REPORT 23 October 2016

The second IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Workshop was held October 11, 2016 in Viñadel Mar, Chile in conjunction with the IARU Region 2 XIX General Assembly. The event featured speakers on topics that relate to international issues facing Amateur Radio’s response to emergencies and disasters. The discussion, both inside and outside the workshop, focused on the themes discussed in the first workshop as well as new focus areas to address in IARU Region 2. Topics covered the use of Winlink, SATERN support for Salvation Army disaster response, the role of the ITU, developing operator and communications skills, AREDN mesh networking technology for disaster response, and emergency communications response in Venezuela.
Dr. Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, provided an overview of emergency communications activities in IARU Region 2 since the last workshop in 2013. Mike Corey, KI1U, briefed attendees on the findings from the 2013 Emergency Communications Workshop in Cancun. The availability of platforms such as Google Hangout, Skype, and similar virtual meeting programs make it possible to connect those in IARU Region 2 involved with Amateur Radio emergency communications. This could allow for coordination, training, and preparedness networking. Additionally it may provide a means for youth participation in virtual emergency communications workshops. Traditional means of Amateur Radio communication, such as voice and CW, are vital to our ability to provide emergency communications in IARU Region 2. We must encourage the development of operator skills through on air activity and continued training. Additionally, due to new and emerging communications needs, we must encourage the wide use of new technologies – radio email such as Winlink, mesh networking protocols like that presented by AREDN, weak signal modes, and improved health and welfare messaging – to meet the needs of served agencies. The IARU Region 2 Emergency Coordinators will explore the possibility of an online emergency communications resource library to be made available to IARU Region 2 member societies and Amateur Radio emergency communications enthusiasts.

Thank you to the Southgate Amateur Radio News for this précis of the IARU report.

Now, from Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman of the IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee, comes news that the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) was ready for JOTA last weekend but also keeping a watch on Typhoon Sarika with its winds and rainfall posing a threat. The Jamboree On The Air event had a group of 35 hams to support the opening ceremony, as adverse weather appeared. During the initial drama the frequency of 7.110 MHz was used as Typhoon Sarika with its winds and rainfall made its presence known in the area of Luzon Island.

No sooner had it passed than it was replaced by Haima, that increased in intensity with winds gusting to over 300 kph. Roberto Vicencio DU1VHY reports that HERO was ready as Super Typhoon Haima smashed into the northern Philippines forcing thousands to flee. The HERO net had 130 stations giving weather, power and flooding reports.

Other ham groups like the United Methodist Amateur Radio Club sent members led by DV1YIN, to travel north to the province of Isabela. The team of DV1YIN, DW1YMJ and DV1XWK made it to Santiago City, Isabela, after an eight hour drive and established HF radio contact. They advised that power had been cut and that phone coverage was intermittent.

Super Typhoon Haima smashed into the northern Philippines with ferocious wind and rains, flooding towns and forcing thousands to flee to emergency shelters, and killing at least seven people.

Haima is the 12th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole in the Atlantic, and Typhoons Sarika and Haima in the Pacific, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today reminded policy and lawmakers of the vital role satellites play in providing communications and other important services following a natural disaster. Because satellite networks operate far above the earth’s surface, they are not vulnerable to damage by storms. Therefore satellite communications may often be the only way government and emergency first responders can communicate, track critical emergency assets and access valuable post-disaster imagery when terrestrial networks are damaged and are simply unavailable.

“Because satellite communications provide an unparalleled level of reliability and ubiquity, it is critical for government relief agencies, private enterprise and even consumers to consider satellite communications and other services when providing warning to the public or planning for emergencies such as a hurricane,” said Tom Stroup, President of the Satellite Industry Association. Because of this reliability, many satellite companies already have long standing relationships with a number of Government organizations both in the United States and around the globe. These relationships help to ensure that first responders and relief workers have access to vital communications and information wherever and whenever they are needed.”

The availability of reliable mobile satellite voice and data services for relief agencies and first responders following a natural disaster is already well documented. The use of satellite imagery and remote sensing data is also quickly becoming a key part to disaster response.

At 7 minutes past 7 our time on Friday morning, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck Kurayoshi, in the Tottori prefecture of Japan, at a depth of 10km, and potentially affecting three million people within 100km of the epicentre. Houses were collapsed, and power outages reported, but apparently no widespread damage. People staying in evacuation shelters were supplied by local government with blankets and food. A tsunami warning was not issued.

