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Hurricane Idalia: ARRL Amateur Radio Volunteers Serve


Volunteers of ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® were using their Amateur Radio Service license privileges to serve communities affected by Hurricane Idalia. Idalia made landfall Wednesday, August 30 on Florida's Big Bend region as a Category 3 storm sustaining winds of 125 miles per hour. The storm tracked across Georgia and into South Carolina, and on Thursday morning it had moved offshore of North Carolina.

ARRL volunteers staffed key positions across the affected region. Section Emergency Coordinator of the ARRL Northern Florida Section Arc Thames, W4CPD, led the activation of Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) volunteers within the Section. Thames said the ARES volunteers would be staffing the radio room at the state Emergency Operation Center (EOC) until 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 31 and will provide additional service if needed. "So far there does not appear to be a large communications impact that would require amateur radio support," he said.

The Florida Statewide Amateur Radio Network (SARnet) was the primary emergency communications system used during the storm. The system is a series of linked UHF repeaters that covers the entire state. There were also HF nets linking counties to the state EOC.

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In a message to ARES leadership in the affected Sections, ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, reminded them of gear at ARRL Headquarters that can be deployed if necessary. "We have equipment assets in our Ham Aid program available to you for loan if you have a need to backfill. These can be used during - long term recovery efforts as needed," wrote Johnston.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an ARRL-requested emergency waiver to HF symbol rate limits, to allow higher speed data communications in the Amateur Radio Service response to Hurricane Idalia. Read the waiver (PDF)

Many counties in the ARRL Northern Florida Section were activated. Section Manager Scott Roberts, KK4ECR, was at the Clay County EOC for 27 hours. "We had a good number of our Northern Florida counties activated, as well as other places in the state. There were four shelters open here in Clay County alone," he said. As of press time, Roberts said the final information was still being tallied, but he knew of activations Duvall, St. Johns, Escambia, Marion, and Leon Counties.

In Ocala, the Marion County Emergency Radio Team (MERT) was activated to support shelter operations on Tuesday, August 29. Marion County ARES was placed on standby to support the MERT team and other served agencies. The county was spared the brunt of the impact. Marion County ARES Emergency Coordinator Hayden Kaufman, N2HAY, said the activation identified some opportunities for improvement in the area's disaster response. "We were very fortunate to have had little to do. However, the activation provided us some insight on factors that would impede communications in an emergency," he said.

Ham volunteers worked with the County Sheriff's office to ensure the amateur radio equipment onboard the Marion County Mobile Command Center was fully operational before it was deployed to Madison County, the area most heavily impacted by the storm.

Kaufman thanked the many local volunteers for their service during the hurricane. "I am personally proud to be a member of our increasingly tight-knit EmComm community," he said.

Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the storm called for "all hands on deck". Ahead of impact, the intensity and track of the storm greatly concerned him. "I have been watching and plotting hurricanes for over 35 years. I have witnessed, many times, a Hurricane cross a state line into another as a hurricane...two states were hit by the same hurricane. Never have I seen a storm cross three States as a Hurricane," said Graves.

The WX4NHC amateur radio station at the National Hurricane Center was also active during the storm, as was the Hurricane VoIP Net.

About Amateur Radio and ARRL

Amateur Radio Service licensees use their training, skills, and equipment to practice radio communications and develop radio technology. Amateur Radio Operators volunteer their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in public service and during emergencies. Amateur Radio also provides a basis for hands-on STEM education and pathways to careers.

ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® was founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, and is a noncommercial organization of Radio Amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active Radio Amateurs (or “hams”) in the US and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting Amateur Radio. For more information about ARRL and Amateur Radio, visit

About ARES®

Amateur Radio Operators, or “hams,” have a long history of serving their communities when storms or other disasters damage critical communication infrastructure, such as cell phone towers and fiber optic networks. Amateur radio functions completely independently of the internet and phone systems, and a ham radio station can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Amateurs can quickly raise a wire antenna in a tree or on a mast, connect it to a radio and power source, and communicate effectively with others.

The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES® consists of hams who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment with their local ARES leadership for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. They use their training, skills, and equipment to prepare for and provide communications during emergencies When All Else Fails®.



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