AMATEUR RADIO RESPONDS IN FORCE IN WAKE OF TERRORIST ATTACKS
Some already are calling it "Amateur Radio's Finest
Hour," as volunteers answer the call to assist in ongoing relief and
recovery operations in New York City, Washington, DC, and western
Pennsylvania in the wake of terrorist attacks on the US September 11. The
need continues for operators to assist
Along with most other federal agencies, the FCC closed its
offices and sent its employees home following the attacks. The FCC issued
no emergency declarations nor other special instructions to the Amateur
Radio community. The ARRL advised amateurs to stay alert to
instructions from local
New York City-Long Island Section Emergency Coordinator Tom Carrubba, KA2D, reports that hams have been supporting emergency officials and the American Red Cross relief and recovery effort. Amateurs have been staffing several Red Cross shelters in addition to a staging/National Disaster Medical System center, various Red Cross units, and the Greater New York City American Red Cross Headquarters as well as the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
Carrubba says the telephone system in lower Manhattan
continues to be problematic because of the high call volume.
"American Red Cross communications are overloaded, and traffic from
the shelters is coming into the New York City net at a rapid pace,"
he said. "The Amateur Radio ops are doing a great job under very
difficult and strange conditions, but this is
Red Cross Communications Officer Jay Ferron, N4GAA, agreed. "The Amateur Radio community has come out very big and very strong," he said, adding that local clubs and repeater groups have volunteered gear, frequencies and operators.
New York City District Emergency Coordinator Charles Hargrove, N2NOV, has expressed his appreciation to the amateur community. "Thank you for all the support and well wishes," he said. "This is a difficult time for all of us. We appreciate all the amateurs who have volunteered their time and equipment."
Carrubba also cited the ongoing efforts of Guy Richman, KC2AYG, who has been coordinating net controls for the ARES nets, and Manhattan ARRL EC John Kiernan, KE2UN.
Carrubba is seeking additional volunteers from the Greater New York City region. He has asked out-of-state volunteers to "stand by until we can provide for your safety and comfort." Volunteers need a VHF (2-meter) or, preferably, a VHF/UHF (2-meter/70-cm) mobile radio, power supply and cables, and mobile/portable mag-mounted gain antenna. Carrubba says hand-helds are not sufficient to deal with the difficult operating conditions.
"Operators are still needed," he said, but stressed, "This is a difficult assignment."
Amateurs are working two 12-hour shifts per day, 8 AM to 8 PM and 8 PM to 8 AM, "plus or minus three or four hours, mostly plus," Carrubba said. Additional information is available on the ARRL Web site http://www.arrl.org.
At the scene of the Pentagon attack near Washington, DC, Virginia Section Emergency Coordinator Tom Gregory, N4NW, reports an "upbeat" crew of about two dozen amateurs is staffing six Amateur Radio stations in the immediate vicinity of the Pentagon. "What shocked me the most was the devastation you can see right there, 100 feet from the building," Gregory said. "The destruction is total."
The ARES operation is providing logistical support between the Salvation Army's relief and recovery effort on site and the agency's Arlington headquarters. The Salvation Army has deployed several mobile canteens and a feeding unit to serve military and civilian emergency personnel assigned to the recovery operation.
"What we're finding is that communication is very difficult because of the tremendous amount of noise from the construction-type equipment and the generators providing power for the lights and support staff," Gregory said. Because of the noise level, operators are being rotated frequently in and out of the immediate vicinity of the attack. "There's the emotion of it, and there's the tremendous amount of noise, and it's very grating on you because you can hardly hear the radio to communicate," Gregory explained.
Gregory described the entire area as "very crowded with people" inside and outside the Pentagon. "People and equipment cleaning up, finding bodies, finding plane parts, firefighters still checking for hot spots, hoses, equipment," he said. "The damage to the building looks worse when you are right next to it than it does on TV."
"I found that it took me a few minutes to realize the gravity of what was going on and the importance of what we hams are doing in our own small way to help out," Gregory said. "The devastation of that building is awesome, and it puts things in perspective and it certainly made me proud to be an Amateur Radio operator and serve the people of the United States by offering the support we could."
The Pentagon ARES operation continues to seek volunteers. "Because of the immensity of the thing, we're trying to have six amateurs on duty at all times," he said. "We need 20 volunteers every day for at least two weeks." Volunteers should e-mail Tom Gregory, N4NW, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gregory emphasized that Pentagon site security is extremely tight. All ham volunteers must have a photo ID issued by a government entity to the secured area. "The FBI is handling issuance of IDs for access to the secured area and is doing a complete NCIC check before a photo ID is issued," Gregory said.
At the so-called "fourth" plane crash site in rural Somerset County western Pennsylvania, Kevin Custer, W3KKC, reports a busy scene as the investigation continues. Custer arranged preliminary repeater communication into and out of the crash site on Tuesday to help the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI and other state and federal agencies on the scene.
Custer said the investigation could continue for several weeks. "At this time we are preparing for the possibility of family members coming to the crash site--or close by," he said.
Montgomery County, Maryland, Deputy RACES Officer John Creel, WB3GXW, observed that while the enormity of the attacks is bound to touch the amateur community directly or indirectly, he has seen nothing but professionalism among the responding operators in his area. Creel advised amateurs to "just be prepared," and he echoed the sentiment of many that the events of September 11 "will be with us for the rest of our lives.
More detailed and updated information on Amateur Radio's involvement in the disaster relief and recovery efforts is available on the ARRL Web site http://www.arrl.org.
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