disaster prep

Hurricane Season: A test of Ham Radio's Relevance

Just before hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria formed in the Atlantic, I started thinking more about our earthquake preparedness kit.  Ham radio is a small part of my preparedness kit since I might be able to hit the local repeaters used by ARES and RACES for...   For what exactly - I'm not sure.  Something useful I'm sure. 

One of the mantras of ham radio is that this is all going to come in handy in a natural disaster or other crazy situation.  The gear, the training, the time spend hanging out with geeky old guys with belt-packs and suspenders - all of it is going to pay off when us hams swing into action and save the day.  In the meantime we have fun at events like Wildflower and Field Day to play with all our toys and keep in practice.

So the hurricanes blaze across the Caribbean wiping out infrastructure left and right and leaving communication networks and power infrastructure destroyed.  Puerto Rico is going to be out of power for a month or more.  Barbuda is leveled.  The Virgin Islands are hit hard.  Cell phone towers are out of action, and infrastructure is so poorly damaged that generators will be running out of gas before they can be refueled.

This is Ham Radio's time to shine.  In the story Hams tell themselves, there will be amateurs deployed to hospitals, police stations, airports, etc. to keep things running smoothly in the absence of normal communications.  

Messages will be relayed, recovery efforts will be coordinated, we'll get to use our leatherman tools and our reflective vests and we'll be the most popular people around.  Our prep for working off the grid with self-contained power and no reliance on fixed infrastructure or corporate control is perfectly suited for something like this. 

If Ham Radio doesn't show real value in September and October 2017 then maybe it's time to re-assess our expectations of ham radio's place in massive disasters.

In the meantime, take a look at your own disaster prep kit, buy a couple more jugs of water, and talk to your family about what you're all going to do when the Big One comes.   Because it's going to be your turn at some point.