Ham shack (Source: Nathan Nixon, 2018).

Tribal Ham Radio Operators Cut Through the Storm

In September 2017, the National Tribal Amateur Radio Association (NTARA) – in conjunction with the Fresno Amateur Radio Emergency Services Group and Tulare County Amateur Radio Club – set up and operated Amateur Radio Special Event Station W7NTV during the National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC) annual conference. Held at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, California, this was the second year that NTEMC and NTARA set up and operated the special event station.

President Nathan Nixon of NTARA, along with several volunteers and NTEMC staff persons manned and operated the station from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily during the conference, which was held 18-22 September 2017. During that event, the special event station made 312 contacts across the United States, to include places like Hawaii, Canada, and as far away as South America. Each year, this event shines light on the importance of amateur radio emergency communications in tribal communities and demonstrates how, when other communications systems fail during times of disaster, amateur radio can still communicate across the country and the world.

During the conference, a representative from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approached the National Tribal Emergency Management Council’s Executive Director, Lynda Zambrano, and asked if there might be any attendees from the Miccosukee Tribe in Florida present at the conference. He was trying to make contact with the tribe, but was unsuccessful due to the Hurricane Irma. Zambrano suggested that, since much of the infrastructure had been compromised, using the National Tribal Amateur Radio Station at the conference might be a more viable resource that he could use. The CDC tribal liaison officer contacted the operators at the special event station to verify if the Miccosukee tribal elders received a physician they requested during the height of the hurricane.

With assistance at the special event station, the operators were able to contact other licensed amateur radio operators in Florida who were able to make contact with the Miccosukee Tribal Police Department. The operators were advised that the electric and phone services in the area had been severely damaged. Through the long-distance amateur radio communications, it was determined that the individuals in the Miccosukee Tribe where unaware of any doctors that had been dispatched or arrived on scene.

This information was provided to the representative from the CDC, who thanked the operators for their dedicated persistence in obtaining the information. This instance is a perfect example of how amateur radio communications can assist tribal communities in times of disaster. This was also the second year in a row that the National Tribal Emergency Management Council and the National Tribal Amateur Radio Association successfully completed coast-to-coast communications using amateur radio in Indian country.

National Tribal Amateur Radio Association

The National Tribal Amateur Radio Association (NTARA) is an Amateur Radio Association dedicated to expanding the role and use of amateur radio in tribal communities. NTARA is open to all licensed amateur radio operators and those who are interested in amateur radio. The goal of NTARA is to provide licensing classes and testing sessions, equipment donations, and work to provide S.T.E.M. as it relates to amateur radio.



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