HRN 359, EmComm Extra #18: Force of Two

Can you tell the complete story of ham radio in the recovery effort on Puerto Rico following hurricanes Irma and Maria in two and a half hours? 

Well... no. OK, you probably could if you spend a couple months producing a highly edited documentary. Maybe somebody's going to do that. But right now you can listen to our guests, Jeremy Dougherty NS0S and Michael Smith N5TGL recount their experiences. They each spent almost three weeks on the island, mostly in the field (in separate locations), mostly with just one other ham, in areas that had zero communications with San Juan or the rest of the world until they arrived. 

This is not the story you'll hear on Ham Nation, and probably not the one you'll read in QST. If there was a plan, it was barely a plan. And it fell apart immediately. There was a lack of leadership and coordination, and little understanding of what the hams would face once they left San Juan. Both Jeremy and Michael were frustrated, yet they carried on with the mission, improvising both their interaction with local authorities and the technology they had to work with. In some cases they had to battle bureaucracy to get the job done.

We probed Jeremy and Michael for details, and we got a lot. Jeremy in particular has a bitter story of his final experiences. That begins at an hour and fifty minutes in, so if you can't listen to the whole program, skip down to that. And note that there are two sides (at least) to that story, and we're only presenting Jeremy's side here. HamRadioNow is open to presenting the counterpoint, or maybe you'll hear that on another show.

Here's the link to Jeremy's Extreme EmComm document.

Radio Rating: A. This is a talking-head show. We'll look at Puerto Rico on Google Maps some, and if you're not familiar with the island, it'll help to look at the map a bit.

Michael took a lot of pictures – some of the general island devastation, and some of the amateur radio activity. You can look at them here on his Flickr feed.

Another deployed ham, Wey Walker K8EAB, posted a 35-minute video on YouTube showing both the area of the island he headed to, and amateur radio there and in San Juan. It's very much an 'amateur' video, but it will add to your understanding of what hams did there.