HAMNET Report 14 October 2018

At the top of the EMCOMMS list this weekend is news of Hurricane Michael’s effect on the Southern United States.

The ARRL reports that an array of Amateur Radio public service assets was active as Hurricane Michael — now a tropical storm — made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle on October 10, with devastating 250 km/h winds. The storm is believed to be the first Category 4 or stronger hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned of life-threatening storm surges as well as hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall.

The Hurricane Watch Net activated on October 10th and closed operations the following day.

WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Centre, was active to receive observed weather information and data via Amateur Radio to aid forecasters.

The VoIP Hurricane Net activated on October 10th  to support communication with the National Hurricane Centre.

The Southern Territory Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) stood down on October 11th. SATERN was requested to provide Amateur Radio operators for Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa, as well as some local units in Georgia, and at Divisional Headquarters in Atlanta.

The ARRL North Florida and West Central Florida sections assisted SATERN with additional operators in Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa. North Florida Section ARES was at full activation.

Miller Norton, W4EMN, the Communications Watch Officer at the Duval County Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Jacksonville, Florida, was monitoring SARnet  — a UHF-linked repeater network in Florida — when he heard an urgent call for help that needed to be sent to the State EOC in Tallahassee. All other forms of communication were out, and Norton was able to relay the message via Amateur Radio. He also passed along messages and requests from the Jackson County EOC to the American Red Cross. Norton said officials in Tallahassee and Jackson County were both incredibly grateful for the way the SARnet system functioned during the weather emergency.

Jackson County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Whittington, KD4AST, was deployed to the county EOC in Marianna.

“We took a direct hit by the centre of the storm at 220 km/h,” he told Clay County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator and Public Information Officer Scott Roberts, KK4ECR. “[The] county maintenance building across the road from the EOC was picked up and slammed into the north side and over the roof of the EOC just prior to the eye passing over.”

The incident took out the HF antenna, which has since been restored. Whittington said the internet failed, as did cell service for a while. Hams have been passing material and resource orders to the State EOC via HF and SARnet. Whittington reported “total devastation of Bay, Jackson, and Gulf counties,” with loss of electrical power and water service, in addition to damage in Franklin, Holmes, and Leon counties. “[The] only mode of communications after the eye came across was ham radio, until we got minimal cell service a few hours ago,” he reported.

The ARRL Emergency Response Team has been coordinating with Field Organization leadership in ARRL Sections affected by the storm, as well as with WX4NHC, the HWN, VoIP Hurricane Net, Department of Homeland Security SHARES, and US Army MARS.

Thanks to the ARRL for the report.

As of Saturday afternoon, the death toll from Hurricane Michael stood at 14.

A message from Greg Mossop G0DUB of IARU Region 1 says that it is a busy weekend in the Region with two major exercises and at least one emergency happening.

In Oman Younis A41MA reports that as Tropical Storm Luban heads towards Oman and Yemen, the National Committee of Civil Defence has deployed resources to the South of the country ready to deal with the flooding predicted to hit the area. An initial four amateur radio volunteers are present to help provide links to any isolated locations. This operation is initially on VHF but HF is ready to be used if required. Storms in this area generally go under-reported but are just as severe as other disasters with the previous two tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea claiming nearly 300 lives.

In Spain, their ‘Field Day 2018‘ exercise took place yesterday ( 13th October ) with a focus on Net Control activities. HF was expected to be in use on 7110, 7145, 7175 and 14315kHz. Winlink and VHF/DMR was also to be used

Finally Radio Amateurs in Romania are participating in an European Community Exercise in their country. ModEx 2018 will call for the use of 3710 and 7130kHz along with VHF/DMR.

All exercises and actual emergencies should be expected to identify as ’emergency exercise’ or ‘exercise’ on the air. When these events are watched by representatives from our Administrations, it is important that Amateur Radio is seen positively, so please allow the operators room to operate.

And Jose Mendez EA9CD informed us yesterday about the start of that FIELD DAY 2018 in Spain, where there were several special stations on the bands on 20m, 40m  and on UHF, VHF and 6m, in addition to the DMR, C4FM and D-star modes. Links were also to be made via Winlink, and a Hamnet Network was deployed by EG5FD to provide data support. This exercise ended at 16h00 UTC last night.

