Amateur Radio volunteers deployed as American Red Cross volunteers to Puerto Rico, as part of the “Force of 50” last weekend, have been focusing their efforts where their help is most needed.
“The American Red Cross gave us priority directive to move six of our operators to various highly impacted sites on the island,” volunteer Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, said in an October 3 update.
“As requested, we are able to allocate any spare Amateur Radio operators to the nine urgent hospital locations,” she continued. Both reallocations will happen today (October 4). According to the October 3 update, not enough ARC-affiliated operators are available to cover all nine locations, and the team is encouraging local radio amateurs to cover the gap.
The Puerto Rico volunteers and local hams alike have successfully passed “lots of traffic” to net control, which has been forwarded on to the right agencies. Some examples included getting an oxygen tank to a nursing home resident and insulin to a diabetic youth.
“Caguas Mennonite Hospital requested more inventory tomorrow, as all inventory received today had been used up. Ryder Hospital on Humacao has asked for fuel and water. Remote hospitals are asking if we can put communications in the Centro Medico (Medical Center), so they send information on transferring patients,” Hotzfeld said.
“We are still trying to figure out how to service the power and water utility requests for Amateur Radio operators to assist in bringing up the power and delivering millions of gallons of water from Arecibo to San Juan,” she added.
Volunteers Jeremy Dougherty, NS0S, and Bobby Price, KB4ROR, in Yauco reported on October 3, “We installed our rigs in the fire truck and gave them our handhelds. It left us no other radio for local contact,” the pair reported. “We needed another base rig to contact our other team and talk in the region.” They reached out to Marcos Pereda, KP3CA, in Yauco, who loaned the team his FTM-100DR to use while they’re on the island. They didn’t have an antenna that would offer sufficient range, so they improvised, fashioning a “tape measure” 5 element Yagi, using supplies from a local hardware store and a coax jumper from their extra HF radio.
And they did a good deed too. “While we were on the roof, we found that the Puerto Rican flag pole had fallen down,” they reported. “We fixed that first. We installed everything and made contact with N5TGL and N0CSM who are 50 miles away [using] the repeater between us.”
There have been problems filling resource requests from remote areas of the island. A message was relayed on WinLink via VHF repeater by Juan Sepulveda, KP3CR, from volunteer team members in Mayagüez on behalf of the mayor in Lares, Roberto Pagán, who had put out an urgent call for water for the town of some 5,000. The sender told the mayor that he would see to it personally that the Red Cross followed through with his request.
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