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Author Topic: Force of Two: HamRadioNow talks to two hams just back from Puerto Rico  (Read 4907 times)

Posts: 22


« on: October 29, 2017, 07:04:46 PM »

This is a long episode, going in depth on the experience of two hams, NS0S and N5TGL, two of the first hams to deploy out of San Juan in the ARRL/Red Cross "Force of 50".

This is not the story you'll hear on other shows or read in QST.

This and all HamRadioNow programs are available as an audio podcast through iTunes, most podcast apps, iHeart Radio and Google Play Music. Details the HamRadioNow web site:

Gary Pearce KN4AQ

Posts: 38

« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2017, 07:12:32 PM »

I went through this podcast twice and made notes of the events and the teaching points. This is very informative and is a must-see for all ARES members.

Posts: 101

« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2017, 05:01:13 PM »

It's one of the longer shows, and well worth it. I've shared it widely.  Pay particular attention at the 2:00:00 mark on.

Posts: 89

« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2017, 10:12:57 AM »

it sounds like there was a who's in charge moment  from the get go.  interesting since i am recently taking the em comm course ARRL offers a whole bunch of initial start up parameters were not in place, first the agency requesting help needs to set the parameters of operation. sounds like that did not happen, second the hams involved needed to be more organized , they picked 50 guys and sent them, no cohesion. if they had a few days and some leadership structure it might have gone better, leadership needs to set the who is going  and who they report to, they needed to set up a net , immediately to clarify the command structure and a leader needed to be chose also how they interface with red cross FEMA and other organizations , someone with em-comm supervisory training. or at least someone appointed as a group leader to clarify the mission with the red cross.  remember the red cross is a relief organization not a communications organization.

we are the communications organization.

an advance team to survey needs and equipment required would have been helpful.  setting up a winlink node in San Juan would have made communications much simpler. interfacing with one of the internet providers and get the node up and running would have made everyone's life easier.  the equipment was obtained in a remarkably rapid fashion , kudos to all those folks involved, no vhf/uhf Com's was an oversight, but given the rapidity in which all of this occurred understandable.

in the course i am taking one of the first things they discuss is getting your role and identifying the Com's needs, as a first step in being as effective a communicator as possible.  understand what is needed , then provide it.  these guys made stuff work, but  the initial lag by not having a clear vision of what was needed, and what do we need to bring to make it work was a problem. 

i commend these guys for doing a good job, the lack of a debrief or as they referred to it a "hot wash" to improve response is a definite deficiency from ARRL and RED CROSS.

one of the things that makes a good group is to make sense out of chaos. i think these guys did this they set up their nets and communications on the fly great job..  there should have been a second fifty ready to go in three weeks as a follow on force to continue .

until cell service could be restored  it sounds like according to these two guys.

i commend the ARRL for getting this together at light speed. i commend all the companies that donated time and equipment to make this happen,  i think we all can learn from every one of these events, we learned a lot from each of the hurricane responses, and will continue to learn.   

throwing stones does not improve response , having the what went wrong and what went right and what did we have /not have/ could have used is the correct way to go about improving any system.



Posts: 38

« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2017, 09:25:22 AM »

It is difficult to measure the PR ham response since there is nothing to compare it to. As mentioned above, ARRL responded quickly to a request. Everyone I have spoken to who as been part of a disaster response emphasizes nothing goes as planned and many things just don't work.

The focus should be on doing a better job next time, e.g., a group of hams is imported to a disaster area to work for a served agency or to supplement local hams. We will see if ARRL does a candid after-action analysis. I would hope the Red Cross does the same. We all just want to do a good job. 

Posts: 148

« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2017, 02:12:28 PM »

Just sharing some perspective related to me by a coworker who has made three trips to PR since Maria. He initially went there to rescue his MIL and bring her back to the mainland while things get sorted out there, then went back to assist locals in putting together some solar charging stations for cellphones and LED lighting, and also provided several FRS sets for the locals to use as they see fit.

One of the glaring issues there still today is the lack of available communication between local law enforcement in the outlying communities, i.e., those not in the immediate San Juan or other major city. Nearly all of their public service repeater sites were damaged, and due to the remote mountaintop locations scattered about, are not in a place where either power can be easily restored nor appropriate security stationed for safeguarding portable generators.

PR is in a serious crisis communications-wise, down to the most elemental fire, medical, and law enforcement needs. Cellular coverage is very sporadic. My co-worker took a couple of Globalstar sat phone kits for some locals to use as a sort of community phone for keeping in touch with family, authorities, etc.


Posts: 38

« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2017, 05:08:33 PM »

PR is in a serious crisis communications-wise, down to the most elemental fire, medical, and law enforcement needs. Cellular coverage is very sporadic. My co-worker took a couple of Globalstar sat phone kits for some locals to use as a sort of community phone for keeping in touch with family, authorities, etc.

One of the hams told of people running to the fire station to report fires and seeking help. There were no phones.
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