Jeffersonville HAM radio operator uses passion to help hurricane - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Jeffersonville HAM radio operator uses passion to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) – A Jeffersonville man is using his passion and hobby to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.

John Shean is a licensed amateur radio operator, also known as HAM radios. On Wednesday, he spent most of the day in his office in the Jeffersonville Red Cross building listening to whatever he could hear on the radio and helping however he can.

“It’s a hobby to have a ready pool of trained operators, and also we’re expected to provide service in time of emergency,” Shean said.

His long range, short wave radio can be picked up from anywhere in the world, but due to the lack of electricity on the island, communication is currently only one way. Ninety-three percent of the island is still without power or cell phone service. Because of that, many of the HAM radios are currently only one-way due to low frequency, not allowing for back-and-forth conversation between operators. 

Residents on the island give messages to the radio operators in Puerto Rico who then call family members in the states to let them know how they are doing.

“I don’t know who I am going to get on the end," Shean said. "Whoever picks up the phone, I just tell them that short message."

Working with family members in emergency situations is something Shean is used to. He was part of the Emergency Management Agency and relayed messages to families during the 2012 Henryville tornado and the blizzard of 1978.

HAM radio operators use their own money to pay for any calls or expenses related to updating family members.

At a speech in Indianapolis on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced he is going to Puerto Rico for an on-the-ground briefing on Tuesday. Until then, Shean said he will be in his office listening and waiting to help Puerto Rico anyway he can.

“If you go out to the back of my truck, you will see a sticker that shows a picture of a tornado and electrical storm, and at the bottom it says, ‘When all else fails: Amateur radio.’  That’s what we’re doing today.”

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