From NBC News
When things went dark and quiet in Puerto Rico, a cadre of amateur radio operators became a lifeline on the island.
About two dozen amateur radio operators on the island helped police and first responders communicate when their radio networks failed completely. Some of the radio operators, or hams traveled on trucks to provide communications to the power company, PREPA.
“It’s a less than ideal solution, but it works and that’s the essence of amateur radio – make it work,” said Tom Gallagher, CEO of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.
Now the ranks of operator are about to get reinforcements.
At the request of the Red Cross, the league planned to send 50 radio operators into Puerto Rico with “enormous” radio gear in water proof containers, their own power supplies, new generators and solar arrays. The crew and equipment were to leave Thursday from Atlanta.
Their job, once set up and in place, will be to be the communication pipeline for the Red Cross Safe and Well program, helping people on the mainland trying to connect with loved ones on the island or get news of their status.
“You can relieve a lot of misery by telling people their relatives are okay,” said Gallagher, whose call sign is NY2RF.
The ham operators working with first responders are part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services, ARES. They regularly drill with police, fire brigades and hospitals and regularly drill and practice what to do in floods, hurricanes or dangerous rainstorms.
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