And Oudtshoorn and surrounds had their own mini-earthquake this week, when a magnitude 3.5 shock struck at about 8.45 local time on Wednesday, just as tourists were about to enter the Kango Caves. Of course, further groups were prevented from entering the caves until authorities had confirmed that no structural damage had occurred to make the caves unsafe. I’m not sure I would have been keen to enter the caves later that day even if they had been pronounced safe! So far, no further shocks in the area have been reported.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 16 October 2016

Hurricane Matthew has left a legacy of death and destruction in the Caribbean, and coastal United States. North and South Carolina were declared disaster areas this week, to enable financial assistance to be given. The twenty or so lives lost occurred due to drowning, electrocution, suffocation and crush injuries from falling masonry or trees.

After the longest activation in its more than 50-year history, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) secured operations for Hurricane Matthew on October 9 at 0400 UTC. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, reported that the net was in continuous operation for 6 days, 7 hours, gathering real-time ground-truth weather data as the storm passed through the Caribbean and up along the US Eastern Seaboard, and passing the data along to WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre. Various Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) nets also activated along the East Coast. The first major hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season and, at one point, a Category 5 storm, Matthew was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as it headed out into the Atlantic.

“Many have perished in Haiti and Cuba as a result of Matthew, and the death-toll rises still,” Graves noted. “Many residents in the Bahamas and the US East Coast states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina felt the impact of Matthew as well.” More than 30 died in the US. FEMA reports that power remained out for thousands of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina residents as of October 13. Cell service also was affected.

The VoIP SKYWARN/Hurricane Net attracted a number of visitors, according to net managers. “On board Saturday afternoon, in addition to WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre, stations representing a number of FEMA regional offices and the National Response Coordination Centre monitored the net for actionable intelligence to be used to plan recovery operations,” said net Public Affairs Officer Lloyd Colston, KC5FM. The net also activated on October 13.

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network, or SATERN, was also active for Matthew on 14.265MHz, handling outbound emergency, priority, or health-and-welfare traffic from hurricane-affected areas.

Among activities in South Carolina, ARES volunteers staffed evacuation shelters, with radio amateurs coming from outside the affected areas to help. “Overall, I believe the radio operators that were available for the event did an outstanding job and I am proud to know them,” said South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Joe Markey, AJ4QM.

The Hurricane Watch Net activated again for several hours on October 13 for Hurricane Nicole, after a hurricane warning went into effect for Bermuda. The NHC at one point called Hurricane Nicole an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 125 MPH. The VoIP Hurricane Net also activated to monitor online weather stations and storm bloggers from the Caribbean Hurricane Network as well as social media. Fortunately, Nicole abated without coming ashore.

“While we do hope this is the last hurricane for this season, let us not forget we are still in Hurricane Season,” the HWN’s Graves said. The Atlantic Hurricane Season ends on November 1.

Thank you to the ARRL Letter of 13 October for these details.

However, over the Philippines, Tropical Cyclone SARIKA-16   is starting to make its presence felt. With wind-speeds of up to 270kph, it has barrelled across the Northern half of the Philippines, and is headed for China as I write this, with 19 million people threatened by the high winds. And hot on its heels is Cyclone HAIMA-16 slightly more to the North, but following the same North-Westerly direction, and about a day behind SARIKA. So far, it has not had an effect on people and property.

The Jamboree On The Air, or JOTA event is on the air today. I am aware of many scout group stations being on the air around the country. Of course, CQ Hou Koers is also on the go, but it seems to me that the solar weather is not playing ball, and I wonder whether long-distance communications are a success. There was a geomagnetic storm in process yesterday, with K index hovering at 4 to 5, making HF bands unfriendly. Scout and Voortrekker members are a wonderful incubator group, from which to cultivate new amateurs and HAMNET members of the future, so I hope you are either assisting at a JOTA station, or else looking around the bands, and making contacts with whoever you can hear, promoting an interesting and worthwhile hobby, and perhaps a career for some young people.

The Tsogo Sun Amashova Cycle Race is taking place today, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Ten HAMNET members are situated at various strategic points, using two repeaters and a simplex channel. Unfortunately the situation amongst students in University towns like Pietermaritzburg means that the organisers and riders have been advised to choose their routes to the start carefully, avoiding troubled main roads. I hope we can report a safe and successful race, next week. Thank you to Keith ZS5WFD for keeping me in the loop.

In an attempt to attract the Radio Amateur Exam candidates, who will be writing on Thursday evening, to the world of emergency communications and HAMNET, I have been interacting with them as a group, sending them information and encouragement. While looking through available links and sites on the internet, I came across a blog called, posted by Jim Peisker, AF5NP. This blog is full of short takes on so many things which older and more experienced hams take for granted, like how and why repeaters work, interference issues, antenna advice, and the likes. I still regard myself as a new ham, forgetting stuff as fast as I learn it, although I got my licence in 1993! My point is that this blog is for everyone, so, if you’ve got a query about some technical issue, and are not sure where to look it up, go to and look at the categories down the right hand side of the page. There are bound to be some answers there to your queries.

