CT amateur radio operators helping families in Puerto Rico

Local amateur radio operators are lending a hand to connect those in Puerto Rico with loved ones in Connecticut. (WFSB)

As families try to connect with loved ones in hard-hit Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, amateur radio operators in Connecticut are lending a hand to help with the aftermath.

From a room inside a Wallingford Fire House, Chris Sievert and other amateur radio operators are pitching in to help in the crisis in Puerto Rico.

"We all have call signs, so right now the person in Puerto Rico would give his call sign, identify that he has some traffic, which is a message for Connecticut,” Sievert said. “The station in Connecticut would reply back to him, say please give me the message, I can take it and deliver it."

It is hard to let loved ones back in Connecticut know they're OK on the island with limited cell service.

"We really do not rely on the power grid or any established cell phone type tower,” Sievert said. “We make our own antennas. We can run off a car battery, a generator, so we have a lot of ways to get on the air, very, very quickly."

While Sievert said he hasn't been on the receiving end yet, others with the Wallingford Amateur Radio Group have messages. It’s all part of an effort by the American Radio Relay League and the American Red Cross.

"For Puerto Rico, they're deploying 50 people to go down there and generate outgoing messages back to us in the states to help trying to get families welfare information, Hi, I'm well, I'm fine, things like that,” Sievert said.

The amateur radio operators in Wallingford fall under the town's emergency management department. They said they're always looking for extra folks who could lend a hand in times of need.

"Right now we have roughly 103 volunteers. Ideally, we should have 300 volunteers, so we provide free training, CPR, first aide, medical,” Eloise Hazelwood with Wallingford Medical Reserve Corps said. "If you can come and really just put your name on the list to say if we need you, you'll be there, because our hashtag is a first response is a local response and it absolutely is."

Now, its locals responding to help those on an island more than 1,600 miles away.

"It’s pleasing,” Sievert said. “You know you're helping somebody. You see the benefit of it."

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