And in the city of Palu on the island of Saluwesi in Indonesia, 2 weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, the “Save the Children” organization is still receiving 20 missing-children reports a day. These are children separated from their parents, or amongst the estimated 5000 people buried in the landslides mentioned in last week’s report, or children being looked for by concerned relatives other than parents, who are desperately hoping the children have survived, even though their parents are missing presumed dead.

The overall number of children still missing is believed to be in the thousands. It’s unclear how many are still alive. An unknown number of bodies remain buried beneath neighbourhoods where the soil liquefied after the quake.

Unidentified children live in tent cities in several aid stations for separated children that humanitarian groups have set up across Palu, the city closest to the earthquake’s epicentre, looked after by social workers and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund officials. The monumental task of reuniting families or managing orphaned children is going to take a long time. We can only applaud the wonderful dedication of these conscientious workers.

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

HAMNET Report 7 October 2018

NHK World reports that, a week after the twin disaster decimated the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia; the death toll continues to rise. Officials now blame the earthquake and tsunami for the deaths of more than 1,500 people.

Muslims gathered on the island of Sulawesi for Friday prayers where they mourned the dead and prayed that more people would be found alive. But emergency crews continue to pull more bodies from underneath the rubble. Officials say one of the dead was a South Korean man who was taking part in a paragliding event.

There is a huge need for first aid supplies. A hospital in one of the hardest-hit cities of Palu is flooded with patients. Doctors say they don’t have enough staff to deal with them. They also warn that many are at risk of infection. Complicating matters, some patients are afraid to be treated indoors after seeing so many buildings collapse.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake triggered a tsunami that wiped out thousands of homes and buildings. Indonesia’s authorities are working with Japanese experts to investigate the mechanisms of how the quake caused the deadly wave.

And NDTV reports that the city of Palu on Sulawesi island has been left in ruins after being hit by the 7.5 magnitude quake and the  wall of water, which flattened homes, ripped up trees and overturned cars.

After days of delays, international aid has finally started to arrive in the disaster zone, where the UN says almost 200,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Survivors have ransacked shops and supply trucks in the hunt for basic necessities, prompting security forces to round up dozens of suspected looters and warn that they will fire on thieves.

Authorities previously set a tentative deadline of Friday for finding anyone trapped under ruined buildings, although chances of pulling survivors alive from the rubble at such a late stage are almost zero. Local military spokesman Muhammad Thohir said that the death toll had risen to 1,558, up about 100 from the previous official figure.

Over 100 people are still unaccounted for, while hundreds of bodies have been buried in mass graves in a bid to avert a disease outbreak from corpses rotting in the tropical sun. Search efforts focused on eight key locations on Friday, including a beach and the Balaroa area where the sheer force of the quake turned the earth temporarily to mush.

About 20 planes carrying vital supplies such as tarpaulins, medical equipment and generators are now heading from all over the world to the disaster zone after a long delay. Indonesia was initially reluctant to accept outside help, insisting its own military could handle the response, but as the scale of the devastation became clear President Joko Widodo agreed to allow in foreign aid.

Governments from Australia to Britain are flying in supplies, the United Nations has pledged $15 million to the relief effort, and aid groups including Save the Children and the Red Cross are also on the ground.

Members of International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society ORARI and other volunteers have been providing emergency communication for community and government interests. The quake and tsunami destroyed the city of Palu, completely cutting power and telecommunications.

New IARU Region 3 Disaster Communication Coordinator Dani Halim, YB2TJV, said Amateur Radio operators in Indonesia immediately responded to the unfolding disaster, establishing an emergency net on 7.110 MHz. Amateur Radio volunteers from other regions also pitched in to support radio communication for emergency news on 7.110 MHz and 7.065 MHz. Some radio amateurs with mobile stations have travelled to the affected region to help.

According to Budi Santoso, YF1AR, on Java Island, the local Palu ORARI representative Ronny Korompot, YB8PR, was among the first contacted. Through his mobile station, he reported on conditions, and the response, including evacuations. Sutrisno Sofingi, YB8NT, was also heard on 7.110 MHz using an emergency station he assembled at the disaster site. He said Amateur Radio was the only available communication with the outside world.

Amateur Radio also has assisted government agencies following severe damage to the telecommunication infrastructure. Hams operating on 2 meters were communicating information on which roads were open to allow traffic from the outside.

Halim reported that communication was established from the Luwuk Disaster Management Agency some 430 miles from the earthquake’s epicentre to obtain information on landslides and blocked roads and highways.

