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Amateur Radio Well Represented at National Hurricane Conference

05/07/2008

More than 2000 people attended the 30th Annual National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Florida March31-April 4. Conference Chairman Max Mayfield stated in his opening remarks that he was pleased to see such a turnout, despite the fact that the 2007 hurricane season didn't impact the United States as in past years. ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, attended on behalf of the League.

According to Dura, Amateur Radio was well represented in the pre-Conference training with a variety of presentations. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) maintains a fully equipped and functional Amateur Radio station at its headquarters, WX4NHC. Station coordinators John McHugh, K4AG, and Julio Ripoll, WD4R, provided a comprehensive overview of the activities of the NHC, emphasizing the interaction and importance of Amateur Radio in the forecasting of tropical events. McHugh further detailed the Caribbean Amateur Radio Meteorological Emergency Network (CARMEN) program, discussing how the program in its current stage can use revitalization and rebuilding to provide improved information to the NHC.

Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net Rob Macedo, KD1CY, presented a detailed overview of the system that integrates EchoLink and the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP). "For the past few years," Dura said, "this operation has been building to become another reliable source of information for the National Hurricane Center."

Dura and Macedo offered the final Amateur Radio presentation of the Conference, "Disaster Intelligence and Situational Awareness Utilizing Amateur Radio." This discussion went beyond the traditional uses of Amateur Radio into the areas of damage assessment, infrastructure monitoring, communications systems replacement and rapid situational analyses, Dura said.

According to Dura, NHC Director Bill Read, KB5FYA, has had an active past using Amateur Radio at NWS facilities. "He personally utilized ham radio during SKYWARN activations dealing with severe weather. He completely understands and acknowledges the vital role we play in providing the National Hurricane Center through WX4NHC. He hopes to have some time in his new role to actually get on the air with the hams of WX4NHC and once again use our tremendous resource of information gathering," Dura said.

During the Conference, Read praised Amateur Radio, saying, "Ham radio has always played a critical role in emergencies. What goes out when you have a high wind event or major flooding is the communications system, so you lose even cell phones, landline phones, commercial radio and TV. In those cases, ham radio operators that can put up emergency transmitters and antennas in the wake of a storm can give us reports that are valuable. They also help in the search and rescue efforts in the aftermath."



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