Hurricane Maria Dominica Ham Radio

Update: January 3, 2019

FANTASTIC PROGRESS REPORT AND A NEW YEAR'S REQUEST

John Christian, J73CC, recently reported that more than 150 new hams have been licensed on Dominica! This amazing accomplishment reflects the deep commitment and hard work of DARCI members from Field Days to classrooms. Thanks to your donations, Dominica's hams are now in a much stronger position to assist with emergency response.

But our work is not finished! Two long-range antennas, donated by John, N1JP and Ron, KK1L, began their journey to Dominica yesterday. They should arrive in early February, in time for us to assist with their installation at the DARCI headquarters station.

We would appreciate your help raising $500 to cover shipping and customs expenses. Even the smallest contribution is meaningful and sharing this appeal via social media will help us spread the good news.

Happy new year to all,

Brian Machesney K1LI

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Update: November 17, 2017

BIG, BIG NEWS - EAST COAST NOW HAS EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS REPEATER!

Below is a note from Brian Machesney - the co-organizer of our gofundme campaign. It’s in “ham radio speak” so I’ll translate for non-Amateur Radio Operators.

The “Dominica Amateur Radio Club” (DARCI) has built a ‘repeater station’ which will be operated by Joseph Guiste in Castle Bruce.

A ‘repeater’ is a like a big signal-booster. The little hand-held radios (walkie talkies) don’t have enough signal strength to make it up over the mountains, and be heard on the other side of the island. But they do have enough power to make it to the repeater on the same side of the island. Then the repeater “jacks up the signal” and relays it, so everyone can hear.

For those of you who were tuning in to our live feeds the day after the hurricane, you were hearing the ham radio traffic on Dominica thanks to two repeaters - the only surviving repeater on Dominica was allowing the hams to talk to each other (signals were sent up to the repeater and boosted back to everyone).

And it was also sending their traffic to another repeater on St.Lucia run by Frans van Santbrink. Frans shared the signal on a restricted computer program called Echolink. I accessed that program and relayed it live on Facebook to all of you.

Without those repeaters - well, thank goodness for the repeaters or we wouldn’t have been able to hear any of it.

Unfortunately, a second repeater servicing the east and southeast of Dominica was destroyed, which is why it took weeks for so many people to hear news of their families in those areas.

The attached map is the latest “Emergency Communications” map by OCHA. This repeater will help fill the void in the large pink zones with virtually no cell service.

This repeater means that radio operators will now be able to relay calls for help or assistance, or even messages from village to village along the east coast.

There’s so much work still to be done but this is a really big milestone. Thank you again to everyone who donated to make this happen.

And a big thank you to all of the Amateur Radio Operators on Dominica who continue to work so tirelessly.

Yours,

Michelle Guenard
Admin of “Hurricane Maria - Dominica Amateur Radio Communications Page”

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(From Brian Machesney)
Dave Larsen learned in a QSO today with Clem, J73CI that one of the FT-8900 stations has been successfully deployed as a cross-band repeater at the QTH of Joseph, J73JT in Castle Bruce. Located approximately mid-way along Dominica's eastern coast, this installation restores repeater access for HTs in a number of underserved villages.

This is another example of the impact of our cooperative efforts. Yaesu supplied the FT-8900, the AC power supply (for when the main power is restored), as well as the FT-65R HTs, chargers and spare batteries that will be used in villages up and down the coast. FAIRS supplied the solar panel, controller and LFP battery system. GoFundMe payed for the base station antenna and coax. And we got good advice from the experienced participation of all of the donors.

It's always rewarding to be part of a winning team.

73 -- Brian Machesney K1LI


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Brian was interviewed by Walt Palmer, W4ALT, before leaving for Dominica. Walt is the Emergency Communications Editor for CQ Amateur Radio. Brian talks about the project and the impact he hopes it will have on ham radio in Dominica. Paste this link into your browser to listen to the interview:

www.cq-amateur-radio.com/ot/emcomm-ot-brian-machesney-122017.zip


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It was a long and very bumpy ride but Brian and Dave and all the gear managed to land at Canefield Airport just before sunset on Monday. Huge relief!