My very best wishes to the prospective new hams writing the exam on the 20th.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 9 October 2016

There is a lot of news coming out of HAMNET KZN, by courtesy of Keith Howes ZS5WFD, Regional Director there. In news of recent events, he mentions the display he and Glenn ZS5GD put on at the annual Flame Lily Fete last Saturday in Queensburgh. A picture shows a display of a wide range of ex military sets for the enjoyment of the ex-military retired persons at Flame Lily, and he says interest was high in spite of bad weather there.

Then, yesterday, at their meeting at the eThekwini Disaster Operations Centre, Keith gave a power point presentation originally prepared by Mike ZS5MD, showing the role and capabilities that HAMNET brings to the table. At the same meeting, they were allowed to view the new Disaster Management Communications Bus, currently being commissioned for Durban. The bus has not been formally presented yet, so photos are not available, but Keith says it is a fine example of state-of-the-art technology. We hope to get sight of that valuable asset to Disaster Management soon.

Keith further talks about the Amashovashova Cycle Race taking place on 16th October. Don’t you just love the imaginative names used to describe these sporting events? He and Glen ZWS5GD attended the final planning meeting last Tuesday, and they have submitted their operational plans. Ten HAMNET operators will be active there. Good luck for successful comms and a safe race, Keith!

He also mentions in passing the acquisition of Digital Mobile Radio, or DMR, equipment, which is going to be the way of the future in amateur radio. DMR is very strong in Europe and the United Sates, and the construction of the internet repeater backbone in this country is proceeding slowly. Division Five and Six already have these repeaters, but the rest of us are far behind. A DMR repeater is in the planning stage for the Western Cape, but at present there is virtually no activity here at all. Of course the repeaters are linked to the internet, which means you can be linked to any other repeater anywhere in the world, and develop friendships and enjoy communications with anybody using just your 5w handheld radio. You can also send data and pictures via your DMR connection. Thank you Keith for all that news. We encourage news reports of any sort or kind relative to emergency communications, sporting events, or the weather resulting in communications help being given by HAMNET members, from anywhere in the country, or neighbouring states. Please email such news to me at I thank you.

For the rest, the eyes of the emergency communicators are on the Caribbean, where Hurricane Matthew has been wreaking havoc. I mentioned this storm last week sitting on the Southern side of the Bay of Mexico, and starting to move North. Well, as you probably have heard, it did just that, intensified to a category 4 hurricane with a huge diameter and therefore a wide path of damage, and swept across Haiti, where it exacted the most damage, on to Cuba, and then right up alongside the Florida Peninsula, and is now just off the coast of South Carolina with winds abating slightly from a maximum of nearly 250kph to about 170kph. Huge amounts of rain have been dumped in its path, and Saturday’s news says the death toll is highest in Haiti where about 900 persons are so far reported to have died as a result of collapse of buildings or flooding.

The National Hurricane Centre in Florida activates a Hurricane Watch net, which conveys news from ground based observers in the Caribbean, Central America, Eastern Mexico, Eastern Canada and all the coastal states of the US. The net operates in both English and Spanish, and is active on 14.325MHz USB during the day, and 7.268 MHZ LSB at night. In Cuba, the emergency nets are operating on 7.110 and 7.120 MHz by day, and 3.740 and 3.720 MHz at night. The Dominican Republic uses 7.065 MHz, so please be aware of these frequencies, and remember, that, though you can’t hear them, they may experience interference to emergency communications, because they can hear you! The Voice of America is also broadcasting Hurricane news on 7305kHz, 7405kHz and 9565kHz, all Amplitude Modulation, if you are tuning the short wave bands and want to listen out for them.

Reporters from the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network, or SATERN, say the storm briefly reached category 5 status on the 2nd of October, but abated again to a 4 status, with the winds of 225kph affecting a central swathe of 110km, and tropical storm strength winds extending 330km on either side of the central path. And apart from the wind, there is the rain to think about. Haiti experienced 15 to 20 inches, and 40 inches in isolated places, while Cuba and the Dominican Republic had up to 25 inches of rain! I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty comprehending weather of this magnitude. We can be very grateful that we don’t regularly experience such storms. I used to wonder why houses in the Northern Americas are mostly built of wood. Well partly because brickwork is too expensive, but also so that the houses can quickly be reconstructed if they get blown apart!

So, from South African communications point of view, monitor the frequencies mentioned by all means, but please don’t even think of raising your voice, unless it is clearly obvious that a distant relay is needed.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 2 October 2016

A new WHO air quality model confirms that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. “The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combating it,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO.

It also represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO. The model is based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban. It was developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom.

Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.

Nearly ninety percent of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.

Ninety-four per cent of air-pollution-related deaths are due to non-communicable diseases – notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections.

