As Hurricane Ian, now a tropical storm, makes its way across Florida, amateur radio operators continue to provide communications support for weather updates and requests for assistance.
The hurricane made landfall at 3 PM Eastern Time on 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 as extensive along the storm’s initial path.
ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, has been in regular contact with ARRL Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators in Florida and throughout the southeastern US. Johnston said ARRL is also in touch with national-level partners including FEMA and CISA (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency) should any requests for direct emergency communications via amateur radio be needed.
Johnston said many ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) volunteers and their groups are involved across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. “Many ARES groups throughout Florida have been in a state of readiness since before the weekend,” said Johnston. “These amateur radio volunteers are well-connected with their state and local emergency management partners in government and non-government organizations.” Johnston also said that there are ARES members, at the request of Florida Emergency Management, serving in the state Emergency Operation Center. Many ARES groups are also operating in several shelter locations.
ARRL has previously deployed Ham Aid kits in the region. The kits include amateur radio equipment for disaster response when communications equipment is unavailable.
W1AW, the Maxim Memorial Station at ARRL’s Headquarters in Connecticut, has activated its Winlink station to handle PACTOR III and IV messages and traffic, and its SHARES station NCS310.
“In our (ARRL’s) experience, amateur radio’s response will continue to play out, sometimes even more significantly, after the storm passes and communities enter a period of recovery,” said Johnston. “As needs are assessed, such as disruptions to power and communications, our ARRL Section leaders and ARES groups may receive additional requests for more activations and deployments.”
Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, Net Manager for the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), said the net is now transitioning from receiving weather data to gathering post-storm reports (read “Hurricane Watch Net Update for Ian,” ARRL News, 9/29/2022).
“These reports include damage and areas that are flooded,” said Graves. “This gives the forecasters additional information they need. Also, since FEMA has an office in the National Hurricane Center (NHC), they look over these reports to get a bigger picture of what has happened which in turn helps them to get help and humanitarian assistance where it is needed.”
Graves added that the HWN will be assisting with emergency, priority, and any Health and Welfare Traffic. The net may continue operations for days. The HWN will issue an after-action report to detail the number of amateur radio operators who participated on the net.
Assistant HWN Net Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said they have been filing reports since September 26, 2022, and over 125 specific reports have been filed to the NHC from stations in the area. “We have handled other reports, not included in the database, for damage and other storm-related situations,” said Broadway. “One such call involved a relayed report of a woman trapped in her home with a collapsed wall in the Ft. Meyer area. That report was relayed to Lee County Emergency Communications to dispatch a rescue team.”
The VoIP Hurricane Net has been active as well. Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net, and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator, said the net will remain active potentially through 11 PM EDT on Thursday evening, supporting WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio Station at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. WX4NHC will be active through this period for as long as needed.
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About ARRL and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service®
ARRL is the National Association for Amateur Radio®. Founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, ARRL is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active radio amateurs (or “hams”) in the US, and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting amateur radio. For more information about ARRL and amateur radio, visit www.arrl.org.
Amateur radio operators use their training, skills, and equipment to provide communications during emergencies 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 leadership, for communications duty in public service when disaster strikes.