Statement from ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP
My fellow Amateur Radio Operators:
There is no doubt that the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina will be the largest and longest emergency actions that hams have ever undertaken. It will also be one of the hardest, not simply due to the large areas involved, but also because many of us have friends and relatives directly impacted by this catastrophe. For them, and all the people of the Gulf region, we ask divine aid and comfort in this time of sorrows.
But we are also hardened and resolved to turn this event into one of the most glorious opportunities to show the unique attributes of ham radio–it works! You know that. We can again show the world that we have the best trained, most ingenious and dedicated ARES and RACES operators ever in history. We have the attention of the world press, and we will show what ham radio can do.
This will not happen in a week, not even in a month. The recovery efforts will be drawn out over numerous states and are expected to go well into the winter. Hams will grow weary and need relief and replacement from all across America. The ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, is already working on strategic plans to make it possible for these volunteers to come. Our goal is to provide the SECs with all the support we can muster and allow them to do their jobs.
There is a curious coincidence in the fact that the United Technologies grant, which allowed the ARRL to train so many thousands of hams in emergency communications, ends this week. Now we are seeing the results of that effort. Disciplined hams, using correct procedures have already saved many lives, and will save hundreds more by providing timely, accurate and critical communications to our served agencies. To the students, mentors, organizers, funders and teachers of those courses we can only say, “Well done!”
I know many people would like to move now. Please don’t. I know many of you want to enter the fray, come to the coast and get involved. Please, not yet. Instead, get yourself ready. Refresh your skills and knowledge of protocols and procedures. Once the agencies are able to complete a preliminary needs assessment, we will know who is needed and where. For now, the area is simply too dangerous and no one is being allowed in. Transportation and logistics, including volunteer groups coming in, must be done in an orderly manner or we may only add to the chaos and confusion. Information and coordination for such a historically large response is being developed and will be made available soon. But for now, work through your SECs and follow their lead. I would also ask that you be professional and disciplined whenever checking into an HF net. Net control is a difficult job at best, so be respectful. If you have traffic fine, but if not, please stand by.
There is already no doubt that when the history of this event is written, the role of Amateur Radio will be one of honor. Unpaid volunteers who came through for their country and communities when all other systems failed or were overwhelmed. By working together and mutually supporting each other, we can perhaps give these very dark days a small glint of glory. Let these be the days that hams, decades from now, remember with pride. Together we can–and will–make it happen because, after all, we are hams.