They managed to land and refuel at San Juan’s, and take off again, despite stormy weather.

Thanks to all of you, we hit our goal of $30,000 - big number! We used all your donations and combined it with donations from the YASME Foundation, the Yaesu Equipment manufacturer and FAIRS to bring a full communications network to the island.

Now that it’s on the ground we’ll post regular updates on where it’s all going. And internet permitting, we’ll even post pictures!

We are still getting donations and support and we thank you! 
From now on though, we need you to tell us where you want your money to go.
It can be put in a fund for future training and licensing of new hams.
We also would like to contribute to “Dominica Airlift - Angels to Eden”. The fuel costs were estimated at $1,500 to get the gear down.
Or we could use it for fuel to power generators to recharge batteries.
Or, for anything else you think we can make happen. Just tell us.

Thank you again, from everyone at the “Dominica Amateur Radio Club Inc.”!







Read this NPR story of DARCI's role during Hurricane Maria



We have been hard at work with charitable foundations, manufacturers and pilots. Together, we will develop, deliver and deploy a coordinated package of radios, antennas and power sources. This will create a local, regional and long-haul communications network. This $30,000 effort will reinforce and extend the reach of the existing repeater-based ham radio communications system.

In addition to the ten handheld transceivers being delivered to Dominica today, your contributions will provide power supplies, antennas and accessories that will complete two different sets of stations. Four HF stations are being funded by one of the foundations. Six VHF/UHF stations are being donated by an equipment manufacturer. A second foundation will provide solar-charged battery systems to provide primary or backup power to the stations, as needed.

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In the immediate aftermath of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Maria on Dominica, the only on-the-ground reports to reach the outside world came from the ham radio operators of the Dominica Amateur Radio Club. Over 60,000 people viewed our first live feed after the storm and many thousands more listened in as the relief and recovery efforts got underway.

Despite the damage and even destruction of their own homes, these dedicated volunteers established a network that is coordinating rescue and humanitarian efforts through the Emergency Operations Center in Roseau. Sadly, many communities without a ham radio station and operator have been completely cut off, unable to communicate their needs for food, water and medical assistance to those who can provide them.

This campaign is our response to the many expats who contacted us, wanting to buy ham radios for Dominica. With your support, we will equip and train enough operators so that all Dominicans will be within walking distance of a station. Please identify the community you wish to serve when you make your donation.

The funds will be used exclusively to purchase radios, antennas and associated accessories essential to communication and deliver them to Dominica. There will be no paid staff, no administrative and no travel expenses. The Dominica Amateur Radio Club (DARCI) will be consulted before purchases are made to ensure that the equipment is appropriate and will be sited to connect villages around the country to the centers of emergency services. The equipment purchased may be new or used and we will seek charitable and quantity discounts from equipment manufacturers to maximize the value delivered to the people of Dominica.

Dominica's National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) partnered with DARCI in 2016 to ensure that adequate numbers of ham radio operators are available. In addition to veteran operators, many of the voices we have heard on the air are those of operators newly licensed as a direct result of that partnership, indicating the robust support ham radio enjoys in Dominica.

We extend deepest thanks to Frans van Santbrink, J69DX, of St Lucia. The J6 Portable group provides the EchoLink connection to the Dominica repeater which was the source for our live feeds. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the participants in the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) who volunteered countless hours passing message traffic to and from Dominica.

Michelle and her husband, Brian Machesney, have been regular visitors to Dominica for more than a decade. As long time ham radio operator K1LI in Vermont, USA and J75Y in Dominica, Brian has worked closely with NTRC and DARCI, who will identify their short and long term equipment needs. Brian will purchase equipment to meet these needs and determine the most efficient means to get the equipment to the ham operators in Dominica. Records of all purchases and shipments will be maintained for donors' inspection.
  • Anonymous 
    • $3,000 (Offline)
    • 48 mos
  • Keith Gordon 
    • $100 
    • 49 mos
  • Eric Torraca 
    • $50 
    • 49 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 49 mos
  • David Larsen 
    • $100 
    • 49 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Michelle Guenard 
Organizer
Craftsbury, VT
Brian Machesney 
Beneficiary
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