Garden School ham radio club connects loved ones in storm-battered Puerto Rico

Garden School ham radio club connects loved ones in storm-battered Puerto Rico

A school in Jackson Heights is connecting families to loved ones in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands this week. The Garden School currently operates an amateur radio station that has the ability to send and receive messages from the areas that have been affected by recent hurricanes and earthquakes.

Ham radios do not require use of a power grid and can run off a small generator. Garden’s Amateur Radio Club has teamed up with Amateur Radio Emergency Services to help relay messages to and from locations on the stricken islands that have lost power and cell phone service.

“It’s providing real-life experience for student from grade 6 through 12,” Garden School Director of Outreach Jim Gaines said. “The program is in its second year and it was started by an alumni and a student who had interest in ham radio. We cleared out a closet that was filled with dusty old records and outdated equipment and we filled it with equipment, most of it borrowed. And now the students are learning geography, meteorology, electronic and communications. It’s the type of thing you can do at a private school. You have an idea and you just make it happen.”

The Garden School is located at 33-16 79th St.

The process begins by making contact with a radio operator and filling out a ARRL Radiogram of 25 words or less. They can relay a message through different relief organizations, such as the Red Cross, letting you know their location, their well-being or any other information.

“You just relay the message from one ham radio operator to the next until the message arrives, kind of like the pony express,” Gaines said. “Ham radio enthusiasts actually have competitions for these relays and you get excited about times like this.”

And the Garden Amateur Radio Club can help anyone in Queens send a message to family or friends in the Caribbean or Mexico. You can contact their station at k2gsg@gardenschool.org and the students will help fill out a Radiogram and then students at the station will start the relay process.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.