Salmin Sahidin, YB8IBD, in Southeast Sulawesi has been live streaming audio of the activity on 7.110 MHz via his Facebook page.

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for 4th October for these last remarks.

Here’s a story of an interesting experience. Dialogo, the Digital Military Magazine forum of the Americas, reports that Argentine and Chilean armed forces spent 10 days on the northern Antarctic Peninsula in a combined rescue exercise. The Argentine-Chilean Combined Antarctic Emergency and Rescue Patrol 2018 (PARACACH 2018, in Spanish) integrated army elements of both countries to improve response capabilities in rescue emergencies in Antarctica, August 20th-30th.

Under the coordination of the Antarctic Joint Command of the Argentine Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff, participants carried out Antarctic emergency operations, such as planning for search and rescue missions, navigation, injured recovery, and first-aid response. The patrol also walked over glaciers and frozen seas and coordinated radio communications.

The objective was to assess and increase military capabilities in Antarctic rescue operations. PARACACH 2018 also aimed at strengthening cooperation and bonds of friendship between both nations to face emergency situations in the inhospitable white continent. The patrol consisted of 14 members of both nations and 13 snowmobiles, each with sleds, and operated under temperatures of -20 deg C, and strong freezing winds. Wow – sooner them than me, I can hear you say!

HAMNET takes this opportunity to wish all RAE candidates everything of the best for the exam this coming Saturday. We look forward to seeing news of success soon on the SARL website, and invite all new radio amateurs to consider linking up with the HAMNET Directors in their Divisions, and joining the emergency communications arm of the SARL, to offer their services in case of need in the community around them. Details are available on the HAMNET page of the SARL website. We look forward to hearing from you.

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

SANLAM Cape Town Peace Trail 22 September 2018

Alister van Tonder, ZS1OK reports:

The 2018 Sanlam Peace Trail run took place on Saturday 22nd of September in support of the trail running taking place on the slopes of Lions Head and Signal Hill.  This event forms part of the larger Cape Town Marathon, which took place on the following day, Sunday 23rd.

The Hamnet operators consisted of ZS1JMT Michael and Virginia holding the fort at The Glen in the vicinity of the Round House Restaurant in Camps Bay, and the team at Signal Hill consisting of John ZS1JNT and Ian ZS1OSK, and with Alister ZS1OK at the base.  Matt ZS1MTF assisted by setting up a VHF/UHF cross-band repeater in a vehicle parked on the slopes of Table Mountain which provided a relay between The Glen and to the base located, located at the new Green Point Athletics Track, as well as to the Signal Hill team.  While there was no directly line of sight between the cross-band repeater to the base – it was well within the lee of Signal Hill, the cross-band repeater worked very well.  Matt set the VHF transmitter power to 20 watts which ensured that with the extra power a good signal was provided whereas the line of sight UHF link to The Glen was using 5 watts.

The base was operational by 05h30 with the comms being verified between the different locations by 06h00.  The start of the race was delayed by more than 30 minutes due to race safety issues, but once it started the well planned operating procedures by the race organisers ensured things went smoothly.

There were a handful of minor runner injuries, but overall no major incidents.  As with most competitive sports it was vital to verify runners were not taking short cuts or taking advantage, and matters of this nature took up some bandwidth.

The team of Michael ZS1MJT and Virginia were the first to stand down after the race sweep had progressed well beyond their location.  The team Signal Hill is very busy as both the long and the short course runners pass through their check point.   By the time the sweep passed the Noon Gun, they also stood down, since any injured runners would thereafter had to continue down the slopes rather than being taken back up to Signal Hill.   Support was concluded when the based stood down at 13h30.

This was the second year we have used cellular APRS for the race sweeps.  Last year we had some teething problems with the cellular APRS, but this year it worked really well and we had regular fixed interval position updates via aprs.fi for both race sweeps.  There were only small areas that did not have cellular coverage.

Yes, radio based APRS has its place – the race sweeps find the mangoes APRS radios bulky and heavy – but having cellular based APRS provided good operational feedback.  To provide effective VHF digipeater coverage for this event would be quite a daunting task, requiring many suitably located digipeaters.

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HAMNET Report 30 September 2018

Glynn Chamberlain, ZS6GLN, Regional Director HAMNET Gauteng South reports that, on Sunday the 23rd September, Hamnet Gauteng South kicked off their next season of events by assisting with the Route42 Mountain Bike Cycling Event organised by the Nigel Cycling Club.

