The Caribbean Emergency Weather Network (CEWN) on 7.188 and 3.815 MHz continues actively handling emergency and priority traffic in the wake of Hurricane Maria — especially for Dominica and Puerto Rico but for any storm-affected area in the Caribbean where storm damage was severe. A YouTube live stream is available, compliments of ARRL Santa Barbara Section Technical Advisor Ben Kuo, AI6YR — who has no official connection with CEWN. Kuo said the net is handling “real life-and-death traffic in Dominica,” including a situation involving someone with a broken leg and trapped in a house.
“Truly I think that the regional agencies were not ready for a calamity of this magnitude,” said Kumar Persaud, J85K, one of the CEWN net controllers. “The CEWN operators have ended up filling the communications gap for the agencies, without any prior briefing.”
The net is dealing with a tremendous volume of traffic for Dominica and Puerto Rico, he told ARRL, with a handful of stations handling emergency and priority communications for a million or more people. The CEWN said that at this time, its operators are unable to deal with health-and-welfare traffic. The CEWN is handling health-and-welfare inquiries via e-mail. Requesters should indicate your name and location and the name and location of the person(s) they’re trying to locate, plus an e-mail address or telephone number for a response.
On September 21, the net experienced what Kuo described as deliberate interference. Dominica suffered a direct hit by Hurricane Maria on September 18-19, resulting in a loss of all power and a total blackout of communication to the outside world, except for Amateur Radio. Kuo said stations in Puerto Rico also report having no power, telephone service, or water and “everything devastated.”
Kuo cited hams on St. Lucia and on Dominica, and others outside the region, for coordinating and collecting inbound health-and-welfare traffic as well as coordinating the landing of the emergency relief vessels from Barbuda and advising rescue groups on logistics. The net also has been an only communication path for government communication. “For the public, the only link to information on their families in Dominica was a Facebook broadcast of an EchoLink node to the island by Brian Machesny, K1LI/J75Y,” Kuo said. “That node — on St. Lucia — allowed hams to monitor traffic in Dominica on the local J73MAN repeater.” Because of poor HF band conditions, no propagation was available to the US, but the J69DS remote station provided direct access from St. Lucia to nets on 80 and 40 meters, he said.
The J69DS RemoteHams server is on listening to the CEWN on HF, and EchoLink (J62DX node) is on the UHF repeater in Dominica. Do not transmit unless you have valid traffic for the net.
There’s more information on the Amateur Radio response on the Hurricane Maria – Dominica Amateur Radio Communications (DARCI) Facebook page.
National Public Radio (NPR) highlighted the role of Amateur Radio in the Dominica response in a September 21 story.