Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers in Puerto Rico for the second year took part in the annual Caribe Wave exercise (formerly known as the Large Atlantic Tsunami Exercise — LANTEX), a tsunami-preparation communication drill undertaken on different dates on the US East Coast, in Canada, on the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean Basin. The object of Caribe Wave is to test the reliability of communication systems and protocols among tsunami alert centers and to help emergency management agencies to improve their preparedness to execute a tsunami alert. In Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Caribe Wave takes place in conjunction with the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (Red Sísmica de Puerto Rico), FEMA, NOAA, and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA-AEMEAD).
The scenario for the March 17 drill was a tsunami generated by a magnitude 8.4 seismic event, 15 kilometers deep, off the coast of Venezuela. The Tsunami Zone website includes information on other programmed exercises in the US and its territories.
Amateur Radio has played an important part on this exercise at an island-wide level in the past, and ARES Puerto Rico, with Section Emergency Coordinator Carlos A. Rosado, KP4CAR, at the helm, is now the major player in these drills.
At 10:05 AM on March 17, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) activated on broadcast and cable outlets around Puerto Rico, announcing the “emergency” and emphasizing that it was a drill. Many government, public, school, and senior institutions conducted evacuation drills to test their preparedness to reach their nearest local refugee site. PREMA practiced evacuation procedures in the city of Cataño, which could end up partially underwater in the event a tsunami struck.
The role of Amateur Radio during Caribe Wave 2016 was to gather reports from other radio amateurs in the island regarding how they learned of the tsunami alert. The reports gathered are delivered to PREMA Headquarters for a later evaluation meeting that includes all agencies and organizations involved.
The main communication took place via the KP4CAR 147.210 MHz repeater in Jayuya, Cerro Puntas — the highest point on the island. The repeater’s emergency power system will permit it to remain on the air for a few days. Javier Rodriguez, KP4RS, served as net control, operating from the Emergency Management Agency in the city of Moca.
The KP4CAR repeater was linked to the KP4SE repeater on 147.290 MHz to provide coverage of the western part of the island, with KP4ID acting as secondary link. Many amateur radio stations from different parts the island participated on the exercise, renewing their interest in emergency communication on the island. The KP4ID repeater, made available to gather reports for eventual delivery to the central operation, was even heard as far away as Saint Croix in the US Virgin Islands.
Stationed at Cataño, new PREMA Executive Director Ángel Crespo called Caribe Wave 2016 a great opportunity to adjust the communication platform and install a third siren system. — Thanks to Angel Santana, WP3GW, ARRL Puerto Rico Section Public Information Coordinator