Hamnet Gauteng South has proudly been assisting with this race for a number of years, and in total, 21 members helped on the day.

The morning started at 06h00 with the team arrival, setting up of the Hamnet Gauteng South Communications trailer, and a team briefing, before members started heading out to their pre-defined locations. Communications was facilitated with the erection of the units portable 70cm repeater near the “Webb Industries” high site where, coincidentally, the cyclists had to pass. Communications with all the members was perfect.

The race consisted of a completely new route from a venue, south east of Nigel. The route was through farmlands, forests, river beds and mountainous areas to name but a few. Feedback from the riders was that it was one of the best routes they have participated in, and they thoroughly enjoyed the race.

For the first time, the organisers asked if Hamnet Gauteng South could supply 2 riders on motorbikes to lead the 30km and 60km batches. Fortunately, we could accommodate the request, and were also able to supply the organisers with live position updates as both riders were carrying trackers. A further request was could the unit also provide a tail end vehicle for sweeping behind the last cyclists. This we were able to do, but with some apprehension, as the race was essentially a mountain bike race, and we were out of motorbike members. The plan was for one of the members to perform this duty initially in his vehicle as the first part of the race was through farmlands. Once one of the lead motorbikes had completed bringing in either of the 2 routes, that bike would then head off and meet the tail end vehicle and take over in the more difficult areas of the route. The plan worked out perfectly, with the bike meeting up with the last car about 20km into the race.

Overall, the race was a huge success not only for Hamnet Gauteng South, but also for the race organisers. Once again, the unit and members were able to practice and test their preparedness for real disaster events, which we hope will never come!

Thank you for the report Glynn, and well done, the team.

And  now to Indonesia, where a sequence of earthquakes and a tsunami in the Indonesian areas of Donggala and Palu on 28th September have left hundreds of people dead and many more injured. Dani Halim, YB2TJV, as the new IARU R3 Disaster Communication Coordinator reports, Amateur Radio Operators in Indonesia immediately activated to respond to the disaster unfolding in Central Sulawesi Province.

Following the magnitude 7.7 earthquake at 17:02 Local Time (11:02 am UTC), electricity, cellular and all communication facilities in the area were cut off. Communications have been established from the Luwuk Disaster Management Agency located 700 km from the epicentre of the Earthquake with YD8MII (Net Control) and YC8OBM to get information, on landslides occurring in the area, and also that communications routes were blocked. Many photos and videos now circulating on social media, show the enormity of the earthquake.

The Indonesian National Society ORARI immediately established an Emergency Net on 7.110 MHz and also activated the Lapan-Orari IO-86 satellite as a back-up.

Communications have now been established with YB8NT and YB8PR in Palu, who are using mobile stations. Due to QRM on 7.110 MHz though, a second net has been set up on 7.065 MHz.

ORARI asks that they be given room to use 7.110 MHz and 7.065 MHz since this earthquake could be worse than the one in Lombok at the end of August. Please allow them a QRM-free space to complete their work.

Thanks to Greg G0DUB for this report from RAYNET-HF.net

Meanwhile, a little bit North-East, Tropical Cyclone Trami-18 has been approaching Japan from the South-West, with sustained wind-speeds of 200km/h, and today, the 30th, will have crossed over Okinawa, and be pummelling the Southern half of Japan with winds in the region of 185km/h. It is expected to run along the entire length of Japan, in a North-Easterly direction, clearing the top right corner  of Japan by Monday night.

I’d like to draw the attention of the rapidly growing group of South African amateur satellite enthusiasts, to the interview aired in this week’s edition of Ham Nation, available on You Tube, of AMSAT President Joe Spier, K6WAO, which was featured in September 26th’s episode #369.

Well known Amateur Radio journalist Gordon West, WB6NOA interviewed Joe and discussed the latest news from AMSAT and ARISS.

Joe remarked, “The opportunity for this interview couldn’t have come at a better time. With the launch of ARISS’s Fundrazr drive to sustain Amateur Radio operations on the ISS and AMSAT’s own development needs, this interview will help get the word out to segments of the Amateur Radio community that don’t normally track the Amateur Radio satellite community.

“Ham Nation is promoted well throughout Amateur Radio social media so the potential audience is substantial. I hope everyone has a chance to watch the show and perhaps share it with your friends who might become interested in AMSAT and Amateur Radio in Space.”

Thanks to The Southgate Amateur Radio News page for this insert.