“Air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults,” adds Dr Bustreo. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”

Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. However, not all air pollution originates from human activity. For example, air quality can also be influenced by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts.

The model has carefully calibrated data from satellite and ground stations to maximize reliability. National air pollution exposures were analysed against population and air pollution levels at a grid resolution of about 10 km x 10 km.

“This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than 6 million deaths – 1 in 9 of total global deaths – from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “More and more cities are monitoring air pollution now, satellite data is more comprehensive, and we are getting better at refining the related health estimates.”

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” adds Dr Neira. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cooking-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”

In September 2015, world leaders set a target within the Sustainable Development Goals of substantially reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from air pollution by 2030.

In May 2016, WHO approved a new “road map” for accelerated action on air pollution and its causes. The roadmap calls upon the health sector to increase monitoring of air pollution locally, assess the health impacts, and to assume a greater leadership role in national policies that affect air pollution.

Thank you to the WHO Media Centre for this report.

Amateur Radio volunteers went on alert following an afternoon explosion on September 21 at a power station in Salinas that left some 1.5 million residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico without power. ARRL Public Information Coordinator Angel Santana, WP3GW, said that as the evening wore on, the most sought-after items were ice and potable water — which depend on electricity to power the pumps that deliver it. The outage also resulted in traffic jams due to non-functioning signal lights. The governor of Puerto Rico declared a State of Emergency.

“On the Amateur Radio side, the VHF/UHF linked repeater system of the Federación de Radio Aficionados de Puerto Rico (FRA), an ARRL-affiliated club, was the main source of information,” Santana told ARRL. “As soon as the situation began, lots of mobile and portable stations got on the air from east to west to report on the power loss, and ham radio was among the first to report the explosion, as smoke was observed soaring towards the sky.”

According to FEMA, the fire at the Salinas switching station caused the island-wide power generation plant to shut down as a safety precaution. FEMA said that all critical facilities operated on back-up generators, and airports, police stations, and water plants received priority as power was restored. The agency said telecommunications were operating normally. Thank you to the ARRL letter of 29 September for news of radio amateurs at work during national calamities.

Hot on the heels of Cyclone MEGI-16 last week, Cyclone CHABA-16 is proceeding North West and then North East bearing down on Japan, with maximum wind speeds of 167kph. More than three million people are threatened by winds of more than 120kph.

And in the Gulf of Mexico, Cyclone Matthew-16 with winds of at least 120kph is travelling due West, but expected to turn North and strike Jamaica and then the Bahamas in the next two days. Please stand by for requests from IARU Region Two for radio silence on their centre of emergency communications frequencies over the next days.

These reports come from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.


REPORT 25 September 2016

The South African Development Community has issued a forecast for the rainfall outlook during the 2016/2017 Summer. Whereas below normal rainfall conditions prevailed in the previous year due to the El Nino effect, the coming season is expected to bring normal to above-normal rainfall in our Summer rainfall areas. This should provide a good opportunity to maximise agricultural production, and farmers are encouraged to commit a larger portion of their cropland to medium to late maturing high performance produce as well as drought-tolerant varieties. Crop diversification is also encouraged.

Water and energy sectors will prioritize the filling of low reservoirs, and Disaster Risk Reduction departments will watch closely the potential for heavier rainfall to result in flooding. Outbreaks of water and vector-borne diseases will also be monitored closely.

The key recommendation is that planning for extreme events is an essential way forward for all SADC Member States to mitigate and adapt to the threatening nature of the adverse effects of climate variability.

The ARRL’s Simulated Emergency Test, or SET takes place on the 1st and 2nd October, and is aimed at testing the skills and preparedness of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and other organizations that are called into action in actual emergency situations.

The object of the annual nationwide exercise is to test training and skills and to try out new methods. “It’s a time to work with partner organizations and served agencies to get to know them better and to determine their needs before an emergency or disaster strikes,” said Steve Ewald  WV1X. “Knowing whom to contact within partner groups, the planned procedures will help everyone to accomplish their goals and succeed in their missions”. Best wishes to the American amateur community for that one. Thank you to the ARRL news for the report.

It seems that natural and man-made disasters are increasingly frequent phenomena, capable of striking an any time, irrespective of local regional or international boundaries.

The role and extent of participation that governments should have mitigating the effects of disasters are subjects for legitimate debate; but one constant in disaster preparedness and response is the involvement of trained volunteers supplementing and enhancing the work of emergency officials.

Amateur radio, indeed, is a 100-year-old technology still relevant in the 21st Century. During an emergency, ham radio has the capability to provide wireless service locally and regionally through repeater systems as well as nationally and internationally.

All volunteers operating ham radio equipment are licensed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa as amateur radio operators, after passing qualifying examinations on electronic theory and amateur radio protocol.

