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Hams on Dominica Conduct “Preparedness” Field Day in Advance of Hurricane Season

04/24/2018

Members of the Dominica Amateur Radio Club Incorporated (DARCI) held a second field-day-style emergency preparedness, awareness, and recruiting exercise on April 21. Radio amateurs on the Caribbean island are continuing the process of taking on a larger role in emergency preparedness and response for the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins June 1. Dominica suffered severe damage from Hurricane Maria last September, and, using their remaining resources in the storm’s aftermath, radio amateurs there played a leading role in establishing communication links and providing necessary information to the public. Brian Machesney, K1LI, is among those assisting Dominica’s Amateur Radio community in forming a stronger position for response to future emergencies that may affect the small island nation. The Yasme Foundation, Yaesu, the Foundation for Amateur International Radio Service (FAIRS), the CDAC Network, and GoFundMe contributors have donated equipment, provided material support, or delivered training.

“The purpose of the field day was to exercise our state of preparedness, expose the novice class and students to a field day, get hands-on experience in setting up equipment, and make contact with the other field day stations,” said Roger Blanchard, J73MBQ, of DARCI, in a post on the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) website. DARCI blanketed the country, hosting some 150 visitors of all ages at stations set up at the J73Z club site in Canefield, the Botanical Gardens and Police Headquarters in the capital of Roseau, and at high-visibility sites in Grand Bay, Goodwill, Castle Bruce, Portsmouth, Salisbury, and Capuchin. The 6-hour exercise involved an exchange of communications among all participating stations on 75 and 40 meters, as well as on VHF and UHF.

“We also had good communications with Trinidad, Barbados, Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Anguilla,” Blanchard said. “The students were exposed to all the various modes of communication we can use as hams [and] made contact with other Amateur Radio operators.” DARCI said the purpose of the field day-style exercise “was achieved with good attendance and lots of fun.” Overall, 16 radio amateurs on Dominica took part in the exercise, chaired by John Mitchel, J73MH.

Following last year’s storms, the Dominican government has been working to establish a stronger partnership with DARCI with the goal of ensuring that future disaster communication is not entirely dependent on commercial telecommunication providers. Machesney and his wife, Michelle, are planning to get additional complete Amateur Radio stations where they are needed on Dominica.

“With the next storm season just over the horizon, the government of Dominica seems to be responding to recommendations made by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked on the ground after Hurricane Maria,” Machesney said earlier this month. Despite continuing challenges with commercial power and telecommunication services on Dominica, we have been able to establish somewhat regular channels with people we know in-country and have helped kindle training and equipping programs in several outlying areas.”

Amateur Radio on Dominica is not new — DARCI celebrated its 55th anniversary last fall — and radio amateurs have always pitched in to provide emergency communication. The Dominican government wants to tighten up its relationship with DARCI to establish a plan that would include trained radio amateurs being strategically located within governmental organizations, hospitals, and elsewhere.

“DARCI has embarked on an ambitious recruiting drive to be sure there are hams in every corner of the country,” Machesney told ARRL. He’s also hoping to get hams on Dominica and elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin more involved in ARRL Field Day, June 23 – 24.

 



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