Finally, on a more sobering note, if you’ll pardon the pun, the World health Organisation issued a report on Friday, that noted that harmful use of alcohol leads to violence, road traffic crashes, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke. A new report launched by WHO estimates that 3 million people die every year from harmful use of alcohol, and most of these are men. That is 6 people every minute of every day! Today contains 1440 minutes, so that means 8640 people today!

Worldwide, an estimated 2.3 billion people drink alcohol. Of these, around 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol-use disorders. By far the majority therefore drink alcohol harmlessly, but this is certainly a statistic to make one sit up and think. The writer earnestly asks you not to become one of these statistics.

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

HAMNET Report 23 September 2018

Conventional telecommunications are starting to return to normal in some communities affected by Hurricane Florence, but the now long-gone storm set up others for persistent and record-breaking flooding, primarily in eastern North Carolina and along several of the state’s rivers. The storm, which made landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, primarily affected the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia.

“Things are back to normal communication status, and demobilization is occurring for folks deployed,” South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH, said on September 19. At mid-week, the FCC reported that nearly all cellular service had been restored in South Carolina.

Over the weekend, ARES volunteers from several South Carolina counties had pitched in to support emergency communication in the face of power and telecommunication outages and heavy rainfall. ARES Richland County Emergency Coordinator Ronnie Livingston, W4RWL, said volunteers in his county staffed the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Red Cross operators at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) kept in contact with field volunteers in Marion and Dillon counties, after conventional telecommunications failed there.

ARES District Emergency Coordinator EMEA Area 3 Earl Dean, W4ESD, said ARES deployed assets as well as personnel who coordinated with the appropriate agencies. Horry County ARES and ARRL South Carolina Section Public Information Officer (PIO) Gordon Mooneyhan, W4EGM, said radio amateurs set up and organized communication networks to assist local government and emergency agencies, as well as to handle health-and-welfare traffic for affected residents, to let their family members outside the affected area know they were all right.

In North Carolina, storm surges had caused flooding in many communities. Ham radio volunteers responded in counties along the coast, including Wilmington, Topsail Beach, Jacksonville, and Morehead City, staffing both EOCs and shelters. Farther inland, numerous ARES teams activated in the face of river flooding to address a combination of sheltering needs for local residents and evacuees. Communication throughout the state was supplemented by neighbourhood-based operators, who reported emergencies to county EOCs. The FCC reported on September 19 that nearly one-third of cell service was out in Columbus, Pender, and Onslow counties. The storm also took out several broadcast outlets in the state.

We are grateful to the ARRL letter published on Thursday for these reports.

SocialistWorker.org says that the storm that hammered the Carolinas has moved on, but the catastrophic effects, made much worse by man-made factors, are still being felt. And like the storms before Hurricane Florence, poor and working people will suffer the most.

As dramatic as the images of the hurricane making landfall on September 14 were, it is the misery and suffering for days, weeks and months to come that will be burned into the lives and memories of ordinary people here. As an activist friend beautifully wrote:

“Poverty has always been a flood and not a hurricane. It’s always been a long, rolling disaster, with muddy gray water under an incongruent blue sky. It’s always been a slow build of mould between generations of people making do with babies in faded milk crates floated on mattresses down city streets.” Close quotations.

Florence struck the North Carolina coast with winds reaching 92 miles per hour (160km/h), then moved inland and south to South Carolina, then drifted north again toward Virginia and eventually West Virginia.

The storm brought destruction to every community in its path. As of the writing of this article, it had claimed 32 lives, including that of a 1-year-old who was swept away by floodwaters in Union County in North Carolina.

One preliminary estimate puts the damage caused by Florence at $18 billion. Nearly a million people lost power, and many are expected to remain without it for weeks.

The storm dropped torrential amounts of rain on the Carolinas as it moved inland, with some areas getting over two feet of rainfall (The record rainfall I picked up in  another report was 39 inches in the two days – that’s 990mm, nearly three times our annual rainfall in parts of Cape Town!) The resulting flooding will be an ongoing hazard for weeks to come.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the flooding triggered a series of ecological disasters with coal ash ponds, chemical factories, landfills and hog farm lagoons located on or near the two main rivers in Eastern North Carolina, the Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers.

We in South Africa can only give thanks that we are not commonly exposed to this kind of meteorological disaster!

