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Deerfield Beach is a Red Cross hub for disaster relief; ham radio operators are on it, too


Hope Smith, 83, has been a ham radio enthusiast since 1975


Deerfield Beach – The American Red Cross recently opened an 8,000 square foot centralized Disaster Relief warehouse here after closing warehouses in Riviera Beach and Hialeah.


Located at 4100 N. Powerline Road, all items housed here are intended for emergencies within a drive radius of two hours: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, and Indian River, Monroe, Collier, Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Highlands counties.


“This is our hub, our entire location. It’s all done by volunteers, a lot of retired military and first responders. From (loading and unloading) trailers to strategic placement around our coverage area,” logistics volunteer Gary Richardson said. “It’s a team effort.”


Gary Richardson, logistics, at the Red Cross warehouse


Different types of Red Cross disaster relief kits come from this location from totes with supplies for demographic or weather related needs, kits with hygiene items, kits with sanitizers for long duration storm effects and nursing kits for RNs and paramedics. Children’s play kits depend on availability. Items such as diapers or pet food can be too large to include in a disaster kit, and may be met by other agencies.


Estimating the scope of a disaster requires preliminary and more detailed damage assessments. “We get reports from the counties, and staff driving around in the field. Simultaneously, plans are being made by logistics staff in anticipation of those needs,” Richardson said.


In two examples of those needs becoming real, support was provided after the mass shootings at Parkland in 2018 and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017.


Inside the warehouse, a Pensky Red Cross emergency vehicle stands poised, facing the garage door, to respond to disasters. Once loaded, it’s equipped to serve or deliver 1,000 meals a day. The clean, high-ceilinged, well-lit, organized Red Cross warehouse strategically stores large items like tents, cots, heavy cases of water, wheelchairs, and crutches upfront.


“Red Cross responds to (give) disaster and humanitarian relief,” said Executive Director Paula Prendergast said. “We are prepared. We work really hard to mobilize fast and efficiently. We have to adapt. The key word is, fluid.’”


Visit redcross.org to learn more about the organization or become a volunteer.


About 50 amateur radio operators, children, and dogs attended Amateur Radio Field Day on a stormy June 24 and 25 at Quiet Waters Park.


Ham radio operators also prepare for emergencies


Deerfield Beach – Broward County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) members are often practicing disaster preparedness.


About 50 amateur radio operators, children, and dogs attended Amateur Radio Field Day on a stormy June 24 and 25 at Quiet Waters Park. The event, “shows people what we’re able to do in a disaster,” said Broward RACES Officer Carol Sjursen.


Even in the 21st Century, ham radio plays a role in emergencies.


Like other wireless technologies, ham radio uses electromagnetic radiation to send voice transmissions, Morse code, and digital data around the world using transmitters, receivers, antennas. This electromagnetic radiation travels as a sinusoidal wave.


Sjursen recalled that he was the person stationed at the Broward Emergency Operations Center who received a transmission from a ham radio operator who reported a tornado. Sjursen relayed that information by phone to the National Weather Service. Within 30 seconds, the tornado information appeared on the crawler on the TV news feed.


On Saturday during the ham radio event, a Get On The Air (GOTA) station with a tall antenna was erected outside a pavilion. Inside, operators transmitted via equipment set up on picnic tables. Hope Smith, 83, has been a ham radio enthusiast since 1975. Her boyfriend, Donald Search, a ham radio operator for 60 years, got her into it. Under her FCC call sign WB3ANE, she has contacted 300 people around the world and across the United States.


Manager/operator Dan Vasilca showed kids how to use morse code for radio communication. “It’s reliable, and uses little bandwidth,” he explained. Vasilca grew up in Romania and has been an amateur radio operator “forever, since I was a kid.”


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