In February 2021, Texas experienced Winter Storm Uri, a major winter and ice storm affecting the United
States, Northern Mexico, and parts of Canada. The winter storm caused power grids to fail across the U.S.,
causing blackouts for over 5.2 million homes and businesses, the vast majority of which were in Texas.
Uri caused the largest blackout in U.S. history, surpassing the Northeast Blackout of 2003. Uri left
at least 124 people dead across the United States, with 111 of them in Texas. Insurers estimated the
damage from the Texas blackouts to be at least $195 billion, an amount exceeding the total damage to
Texas from Hurricanes Harvey (2017) and Ike (2008). This makes Uri the costliest natural disaster in
Loss of power disrupted communications infrastructure in the Houston metropolitan area, causing
for cellphone service [2, 3, 4], internet , cable TV [5, 6], and
ham radio repeaters.
During this time, Mark Brantana N5PRD was scheduled to serve as net control for a net sponsored by the Brazos
Amateur Radio Club (BVARC). Before the net started, Mark discovered that the repeater was knocked out of
service on February 15, when the back-up generator failed to start. With just minutes to act, Mark was
unable to reprogram his radio in time. He tried unsuccessfully to improvise by operating simplex
through the repeater output frequency.
He realized then that the club had no known backup plan, and that, like him, many other hams were not fully
prepared to directly program their radios.
This led to the birth of the Greater Houston Simplex Network (GHSN), a network to communicate by VHF radio
Distinction from ARES
It’s important to note that the GHSN is intended to carry informal traffic such as checking in on
fellow hams and ragchewing. This is distinct from the efforts of the ARRL’s ARES (Amateur Radio
Emergency Service) groups, which have long-standing procedures and relationships to carry official emergency
traffic for local governments, FEMA, the American Red Cross, the Department of Homeland Security, hospitals,
emergency-relief organizations, and other partners. [7, 8]
Mission of GHSN
To provide a platform for informal emergency VHF simplex radio communications for the Greater Houston area.
Goals of GHSN
- Promote Amateur Radio Fun: To have fun with amateur radio by promoting VHF simplex opportunities in the
Greater Houston area.
- Encouragement: Encourage hams to explore the potential of radio equipment while providing opportunities
test, learn, improve, optimize and and operate radio stations.
- Community: Develop a sense of ham communities among radio operators within their local areas and
to the larger ham community beyond.
- Agility: Develop deeper understanding of personal equipment enabling agile radio capabilities among area
- Procedures: Provide tested and effective VHF simplex procedures and practice opportunities to use and
with others in the hobby.
- Continuous Improvement: Continuously improve all of the above through practice and drills.
“February 13–17, 2021 North American winter storm”.
Date published or most recently updated: 27 April 2021, at 14:45 (UTC). Date accessed: 28 April 2021.
“Are you having cell phone connection issues on top of everything else?” by Dawn Campbell.
Date published: February 16, 2021, at 2:02 pm CST. Date accessed: 28 April 2021.
“Networks are struggling in Texas amid historic winter storms - T-Mobile, Spectrum, and others are
working to restore service” by Jay Peters.
Date published: Feb 15, 2021, 3:33 pm EST. Date accessed: 28 April 2021.
- ABC, Inc., KTRK-TV,
“Phone companies give update on weakened service amid winter storm”.
Date published: February 15, 2021.
Date accessed: 28 April 2021.
“Can you get a credit or refund for cable and internet service you couldn’t use when power was
out?” by Amy Davis.
Date published: February 19, 2021 6:12 am CST. Date accessed: 28 April 2021.
- Future Publishing Limited Quay House, Next TV,
“Cable Battles Winter Storm Outages Across Country -
Operators navigate power outages, freezing temperatures to restore broadband service as Uri, Viola
by Mike Farrell.
Date published: February 18, 2021. Date
accessed: 28 April 2021.
“Harris County ARES - Who we are”. Date accessed: 28 April 2021.
“ARES Volunteers Reported Responding to Severe Weather”.
Date published: February 16, 2021. Date accessed: 28 April 2021.