K1CE Rick Palm reports in the ARES E-Letter this week:

“DC power management has become a sub-hobby for me: I have two 100 W solar panels on the roof of my shack, two 31 A/hr gel cell batteries, a heavy duty 60 A power supply, a VHF FM radio and an HF transceiver, all fed by wires terminated with Powerpole® connectors, and managed/connected by a high power (40 A) routing/battery charging device. I changed all of my connectors to the now-ubiquitous Powerpoles years ago and never looked back.

Two aspects of 12 V power management systems are often overlooked by amateurs, admittedly including myself: length and gauge of wires. Power is saved when runs are kept as short as possible, and of a high (lower number) gauge (AWG). The power supply wire should be heavy gauge (#10) and kept as short as possible. The same applies to the batteries, which should also have a fuse in the positive lead directly at the battery’s positive terminal.

I spent a morning recently replacing all of my 12 V cables with shorter, larger gauge ones. I fused the positive battery terminal and had fun reorienting myself to installing the Powerpole connectors. There is a wealth of information available online.

One final note, and it’s an important one: Be Careful!  Any short in the battery wire, connector, or load can cause a fire and battery explosion. People almost never think of 12 V batteries as dangerous, but they are. Use the utmost of care when wiring your 12 V management system!

Thank you Rick for those words of advice.

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

HAMNET Report 16 September 2018

On diametrically opposite sides of the globe, two huge tropical storms are exerting their might on the weather.

Tropical Cyclone MANGKHUT-18, by far the bigger storm, is moving more or less due West across the Philippines, and threatening, China, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Vietnam, with maximum wind-speeds expected to be in the 280km/h range. The estimated population affected by winds in excess of 120km/h is nearly 7 million.

The northern tip of the Philippines have already been battered, and, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, the eye of the storm is East-Northeast of the tip of the Philippines, and bearing down on the coast of China, just South of Hong Kong. Its projected path will take it Westwards along the border of China and Vietnam, just North of Hanoi.

There are an awful lot of people living in those areas, in dwellings not very cyclone-proof, houses which have probably been destroyed and rebuilt many times by previous cyclones, and the population of 7 million threatened are therefore very vulnerable. We’ll keep watching the news dispatches for further detail.

On the other side of the globe, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) already had advanced plans and deployments in place for Hurricane FLORENCE, a Category 4 storm, approaching the Carolina States of the USA in a North-Easterly direction. By Monday just gone, FEMA had already positioned more than 80,000 litres of water, 402,000 meals, 1,200 cots and 34 generators at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The projected path of Florence had it crossing the coast of North Carolina on Friday morning at about 7am our time. Wind-speeds of about 250km/h were expected as it crossed the coast.

The ARRL reported that it shipped seven Ham Aid kits to South Carolina by way of Georgia on September 11, to assist with emergency preparedness needs in advance of Hurricane Florence. These kits are the same ones that ARRL volunteers took to Puerto Rico a year ago to assist with disaster communications following Hurricane Maria.

“South Carolina ARES is fully activated,” ARRL South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH, told ARRL, adding that he’s been coordinating regularly with the state Emergency Management Division. “We have operators serving 12-hour shifts at the SC Emergency Management Division and will move to 24-hour coverage on Thursday. Two operators have been deployed to Berkeley County to assist with shelter operations at the request of the Emergency Coordinator there.” Irwin said information about frequencies in use is in the Tactical Guide on the South Carolina ARES website.

“We are literally modifying plans on the fly to meet the needs of the mission,” Irwin added. “Several ARRL Sections have offered assistance.”

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), at Alert Level 3, was closely monitoring three systems, Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Invest 95L, currently in the Gulf of Mexico. The net  shifted its formal activation to Thursday, September 13, at 1300 UTC, as Florence closed in on the US east coast. The net activated on both its 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz frequencies and remained active around the clock, as needed. “Hurricane Florence is drawing a lot of concern for its size and strength, but more so for the potential flooding,” Assistant HWN Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said.

HWN stations will be on both frequencies throughout the day and evening on Wednesday, September 12, to talk with stations in the coastal states. “We want to log their locations, their weather instrumentation and other pertinent information, so that when they are actively producing storm reports we already have them in the database,” Broadway said. “This will speed the reporting process Thursday and Friday as the storm does make landfall.”

WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre remained active through Friday, September 14, operating cooperatively with the HWN as net stations funnelled ground-level reports to the Centre. WX4NHC will monitor the HWN and the VoIP Hurricane Net (VoIPWX).

