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ARDC Grants Will Expand Emergency Capabilities in Haiti and the US Virgin Islands

11/24/2021

Grants from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) will benefit amateur radio emergency communication networks in Haiti and the US Virgin Islands (USVI).

The $14,864 grant to the Haiti International Friendship Amateur Radio Club (HIFARC) will enable the club to set up a network of HF stations to provide emergency communications to remote areas cut off by the August 2021 earthquake. The 7.2-magnitude earthquake made evident the urgent need for better emergency communications. The earthquake completely cut off communications to some areas of the country, making emergency responders unable to get information on the extent of the damage caused and what supplies and equipment were needed. The lack of communication capability hindered the ability of responders to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

The HIFARC, in coordination with the Radio Club d’Haiti, plans to set up an HF emergency communications network. Haitian amateurs have identified six potential stations, and HIFARC plans to provide the equipment and personnel to set them up. Grant funds will allow HIFARC to outfit each station with a small generator, an HF transceiver, a power supply, and a wire antenna.

Working closely with the Radio Club d’Haiti, HIFARC helps to train new hams and bolster the emergency communications network there.

The St. Croix Amateur Radio Club (STXARC) in the USVI will use its ARDC grant to augment the territory’s repeater infrastructure, enabling the purchase of backup repeaters, improving repeater coverage, and training and equipping new hams.

When two Category 5 hurricanes — Irma and Maria — hit the USVI in 2017, hams gathered to help. The two monster storms left the power grid and communication infrastructure in shambles, with 95% of St. Croix’s electric utility poles and antenna structures dismantled. The USVI government’s primary land mobile radio (LMR) trunked radio system was essentially non-functional, and the Army National Guard couldn’t be heard on any radio frequency for a week following the storms.

Territory amateur radio clubs went into action, employing skills learned during hundreds of hours of training exercises. St. Croix ham operators quickly established a daily HF net to support first responders. A single surviving ham repeater provided limited communications between islands. These links provided critical information and communications for governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as local emergency managers and law enforcement.

The $27,955 ARDC grant will enable USVI hams to bolster the amateur radio infrastructure and train new operators to improve ham radio’s ability to respond to future disasters. The funds will allow the Virgin Islands Amateur Radio Group (VIARG) — a group formed after the 2017 hurricanes — to purchase backup repeaters, more resilient antennas that will also expand coverage, and training materials.

ARRL US Virgin Islands Section Manager and VIARG President Fred Kleber, K9VV/NP2X, commented, “The generous ARDC grant will allow VIARG to improve and harden the territory’s critical amateur repeater system, and adding digital communications capabilities marks a new chapter for new and future territory amateurs.”

ARDC funds projects and organizations that follow amateur radio’s practice and tradition of technical experimentation in both amateur radio and digital communication science and technology.  



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