ARRL Ham Aid Go Kits Support Amateur Radio Operations During Hurricane Gustav -- and Beyond
As Amateur Radio operators prepared for Hurricane Gustav, the ARRL deployed complete radio stations comprised of industry-donated Amateur Radio equipment, thanks to the generosity contributions of ARRL members to the Ham Aid Fund. Created in 2005 to assist with the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Ham Aid Fund is designated to fund Amateur Radio equipment needed for disaster response, including the shipping of equipment to affected-areas. In preparation for Hurricane Gustav, ARRL received requests for radio equipment from Louisiana and Texas. The shipping costs for this equipment were covered by the Ham Aid Fund.
According to Assistant Manager of the Member and Volunteer Programs Department Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, several kits were shipped to Louisiana; Fusaro is handling Ham Aid requests during Hurricane Gustav. "We sent three HF kits, 3 VHF/UHF kits and a combination kit complete with HF, VHF and handheld transceiver to the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) facility in Baton Rouge, as well as four VHF/UHF base antennas and a support box that included coax, rope, wire antennas and connectors." Fusaro also said that a 600 W amplifier was sent to Jim Coleman in Bogalusa, Louisiana to be used at the Emergency Operations Center there, and an HF radio was sent to Joel Colman, NO5FD, replacing his rig that was damaged during set up at the firehouse.
"To me, these Go Kits ramp up ARRL's ability to support Amateur Radio volunteers in the field when the next big disaster hits," said ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH. "They won't replace or supplant anything that's already on the ground and working well, but the kits will strengthen it and add flexibility to Amateur Radio's overall response capabilities."
In setting up these Go Kits, League staffers consulted with volunteers who were in the field during Hurricane Katrina to find out what gear served them best or what they wished they'd had but didn't. The Go Kits, stowed in rugged, waterproof Pelican 1650 containers, enable the League to loan out needed equipment on a moment's notice. "The idea is that this makes it easy to ship," explains Fusaro, "and since they're less than 50 pounds apiece, they can be shipped by air."
The HF Kit contains a 100 W HF transceiver, a tuner and antenna, a microphone and a power supply. The VHF/UHF Kit includes a dualband mobile transceiver, power supply, headset, 10 handheld transceivers and a supply of alkaline batteries. In the Handheld Transceiver Kit are eight dualband handheld transceivers and antennas, plus a stock of extra batteries. The Support Kit includes a length of BuryFlex 213 coaxial cable, rope, 15 foot jumper cables with battery clamps at one end and an Anderson Powerpole on the other. The kit includes various fittings and adapters to connect to the power distribution unit and to make RF feed line connections. All kits contain any necessary manuals.
Hobart said it's imperative to sustain and enhance ham radio's emergency communication capabilities for the future: "Disasters happen to be one place Amateur Radio can shine," she pointed out. "We need to maintain a high level of readiness to do those things that are second nature to ARES® members, but that the public is just coming to recognize." Making the Go Kits available to ARES teams, Hobart said, will help to cement Amateur Radio's position as a community resource. "We want to be able to ensure that we have the personnel and the equipment," she said. "With a disaster of any magnitude, we need to be ready."
Since the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, Hobart said that the Ham Aid fund has been depleted. "With more storms on the horizon, the ARRL is seeking member contributions to rebuild the Ham Aid Fund. This vital lifeline of resources to support the ARRL Field Organization and Amateur Radio Volunteers will benefit from the renewed generosity of radio amateurs." Contributions in any amount can be made online.