteers and SHARES is one solution. The limitation, of course, is that this program is limited to federal employees and will not tap into other qualified licensees.

    SHARES volunteers supplied their own equipment. If the feds are like my state, loss or damage to personal equipment on a deployment is covered, e.g., the fried power supplies. FoF was supplied equipment, a great convenience, but a limitation as well.
    KX4O likes this.
  10. KM4WUO

    KM4WUO Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm not an expert on SHARES but they do post this on the web site:

    "More than 1,400 HF radio stations—representing 104 federal, state, and industry organizations located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several locations overseas—are resource contributors to the SHARES HF Radio Program. Nearly 500 emergency planning and response personnel participate in SHARES. Approximately 200 HF radio channels are available for use by SHARES members."

    Given the above, it would not be unreasonable to assume that SHARES operators run the gamut from feds, to state, to local, to NGOs and private industry. Their "List of Resource Contributors" in their documents library show organizations in each of those categories. Perhaps the SHARES folks will consider how best to tap into the various participants. Maybe local governments who are SHARES members could supply trained people in their area should a disaster occur there. But, I think having a cadre of already trained and capable people who could deploy would also make a lot of sense. Since everybody in SHARES inter-operates regularly anyway, deploying SHARES personnel and gear would just mean they'd be doing SHARES functions at a remote location rather than their home organization, but the way they do the job would be identical at either place. That kind of forward thinking makes it easy to jump start a comms mission.

    When the FoF/ARC hams went down there, they were provided gear, but many brought their own anyway. The SHARES folks brought their own gear because SHARES had never "deployed" before, so there was no ready-made go-kits to use. For the FoF group, I would guess either ARRL or more probably the ARC would be on the hook from the standpoint of liability. To get them to fix gear that got damaged or stolen might be a challenge, though.
    KX4O and KG7LEA like this.

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