The American Red Cross Puerto Rico Chapter renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the ARRL Puerto Rico Section on October 10, citing mutually beneficial experiences during recent emergency and disaster responses, especially to hurricanes Irma and María in 2017. María left the island without power and telecommunications, and the Red Cross in the US asked ARRL to help provide Amateur Radio volunteers — which became the “Force of Fifty.” The initial MoU was signed on March 3, 2017. As part of the renewed MoU, radio amateurs will help with the development of the Red Cross internal UHF communication system.
“The Red Cross had a good and excellent synergistic relationship with the Amateur Radio community when communications were lost for 6 weeks during the María event,” ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, said. “As recently as the end of August, amateur operators were standing by for the possible pass of Hurricane Dorian as the Red Cross made the call for possible activation.”
ARRL Puerto Rico Section Public Information Officer Angel Santana, WP3GW, recounted events over the past 2 years following the devastating impact of the 2017 hurricanes on the lives of Puerto Rico’s residents. He said many new Amateur Radio operators have been licensed, most with a special interest in emergency communications, and a special class and exam session at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez graduated new amateurs as part of a new program to develop an emergency communications system. Santana noted that new amateurs mean more net participation. Puerto Rico Section Technical Coordinator Carlos Roig WP4AOH, gives tech training talks on local nets, providing tips on emergency communication practice, Go-Kits, antennas, radios, and portable power sources, in addition to answering questions on numerous other topics.
Amateurs in municipal emergency management agencies now run drills/nets every first Sunday of the month based on the 12 zones of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau (PREMB) administration. A faith-based organization has developed the Radio Communications Emergency Net on the island of Vieques, with Amateur Radio serving as the principal resource.
Santana noted that the Commonwealth’s new governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced, has raised her administration’s visibility of Amateur Radio as an emergency/disaster response communication asset. — Thanks to ARRL Puerto Rico Section Public Information Coordinator Angel Santana, WP3GW
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