Amateur radio operators hope that their emergency communications expertise is never needed.

However, a cursory scan of the amateur radio bands in the aftermath of hazardous weather emphasizes the randomness of disasters and the consistency of the human response: ham radio operators, operating on portable power supplies, are a steady source of comfort and assistance relaying messages to and from emergency authorities.

In dealing with disaster, a novel approach to provision of clean rooms for use as medical treatment or emergency rooms has come from Japan, where mobile “emergency rooms” that are made of cardboard and can be assembled in just an hour, could make all the difference in a natural disaster.

There is also the prospect of shipping these ER’s overseas when other countries are hit by earthquakes and other calamities.

The structure is airtight and able to withstand nasty weather, unlike conventional tents.

A company called Kanda Package embarked on the project three years ago with financial assistance from the prefectural government as part of a program to respond better to natural disasters. Construction is simple. It is just a matter of inserting cardboard panels into plastic frames. No tools are needed.

And after two days of extreme tectonic activity in the Pacific Rim of Fire, with about 25 quakes of up to 4.5 magnitude a day, a magnitude 6.3 shock struck 29km off the East coast of Philippines yesterday morning our time early at about 1am. About 700000 people live within 100km of the quake, but, being offshore, the effect seems to be less drastic. No further news is forthcoming as I write this, and hopefully this was the climax of the shaking felt since Thursday in the area.

Just slightly North of the earthquake, Tropical Cyclone MEGI-16, yet another storm, is bearing down on the Chinese mainland, with maximum expected winds of 185kph, and sustained winds of about 100kph. It is expected to make landfall on Monday. So bad weather season is far from over in the Pacific.

I think we should continue to give thanks that we live in a relatively benign area, and that our natural disasters are always of a much more mild nature. This, however, should not give us cause for complacency, and HAMNET members need constantly to be ready to roll in case of any situation, whether small or large.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 18 September 2016

Roy Walsh ZS3RW has sent us some news from the Northern Cape regarding participation by HAMNET members at the recent Kuruman Show. Dylan Walsh ZS3DW and co-driver Roy took part in the 4×4 challenge, as did Gaffie Bruwer ZS3GAF. Dylan came first in his class, and Gaffie third in his. Rudi du Toit ZS3DT was also on hand. Some nice action photos accompany Roy’s report.

In midweek, Vryburg Hams, Patrick ZS3PS, Rudi ZS3DT, Josef ZS3DUP and RAE candidate Francois erected a 24 metre tower for a repeater at Komtiekie, 40km from Vryburg on the N14. Thank you to you all for spreading the extent of amateur radio’s reach.

A trend among groups of radio amateurs involved in emergency  communications is the use of disaster scenarios to test equipment and  learn lessons from what went right during an exercise, and what could be improved.

Recently a number of such tests have occurred in the Philippines, North  America, Europe and elsewhere. Every year emergency communication groups engage in GlobalSET, or a Simulated Emergency Test, with each IARU region having been involved since 2006. The GlobalSETs have tested the capabilities through message handling,  and in 2015 a preparedness or call-out exercise was held to measure the  immediate, short and medium term availability by radio amateurs should  an emergency occur.

When authorities and responding agencies test disaster preparedness,  many groups involved benefit greatly from the training provided and by  working together.

The latest is around October 8, and will be a North America-wide exercise, with emergency communications administered by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and Radio Amateurs Canada (RAC). The aims are to find the strengths and weaknesses of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), the National Traffic System (NTS) and other  groups providing emergency communications. It will also provide a public demonstration to served agencies such as  Red Cross, and, through the news media, of the value to the public that  Amateur Radio brings, particularly in time of need.

Participating radio amateurs will gain experience using standard  procedures and a variety of transmission modes under simulated-emergency conditions.

Adding some external perspective is the involvement of some stations in  Europe who join in through the National Traffic System.

A number of agencies are working to develop emergency scenarios. Plans  may be for a simulated flood, serious fire, severe ice storm, a missing person, a major transportation accident, broken gas line, or any other imaginable disaster.

The International Amateur Radio Union will read the outcome of this and  other SETs, as it continues to advocate for the amateur service, and the  role served by having available volunteers, equipment, spectrum and  training.

Floods in North Korea that have left hundreds dead or missing are the “worst disaster” to hit the country since World War II, state media said on Wednesday.

The official KCNA news agency did not give exact numbers of those killed or unaccounted for, but a UN report said 138 people have died and 400 are missing after torrential rains caused devastation in the country’s far north.

The floods along the Tumen River, which partially marks the border with China and Russia, tore through villages, washing away buildings and leaving thousands in urgent need of food and shelter.

