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Amateur Radio Gear, Tools, Supplies Bound for Micronesia in Wake of Tropical Cyclone

04/09/2015

A shipment of ham radio equipment, tools, and supplies will head from Hawaii to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) this week with John Bush, KH6DLK/V63JB. The radio gear will support communication for relief efforts as the FSM recover from Tropical Cyclone Maysak, which ravaged many of the nation’s islands in late March and early April, wreaking major damage and causing some deaths. Bush plans to leave April 10. Initial plans called for including an ARRL “Ham Aid” kit in the shipment, but Bush said he’s leaving that gear in Hawaii for the time being, because the building where it was to be set up no longer exists.

 

“While many agencies and nations are responding, it’s just not enough,” said ARRL Hawaii Section Manager Bob Schneider, AH6J. The Ham Aid gear had been shipped to Hawaii last fall, as the massive Puna volcanic lava flow threatened some communities on the Big Island of Hawaii. It includes both HF and VHF gear.

With a population of about 103,000, FSM is comprised of four states over 600 islands — about 1800 miles from end to end. Typhoon Maysak struck Ulithi Atoll with 160 MPH winds, with gusts to 195 MPH — a Category 5 storm. A major storm surge of unknown height also hit, and infrastructure on all islands, including schools, homes, and the power and telecommunication systems, suffered major damage or were destroyed altogether.

“Local communications have been heavily impacted by the storm, and some areas are still cut off and have not been heard from,” Schneider told ARRL.

Two FSM hams, William Radolfetheg, V63YWR — an elementary school principal on Federai Island, part of Ulithi Atoll — and Albert, V63YAG, were off the air since before the typhoon hit and had not been heard from until April 6, when V63YWR came on the air using a depleted battery and at very low power.

The ARRL is a member of Hawaii State VOAD, an organization of non-governmental organizations that provide disaster relief. Other organizations pitching in include church-affiliated groups, the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the International Organization for Migration, USAID, and Pacific Missionary Airlines.

Bush and Schneider have been assembling an assortment of loaned and donated radio equipment, antennas, tuners, power supplies, tools, hardware, “suitcase” solar panels, and FAA-legal gel cells for “bare-bones power” to send to the stricken region. As a result, the shipment could mean as many as a dozen extra bags; negotiations are under way with Hawaiian Airlines to reduce or waive excess luggage fees. Private donations amounting to approximately $3000 have been received, and most of those funds will go toward fuel for the Pacific Missionary Airlines leg of the trip. Barbara Darling, AH7G/NH7FY, sponsored the 100 W portable photovoltaic system.

This preparation to provide emergency communications has occurred in just 9 days but has the complexity of a major DX expedition,” Bush said. “If everything goes well, we should be on 14.335 at 0700 UTC and possibly on 21.335 at 2100 UTC each day.”

“Look for us, but please don’t interrupt if vital communications are in progress,” Schneider stressed. This is not a DXpedition!

Tropical Cyclone Maysak also disrupted the two-person V6Z DXpedition, set up at a resort on the FSM’s Truk (Chuuk) Island, when it took down all of their antennas on March 29. Chris Tran, GM3WOJ/ZL1CT and Keith Kerr, GM4YXI, planned to be active until April 9.

Ham Aid equipment is available on loan from ARRL to Amateur Radio organizations during disaster responses when communication equipment is in short supply or not available. For more information, contact Emergency Preparedness Assistant Ken Bailey, K1FUG. 

 



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