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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB054 (2003)

ARLB054 Hams a bright spot during power blackout

QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 54  ARLB054
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  August 18, 2003
To all radio amateurs 

ARLB054 Hams a bright spot during power blackout

When a power blackout struck at least a half dozen eastern states
August 14, many Amateur Radio operators were ready and able to
provide whatever assistance they could. Hardest hit were
metropolitan areas like New York City, Detroit and Cleveland. With
cellular systems overloaded or out altogether, the incident turned
into a test of Amateur Radio's capabilities to operate without
commercial power.

New York City-Long Island Section Emergency Coordinator Tom
Carrubba, KA2D, called the response "a good drill," but says it was
a cautionary tale too. "The lesson is that everybody gets a little
complacent," he said. "Have emergency power backup and make sure
it's working!" By and large, Carrubba said, ARES members did what
they were trained to do. "It's going to show the worth of Amateur
Radio," he said of the blackout response. "There were people on the
air immediately."

Diane Ortiz, K2DO, the Public Information Coordinator for NYC-Long
Island was one of them. When power went down in her Suffolk County
community, she started up an informal VHF net. Over the next 20
hours or so, it passed some 500 pieces of traffic. In addition to
handling messages for people stranded in the city, amateurs also
relayed useful information, such as which stores or filling stations
were open and operating. With many radio and TV stations dark, hams
were able to help fill the information void, Ortiz said.

In the Big Apple itself, ARES teams provided communication support
for Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) set up at main
transportation centers in Manhattan. ARES members also accompanied
ERVs on fire calls.

RACES activated in most Greater New York City area counties after a
state of emergency was declared. Some ARES teams--including a few
across the Hudson River in New Jersey--activated or remained on
standby to help if called upon. In New Jersey, a net linked the Red
Cross lead chapter's N2ARC in Princeton with other New Jersey ARC

Michigan Section Manager Dale Williams, WA8EFK, relied on his
emergency generator. Some Michigan ARES teams assisted emergency
operations centers and the Red Cross, he said. In Ohio, Section
Emergency Coordinator Larry Rain, WD8IHP, reports that all ARES
organizations in northern Ohio were activated. Still going strong at
week's end were ARES teams in Cleveland and Akron. ARES handled
communication support for Ohio Emergency Management.

Nancy Hall, KC4IYD--who lives west of Cleveland--said she's glad she
took the ARRL Emergency Communications Level I class. "I have to say
that being a ham and knowing about emergency preparedness did make
life easier for me and my family," she said.


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