At least 29,800 homes were destroyed, and 68,900 people displaced by the flooding, while electricity and communications lines have been cut, and 180 sections of road and more than 60 bridges severely damaged.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System has posted a red alert in the seas between the Philippines, Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland for Tropical Cyclone Malakas-16, travelling at first North-West and bearing down on Taiwan, and then turning North East along the Chinese coast towards Japan. While sustained wind speeds are expected to be about 100kph, maximum projected wind speeds may reach 212kph! About 888000 people are in the path of its current trajectory.

But if you think 212kph is bad, spare a thought for the Japanese nation, who were subjected to Super-Typhoon Nancy in 1961, with maximum wind-speed of 345kph! 172 people died, 3184 were injured, 44000 houses were damaged or destroyed, while 280000 others were flooded. Nancy is credited with being the most powerful natural disaster phenomenon ever measured.

Two earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.1 and 5.8 have hit south eastern South Korea, These were the most powerful quakes to hit Korea since seismic records started in 1978. The Korea Meteorological Administration said the quakes were centred near Gyeongju city.

Government authorities have heightened the country’s emergency level to level two, which is the second highest, and ordered affiliated organizations to remain alert and follow the natural disaster manual. Among them was a thermal power plant and local industry leader Hyundai Motor in Ulsan, the southern neighbour city to Gyeongju.

At least 22 aftershocks with two to four magnitudes followed the big quakes.

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), the country’s nuclear power operator, said its atomic power plants suffered no damage, but it turned off four nuclear reactors at the Wolsong nuclear power plant at around midnight for a safety inspection.

The ministry is now attempting to secure an exclusive network for disaster-related communications and to increase the government budget for earthquake-resistant facilities, he added. Nuclear reactors in the area were not seriously affected, but some reactors were taken offline as a precautionary measure late Monday night.

So far, there has been no news of major casualties, nor has amateur radio played any part in the two disasters suffered by North or South Korea.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 11 September 2016

September is national preparedness month. Being prepared for an emergency means that you should be able to be self-reliant for at least three days without utilities, water service, sewer services, access to supermarkets or local services, and maybe even without response from police, fire or rescue.

Preparing can start with four important steps:

  • Be informed about emergencies that could happen in your community and neighborhood.
  • Identify where you can get sources of information in your community that will be helpful before, during, and after an emergency.
  • Make a plan for what you will do in an emergency.
  • Build an emergency supply kit for your home, car, and work.

Ensure that each member of your family knows where to go to get important life safety and official and up-to-date disaster information.  Take advantage of social media, and “like” or follow official news media outlets, local and provincial emergency management agencies, and the Weather Service.  Subscribe to weather alerts on your smart phone if possible and maintain up to date contact phone numbers for your family and others you may need to connect with.

Make an emergency communications plan that includes information about where your family will meet if a disaster strikes and how you will communicate with one another.  Establish a contact person that family members can call to notify they are safe.  Keep in mind up-to-date prescription and medical information about each member of your family and other special medical or functional access needs, as well as planning for the needs of your pets, as you plan.

Build an emergency supply kit at home that includes the essential food items and supplies you will need to survive a disaster situation.  Include basic first aid items, flashlights with extra batteries, a portable radio, personal hygiene items and an extra set of clothes, a warm blanket and basic tools, pet supplies, and cash in case credit and debit cards cannot be used. Additionally, a 3-day supply of non-perishable food items for each member of your family should be part of your kit, as well as five litres of water per person per day. And, of course, make sure your mobile amateur radio kit is working, there is no corrosion on the antenna connectors, and you have spare fuses for the inline fuses in your power cables from the car battery. Thank you to for the core of this insert.

On the matter of transmitting emergency messages, Gordon KX4Z, has done an interesting study comparing messages being sent by voice, by PSK31, by MT63-2K, and by Winlink. Various limiting factors in each protocol do provide problems, with the estimated efficiency of the first 3 systems being assessed at about 50%. Winlink becomes more efficient as messages to send get bigger, because the message headers and error-correction handshakes get less. Gordon estimates the number of 50-word messages able to be sent per minute by voice as 0.3, for PSK31 0.48, for MT63-2K 2, and for Winlink 3.02. He says Winlink messages are 10 times faster for multiple short messages, and up to 69 times faster for large files. His concluding paragraph reads:

“One digital station using a faster digital protocol (MT63 – 2K) is likely to be able to perform the same throughput of short, 50-word emergency messages as 6 voice stations. One WINLINK station using the same Signalink equipment may be able to perform the throughput of 10 voice stations, with error-corrected text transmission. For larger data files, the throughput of the WINLINK station dramatically improves to over 1,000 words per minute, apparently due to decrease in the required message overhead baggage—making it the equivalent of over SIXTY voice stations working together.

“Because of this tremendous throughput advantage in emergency communications, it would be useful both to develop, train, and include both digital and WINLINK-based HF stations in emergency communications planning”. All in all, a good reason to train our HAMNET members in Winlink-based communications. You can read his article at    Thanks, Gordon!

