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11 October 2005 09:28 AM EDT

Ham radio saves the day; Rita recovery continues in Texas

Author: US Southern Territory


Amateur Radio volunteers in Jasper County, Texas, continue to support mass-feeding operations by The Salvation Army, which has been coordinating with other relief groups to provide meals to Hurricane Rita-displaced residents. Amateur volunteers plan to meet with Salvation Army personnel to discuss the need for Amateur Radio support beyond this weekend. Meanwhile, ARRL Alabama SM Greg Sarratt, W4OZK--who's been handling the intake of American Red Cross volunteers in Montgomery, Alabama--has been visiting ARC shelters along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Shelters there are in the process of closing down. In Gulfport, Amateur Radio volunteers continue to support communication for the emergency operations center (EOC) in Harrison County, where they've been a mainstay since Hurricane Katrina struck in late August.

"If it hadn't been for Amateur Radio operators, we would not have had communications with other agencies," said Col Joe Spraggins of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency. "Even with the advancements in our radio technology, ham radio saved the day! Thank you."

Christy Hardin, KB7BSA, a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer from Alabama, and husband Rick, KB4BSA, have been in the Gulf Coast twice following Hurricane Katrina. She had nothing but praise for those who have been volunteering to maintain communication at the EOC 24/7 in some cases despite having lost their own homes to the storm. "The four or five operators who worked around the clock for nearly a month are the true heroes," she said.

In particular, she cited ARES District Emergency Coordinator Tom Hammack, W4WLF, Ray Taber, WX5AAA, Glover Hayden, W5BLV, and John Moore, W5EG, for serving unselfishly on behalf of Mississippi Gulf Coast residents. Hammack has been living in the EOC since the storm flooded and badly damaged his house. An instructor for all three levels of the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications course, Hardin says she was "thrilled to see it in action" as the EOC volunteers performed as true professionals.

South Texas ARRL Section Manager Ray Taylor, N5NAV, this week estimated upward of 60 Amateur Radio volunteers were on the ground in Texas, many supporting shelters scattered throughout the area. North Texas SEC Bill Swan, K5MWC, has been helping to recruit and schedule ARES members from his section to assist in mass-care operations in Jasper County.

Taylor says radio amateurs in North Texas and Arkansas have been helping to cover net control shifts and to serve as relay stations for the West Gulf ARES Emergency Net on 7.285 MHz days/3.873 MHz evenings.

Scott Pederson, KI5DR, reports he just returned home from three days in Jasper County, Texas, working with John Wagner, WA5VBP, Charles Fletcher, N5BOY, and John Barber, N5JB. "Our job was to deliver hot meals to various locations around a three-county area with five Salvation Army trucks and also several Red Cross trucks working together," he said. Ham radio, he explained, helped to coordinate the delivery routes by the various agencies involved. While VHF FM simplex was okay for local work, the West Gulf ARES Emergency Net on HF was very reliable.

"Even though regular phones are working most of the time, it's really the hams that are the communicators of the group," he said. Pederson also lauded the efforts of The Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Arkansas Methodist Men's volunteers. "Everyone is focused and cares deeply about their tasks," he said, "and things are happening at lightning speed throughout the day."

In Louisiana, SEC Gary Stratton, K5GLS, said earlier this week that some 45 Amateur Radio volunteers remained on hurricane recovery duty there. "Things are settling down," Stratton told ARRL.

Christy Hardin, KB7BSA, supplied information for this article

 

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