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Vice President Visits 'Force Of 50,' RC Invites Volunteers to Extend Stay:

from The ARRL Letter on October 12, 2017
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Vice President Visits 'Force Of 50,' Red Cross Invites Volunteers to Extend Stay:

Vice President Mike Pence visited "Force of 50" volunteers and emergency responders at the Puerto Rico Emergency Operations Center (PREOC) in San Juan's Convention Center on October 6. "He gave a very motivating speech, and our very own Gary Sessums, KC5QCN, shook his hand," volunteer Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, reported.

The American Red Cross (ARC) this week invited the Amateur Radio volunteers now in Puerto Rico to extend their duty tours. Members of the "Force of 50" deployed to Puerto Rico at the start of the month, all as ARC volunteers. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, joined the cadre of volunteers last week and hit the ground running. Nearly 2 dozen ARRL volunteers from the mainland and numerous local radio amateurs have been working in concert over the past couple of weeks, doing what needs to be done to help Puerto Rico to recover from hurricane devastation.

Puerto Rico Section Emergency Coordinator Juan Sepulveda, KP3CR, is better prepared to assist, now that volunteers have delivered a radio and antenna to him in Lares. "This now gives us a local ham covering the Lares Medical Center and the hospital, so our ARRL American Red Cross Amateur Radio operator can cover the Casteņel hospital nearby," ARC volunteer Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, noted in a team update. Sepulveda has been coordinating the ARES efforts on the west side of the island since the recovery began.

Vice President Mike Pence greets Gary Sessums, KC5QCN.

Amateur Radio has continued to provide a link for the medical community in Puerto Rico. Volunteers have deployed to hospitals, including remote hospitals that are without communication.

This week, the team relayed a request for Culebra Hospital, which reported that a generator fire had forced relocation to a nearby clinic. In addition, volunteers relayed a request from Culebra Hospital that it needs temporary housing from FEMA for necessary staff members who lost their homes in the hurricane. The team also relayed a message for Hima San Pablo Hospital in Fajardo, which needed specialized IV fluids for a 4-day-old infant.

Rob Landon, KE8AMC, stationed at the hospital on Vieques, learned from the hospital administrator that they needed to evacuate dialysis patients, who require air conditioning that the hospital is unable to provide. "We made their day," said Hotzfeld. "They were not aware of our presence and were impressed with our communications capabilities."

An Amateur Radio operator has been assigned at Centro Medico (Medical Central) to provide communication between the center and other hospitals. "This happened just in time, because the Menonita (Mennonite) Hospital in Caguas had both generators fail," Hotzfeld said. The emergency room doctor at Medical Central and the ham embedded there, Juan Trujillo, N0PSF, coordinated with Dennis Perez, WP4Q, at the Mennonite Hospital in Caguas to transfer four critical patients to the Mennonite Hospital in Cayey.

Volunteers at the EOC relayed a request from Guayana Hospital for snacks, water, and a generator. Their second generator was reported to be about to fail. They also relayed requests from hospitals for fuel and water, and they provided communication for fire departments contacting the EOC.

A helicopter drops a huge concrete barrier into a breach at Guajataca Dam.

A dozen or so volunteers continue to handle traffic and relays from the EOC. The Red Cross deployed five radio operators to provide communication for its reunification teams. Safe and Well data collection continues at Red Cross shelters, and reunification work involves going out into areas that have no communication. The Amateur Radio operators on the island also passed a substantial volume of health-and-welfare traffic.

Efforts continue toward resurrecting the devastated electrical power infrastructure in Puerto Rico, and 40 to 50 Puerto Rican radio amateurs have been assisting the power authority to maintain communication as it works to restore power.

Hotzfeld; Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF; Corey, and Amateur Radio liaison to the FEMA ESF-2 Communications Task Force Gary Sessums, KC5QCN, traveled to Arecibo, Lares, and the Guajataca Dam to deliver bottled water as well as spare VHF radios to permit direct communication between Isabela and the dam, where infrastructure repairs are under way. A repeater has been delivered to Arecibo Observatory.

Several team members stocked up on powdered milk, peanut butter, water, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, and bags of fresh apples, and delivered these to people in the Arecibo area.

The fire station in Guayama reported a complete lack of water, with people being turned away. One of the Amateur Radio volunteers was able to assist from the fire station in Juncos.

Volunteer Joe Bassett, W1WCN, worked via relay with local operator Al Medina-Ramirez, NP3MR, to reestablish contact with an Army task force on Vieques Island. Army MARS operators were unable to get in touch with the task force dispatched to assist the island's hospital. Medina-Ramirez responded to a call from W1WCN to travel to the hospital and contact the task force, which was found safe and well and awaiting transport via helicopter, which had been delayed due to the weather.

Amateur Radio operators at the EOC assisted Samaritan's Purse in providing a generator to power a repeater near Jayuya. Contact was provided to have local radio amateur WP4PNS meet Samaritan's Purse personnel to exchange the generator.

FEMA has reported that only about 19% of cell telephone sites are operational, and 15% of customers have electrical power. The Salvation Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN stood down on October 11. -- Thanks to ARRL Puerto Rico SM Oscar Resto, KP4RF; Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L; ESF-2 Amateur Radio Liaison Gary Sessums, KC5QCN, and National SATERN Liaison Bill Feist, WB8BZH


The ARRL Letter

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