In a propagation report issued by the ARRL news this week, Propagation guru Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, says that, while conditions on 12 and 10 meters will pick up as they always do in our Spring, F2 propagation on those bands will decline thereafter, with only sporadic E during the summer months as a possible saving grace. On the other hand, the lower bands — 160, 80, and 40 meters — should be good going forward, and 20 and 17 meters will be the mainstays of daylight HF propagation. He said data suggest that Cycle 24, the current solar cycle, will bottom out in 2020, and advised that radio amateurs may need to lower their expectations on the higher bands (and 6 meters) looking beyond that.

“I think the only conclusion we can make with some confidence is that we are headed for some small cycles,” he said. He cited various evidence related to the Sun’s polar fields — which appear to be decreasing in strength, A index trends, and cosmic ray data, to support his assertion. Luetzelschwab cautioned, however, that past performance does not necessarily predict future performance.

“There seems to be a good correlation between how long a solar minimum is and the next solar cycle,” said Luetzelschwab. “The longer you spend at solar minimum, the smaller the next cycle.” He observed that hams active since the 1950s and 1960s have experienced short inter-cycle solar minimums of approximately 2 years, until the one between Cycle 23 and Cycle 24, which lasted about 4 years.

Let’s hope his pessimism is unfounded.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

REPORT 4 September 2016

Dave Holliday ZS5HN has sent us a report of this year’s iSimangaliso Mountain Bike Tour which went off with great success. HAMNET KZN played a vital role by providing the Radio Communications for this event once again. The event saw 234 Mountain Bike Riders riding from Lake St Lucia past Lake Sabaya, through Phinda Game Reserve and on into Mkuze Game Reserve. Both of these Reserves have the Big 5.

Communications were established on VHF Simplex on 145,550 MHz with 145,225 MHz as a backup when 145,550 got busy. The Ops Control ZS5MB situated on a high point was in contact with ZS5HN in the JOC, ZS5J as Rover, ZS5LT as Sweep 1, ZS5CD as Sweep 2 and ZR5GB as Sweep 3. There were some challenges, from S2 Mush on VHF from the Computer Systems at the JOC, to strong winds and lightning at the high site.

Judging from an accompanying thank you newsletter from the organisers, the race organisation was not without its share of panic, as several plans had to be changed at the last moment due to bad weather, but, in the end, all went well.

All the HAMNET members deployed are looking forward to next year’s event. Thank you to HAMNET KZN for keeping the flag flying high again.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (or GDACS) newsletters of this week have reported on scores of earthquakes in the Pacific rim of fire since Wednesday. By yesterday afternoon, the number of earthquakes of magnitude greater than 4.5 in the Japan, New Zealand, and Western Pacific area stood at 70, with the worst quake scoring 7.1 in magnitude happening at 19km depth, just East of New Zealand’s North Island on Thursday. Fortunately, it was under the ocean, and very few people live anywhere near, so no major damage or injury has been reported. But it does go to show how unstable the tectonic plates in the Pacific are, and the fear of a very big one has to be prominent. As I write this a magnitude 5.6 earthquake has just struck in central Oklahoma. No further news is available yet. We in South Africa watch with concern, and are grateful that we live in a less vulnerable area.

And as Hurricane season gets under way in the North Americas, Category 1 Hurricane Hermine crossed the Florida Peninsula with wind-speeds up to 120kph, and entered the Bay of Mexico. An estimated total of 400,000 people were affected by the storm as it crossed Florida, but no reports of major damage have been seen yet. The National Hurricane Centre in Florida has managed the communications in the area, and is forecasting the hurricane will turn North-East, gain in strength and move up the East coast, lashing coastal areas as far north as Connecticut and Rhode Island. In Florida, 325,000 people were without power, while another 107,000 were without power in neighbouring Georgia.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Lester is threatening the Big Island of Hawai, and all four ARES districts on the island remain in active status. Tropical Storm Madelaine passed well South of the Big Island, dumping a lot of rain on the island. Public schools have been closed, and residents urged to take steps to protect themselves

HAMNET Western Cape was involved in a mountain rescue this last Tuesday night. A rescue team was assembled to access three people stuck on a hiking route on Table Mountain, Johann Marais, ZS1JM, Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) representative said. Six technically-skilled volunteers, a paramedic and at least three climbers from Hottentots Holland made their way to the Blinkwater Ravine. ZS1JM said, “This was a semi technical route to access the stuck persons from Theresa Avenue, on the Camps Bay side of the mountain.  Mountain-able volunteers got together to do a rescue. A small but technically competent group walked up from Theresa Avenue. They took three or four 50-metre ropes and climbing gear to be able to negotiate the upper technical sections, which they anticipated they might have to climb.”   Johann Marais continued, “The first team departed at 20h40 from Theresa Avenue. Two additional teams were deployed, of which the last left at 22h10. At 22h45, the first team made voice contact with the stuck persons. A total of 14 volunteers were in the field together with four persons in control doing the rescue. The field team, after they reached the stricken three, resolved that it would be safer to take them up the mountain and then rendezvous with vehicles on the back of Table Mountain.  There is a small and difficult track from Constantia Neck, which allows one to drive up. This our volunteer 4×4 members did in the night in howling wind and thick mist. They transported all safely down and the operation was completed around 01h00 on Wednesday morning.”

