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Amateur Radio Preparations Ramp Up as Irma Strengthens to Category 5


Hurricane Irma, making its way through the Caribbean with the possibility of affecting South Florida by week’s end, has, in the words of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), become “an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane.” The NHC urged that hurricane preparations be rushed to completion in areas now under hurricane warnings.

As of 1800 UTC, Hurricane Irma was some 180 miles east of Antigua and 185 miles east-southeast of Barbuda, with maximum sustained winds of 185 MPH. The storm is moving west at 14 MPH.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the VoIP Hurricane Net will activate later today. “Yogi Berra once said, ‘It’s déjà vu all over again!’” quipped HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. “Just as Harvey rapidly intensified overnight, Irma did the same.”

The HWN will activate at 1800 UTC (2 PM EDT) on its primary frequency of 14.325 MHz and will remain in continuous operation until further notice, Graves said. Daytime operation will begin at 1100 UTC each day continuing for as long as propagation allows. Operation on 7.268 MHz will start at 2200 UTC and continue overnight. “If propagation dictates, we will operate both frequencies at the same time,” Graves said. The HWN marks its 52nd anniversary this week.

He noted that HWN operation on 7.268 MHz will pause at 1130 UTC, and, if required, resume at approximately 1230 UTC, to allow the Waterway Net to conducts its daily net.

The VoIP Hurricane Net has announced plans to activate no later than 2200 UTC on Tuesday; WX4NHC at the NHC will activate at 2200 UTC on Tuesday. Both the HWN and the VoIP Hurricane Network relay hurricane “ground-truth” information to the NHC to assist forecasters. Any Amateur Radio operators in the affected area of Irma or with relays into the affected area of Irma are asked to provide surface and damage reports into the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center.

Any SKYWARN Nets active as Irma moves into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that can pass reports to the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC are asked to designate a net liaison or connect directly to the *WX_TALK* EchoLink conference node: 7203/IRLP 9219. Stations on All-Star can connect to the Echolink side of the system by dialing *033007203.

IARU Region 2 Emergency Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, has compiled a list of emergency frequencies, subject to change, for use in the Caribbean in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

  • Puerto Rico: 3.803, 3.808, 7.188 MHz. Radio amateurs in Puerto Rico also will cooperate with the HWN on 7.268 and 14.325 MHz.
  • Cuba: Daylight hours, 7.110 MHz (primary) and 7.120 MHz (secondary); Provincial Net — 7.045, 7.080 MHz, and on other lower frequencies as necessary. Nighttime, 3.740 MHz (primary) and 3.720 MHz (secondary) and on other lower frequencies as necessary.
  • Dominican Republic: 3.873 MHz (primary), 3.815 MHz (secondary), 7.182 MHz (primary), 7.255 MHz (secondary); 14.330 MHz (primary), 21.360 MHz (primary), 28.330 MHz (primary).
  • Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN): 3.815 MHz and 7.162 MHz (when necessary). NOTE: Net will activate continuously starting this evening until the hurricane has passed through.

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has not yet announced plans to activate, but SATERN is encouraging its operators to start monitoring the HWN. On Wednesday, September 6, the International SATERN SSB Net will move to a Delta II (extended monitoring) status from 1400 until 2300 UTC. SATERN National Liaison Bill Feist, WB8BZH, said that schedule could hold through the end of the week. Stations on the net will seek information on emergency, priority, or health-and-welfare traffic; situation and hurricane damage, and communication disruptions. SATERN will not accept health-and-welfare inquiries.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that several FEMA Regions will activate the 5 MHz/60-meter band interoperability frequencies in support of a possible response to Hurricane Irma on September 5. Direct communication between federal and Amateur stations is permitted. FEMA stations are:

  • Region 1 — KF1EMA
  • Region 2 — KF2EMA (includes Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands)
  • Region 3 — KF3EMA
  • Region 4 — KF4EMA
  • Region 6 — KF6EMA
  • Maynard MERS — NF1EMA
  • Thomasville MERS — NF4EMA
  • Denton MERS — NF6EMA  

These suppressed-carrier reference frequencies, also known as dial frequencies or window frequencies, 5330.5 kHz (voice), 5346.5 kHz (data), 5357.0 kHz, 5371.5 kHz, and 5403.5 kHz, may be used as part of the event. The FEMA point of contact is Dave Adsit, KG4BIR, FEMA Spectrum Manager, (540) 272-4605.



The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) reminded licensees this week that FCC rules address operation during emergencies. “These rules allow licensees to provide emergency communications during a period of emergency in a manner or configuration not specified in the station authorization or in the rules governing such stations,” the FCC said. The FCC contact for Part 97 (Amateur Service) rules is Mike Regiec, (717) 338-2603. During non-business hours, contact the FCC Operations Center, (202) 418-1122.



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