Kansas City firefighter uses Ham Radio skills to help Puerto Rico

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jeremy Dougherty admits that his wife wasn’t always a huge fan of his Ham Radio hobby.

“She teases me a lot,” Dougherty smiles. “She says, ‘This is an old man hobby. Who does ham radio?’”

Dougherty is a Kansas City firefighter who picked up Ham Radio just a couple of years ago for fun. But when hurricane winds toppled Puerto Rico’s communication towers last month, Dougherty quickly answered the call from the American Red Cross for licensed Ham Radio operators on the island.

“It was really like I was landing in a war zone,” Dougherty recalled.

Dougherty returned to Kansas City on Tuesday after spending a month setting up makeshift communication centers on Puerto Rico.

“I set up radio communications were there was no communication at all,” he said.

And with scarce resources on the island, Dougherty’s mastery of radio waves truly was a lifesaver. At one point, he set up a radio command post with PVC pipe and a tape measure.

“We put this PVC, tape measure antenna up,” Dougherty explained. “Next thing you know, we were talking to somebody 100 miles away, passing traffic back to San Juan for people who needed to contact San Juan.”

Dougherty is happy to be home with his wife and two young sons. And it’s safe to say he’s not worried about his wife, or fellow firefighters, teasing him about Ham Radio anymore.

“One day it is going to be a zombie apocalypse and you're going to need my help and then when the Red Cross called I was like ‘OK, I'll go’.”