Ham radio operators are a big part of emergency communications in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Now, local operators are taking part in the largest ever amateur radio severe weather drill. It simulates what would happen if a massive weather disaster happened here.
Just steps away from the WHIO-TV newsroom, ham radio experts come in whenever there's the potential for severe weather to the SKYWARN office. There, Mike Carter and Don Parker today were communicating with the outside world using ham radios in a drill called Black Swan.
“Dayton SKYWARN will be putting out the weather alerts that we receive from National Weather Service. This is basically following the same event we had June 29, 2012, where we had a derecho come through and do all the damage,” Don Parker, Dayton SKYWARN coordinator said.
While this is only an exercise, it mimics what’s happening now in Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory lost power from Hurricane Maria, which is keeping people there in a black hole of communications.
Volunteers with the American Radio Relay League, which certifies ham radio operators, flew to the island to help connect Puerto Ricans with their loved ones.
“They put a call out for ham radio operators on Monday ... on Thursday, 50 of them went down. They had over 350 people apply for that and they will send those down to relive the ones already down there,” Parker said.
The important role amateur radio operators play in times of disaster is why they are participating in the Black Swan exercise. This way if anything happens, they will be ready to help.