ARRL Provides "Vital Role" in Emergency Communications, Thanks to CNCS Grants
Three years later, the two grants from the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) are still at work. In the days following Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita in the fall of 2005, ARRL received generous support -- almost $200,000 -- from CNCS to assist with Amateur Radio's response. While some funding went to support the efforts of individual hams who had served along the Gulf Coast, a portion of the grant funded additional resources to strengthen ARRL's response capabilities.
Based on after-action reports from the field, ARRL applied the grant funds to several critical areas of ARRL emergency operation, such as expanding the capabilities of W1AW -- including a backup generator for the station, funding the purchase of watertight containers for industry-donated equipment for shipping complete Amateur Radio stations to disaster locations, and a telephone conference bridge to facilitate daily updates from field leadership in affected areas. These upgrades to ARRL facilities were in place by September 2006.
This month, as ARRL and Amateur Radio prepare to play a vital role in providing emergency communications during Hurricane Gustav, the capabilities made possible by the Corporation for National & Community Service became important once again. As the radio amateurs in Texas and Louisiana prepared for the landfall of the first major hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since Katrina, requests for radio equipment came to ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD. Working with Membership and Volunteer Programs Assistant Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, Dura gathered the material needed to fulfill the requests -- radio, coax, antenna, power supply and more -- packed the items in watertight Pelican cases purchased with CNCS funding and shipped them to ARRL Field Leadership.
As early as Thursday, August 28, the conference bridge was used for daily conference calls that included Section Managers from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, ARRL staff and Board members. With a direct link to the field well in advance of landfall, the response team was able to ensure that all needs were covered and everyone knew the details of the operations response plan.
ARRL's flagship station, W1AW, stood ready to monitor ARES® and tactical Nets from Texas to Florida. In the event that power was lost at ARRL Headquarters, W1AW was operational, thanks to sources of backup power funded by CNCS. In addition, new filters had been purchased and W1AW was capable of operating in all three operating suites, thanks to a team of volunteers who manned the station over the long Labor Day weekend.
Under the leadership of Dennis Dura, K2DCD, and the generosity of CNCS, ARRL Headquarters and the ARRL Field Organization are better equipped to monitor and manage response to disasters -- when all else fails!