With the onset of Spring, Cape Town HAMNET members can expect a lot more of these sorts of rescues, as inexperienced walkers underestimate their own capabilities, their timing, or the weather. Wilderness Search and Rescue has rescue managers on duty 24 hours a day, throughout the year, to assemble an adequate rescue team for the nature of the rescue, including HAMNET operators to coordinate the rescuers, all of whom are volunteers. We get plenty of chance down here to practise our communications protocols.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

Rescue 30 August 2016. Camps Bay side of Table Mountain

At 19h39 a call came through for three people lost on Camps Bay side of TM. Matt (ZS1MTF), confirmed availability with the logistics duty manager and was told to RV with Metro 1 and Johan (ZU1JV) at Theresa Ave in camps Bay.

Light was fading as we arrived on scene, contact was made with the party lost on the mountain and it was confirmed that they were well equipped and were comfortable to wait for the WSAR teams to reach them.

While discussing on the ground, a few ideas were came about on how to reach them – one was to take the cable car up and hike down to the party but this was later deemed an unsuitable option as it would have taken too long for the teams to reach the party of three in time. The decision was made to transport the teams up the Pipe Track to the start of the trail and from there to hike up towards the lost party and then up to the MCSA hut on the back table for extraction.

When the teams reached the party of three it was established that they had been on the mountain from 9am that morning and were exhausted – hence them taking extremely long to reach the hut. Three teams consisting of 14 WSAR members were sent into the field.

There were no communication issues while we were at Theresa Ave, we tried to use EMS 12 on the cable station but that seems to be down at the moment, this would have been particularly useful when we had to relocate to the back table and establish communications with the teams on their way up to us.

The first team reached the hut at around 4h05 31st Aug, everyone was down at Constantia Circle at around 5h25 and a quick debrief took place. Visibility at this point was anything from 5 to 10m. Johan left straight from there and I proceeded to take 2 MCSA members back to the Pipe track to fetch their vehicles.

Rescue 28 August 2016

At 19h36 a standby for possible callout to Muizenberg Peak was issued (no further details given). Don (ZS1DON) & Phil (ZS1VCC) confirmed availability and were activated at 19h50.

Don (HAMNET) and SANParks arrived first at the Pecks Valley pathway at around 19h10, followed shortly thereafter by Phil (HAMNET). Information we obtained from Metro Base was that they had received call(s) from resident(s) along Boyes Drive, saying they heard person(s) calling for help and seeing a flashing light on the mountain. Whilst awaiting Metro 1, we scanned the mountainside looking for any signs of a flashing light and listened for any shouting but nothing was seen or heard at Pecks Valley. Phil drove further west along Boyes Drive to search the mountainside closer to Lakeside, and in doing so, found Metro 1 and MCSA several hundred meters from the Pecks Valley (between Pecks Valley and the main path up to Muizenberg Peak). Phil informed Don and the HAMNET/SANParks team was relocated to Metro 1’s location.

It was decided that a two-man MCSA hasty team would go up and assess the situation whilst awaiting additional responders. The hasty team (Team 1) departed at 21h00 and arrived with the patients at 21h38. Two youngsters, both males aged 16 & 17, were located uninjured, but were cold and tired. At the time they were located 4 additional MCSA members had arrived at Metro 1 (Team 2). A decision was taken to walk the patients up towards the aerials on the top of Muizenberg Peak and collect them with a vehicle. This was considered a safer option. Don, together with Team 2 and SANParks rangers, accessed the aerials via the jeep track from Silvermine Gate 2. Once at the aerials, Team 2 hiked to assist Team 1.

Team 1 with the patients arrived at Don’s vehicle at 22h36 and made their way down to Metro 1, followed by Team 2 driven by SANParks. Team 1 (with the patients) arrived at Metro 1 at 23h03, followed at 23:15 by SANParks and Team 2. The patients were transported to Muizenberg Police station by SAPS members, to be reunited with their awaiting families.

At 23:20 all rescue personnel were debriefed. The rescue was well attended by MCSA (7members) and supported by 2 x HAMNET, 2 x SANParks and 2 x SAPS members.