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network (SATERN) announced plans to activate for Hurricane Florence from 1700 through 2100 UTC on Thursday, September 13, and to reactivate on Friday and Saturday at about 1600 UTC until propagation no longer supported it, or the Net Manager closed the net for the day.

And as I compiled this yesterday afternoon, ARRL News reported that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) announced that it shut down its activation for Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a Tropical Storm but still “a formidable system that will affect the coastal states for days,” HWN Assistant Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said. “Because the storm is moving inland, Amateur Radio activity will shift to the various state and regional emergency nets,” Broadway added.

“While propagation was not good on 20 meters for the period, 40 meters afforded a fairly consistent contact with stations in the area,” Broadway recounted. “The net has been in operation for 38 hours.”

Over the course of its activation, listening for reports and relaying them to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) via WX4NHC, nearly 200 stations checked in, and the net took in approximately twice that number of reports.

“Many were not at severe levels, but all ‘ground truth’ [reports] assist in plotting the activity of the storm,” Broadway explained. WX4NHC will remain active through Friday.

As of 0000 UTC on September 15, the centre of Florence had moved into extreme eastern South Carolina, the National Hurricane Centre reported. “Life-threatening storm surges and strong winds will continue tonight,” the report said, “[with] catastrophic freshwater flooding expected over portions of North and South Carolina.”

The storm was some 15 miles north-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 55 miles east-southeast of Florence, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 70 MPH. Florence was moving to the west at a leisurely 3 MPH.

And, if you want a live feed from the Carolina Beach, Wilmington area, visit https://www.facebook.com/derekvandamfanpage/videos/   to see daily reports from Derek van Dam.

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

HAMNET Report 9 September 2018

Seeing that we are now at the start of Spring, I thought to present a bulletin that relates to time and its consequences. Let’s start with time on the Sun.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium’s Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence (STCE) has asserted that the reverse-polarity sunspot group 2720 observed in late August belongs to the current solar cycle — cycle 24 — and does not represent the start of cycle 25 [as initially thought].

“Because of its reversed polarity, some websites claimed sunspot group 2720 was possibly one of the first groups of new Solar Cycle 25,” the Centre said. “This is simply not true, in view of its very low 8° latitude. The next Solar Cycle 25 sunspot group should have both reversed magnetic polarity and much higher heliographic latitude, typically 20° to 40° from the equator. Only two tiny, short-lived numbered sunspot groups are currently assigned to new Solar Cycle 25, sunspot group 2620 in December 2016 and 2694 in January 2018.”

STCE said that while both of those small sunspots have been assigned to cycle 25, some uncertainty exists as to just which sunspot cycle they actually belong to. STCE said some additional sunspot groups that belong to cycle 25 were so tiny and short-lived that they were not assigned a sunspot number. “During each solar cycle, about 3% of all active regions have reversed polarity but do not belong to the previous or next solar cycle,” the Centre said. “With 2,000 to 3,000 sunspot groups per solar cycle, this means that every solar cycle has a few dozen reverse-polarity sunspots that belong to the ongoing sunspot cycle despite their reverse polarity.”

After examining magnetograms of the sun’s surface, well-known Amateur Radio solar observer and propagation authority Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, agreed that AR2720 is reversed in polarity from other sunspots in the northern solar hemisphere. What confuses the issue, he said, is its low latitude, as a cycle 25 sunspot area should be at a much higher latitude.

The same weekend of sunspot group 2720, a radio blackout lasting about a day took place, affecting the HF amateur bands as well as GPS systems. Solar watcher Dr Tamitha Skov, in her YouTube report, called the G3-level geomagnetic storm “one of the top five storms of the solar cycle.”

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for that insert.

Now time on the air you can set your watch to.

VOANews.com reported on September the 2nd that President Donald Trump’s administration wants to shut down U.S. government radio stations that announce official time, a service in operation since World War II.

WWV and WWVB in the state of Colorado and WWVH on the island of Kauai in the mid-Pacific state of Hawaii, send out signals that allow millions of clocks and watches to be set either manually or automatically.

WWVB continuously broadcasts digital time codes, using very long electromagnetic waves at a frequency of 60 kilohertz, which are automatically received by timekeeping devices in North America, keeping them accurate to a fraction of a second.

“If you shut down these stations, you turn off all those clocks,” said Don Sullivan, who managed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) stations between 1994 and 2005.

Some argue the terrestrial time signals have been rendered obsolete by the government’s Global Positioning System, whose satellites also transmit time signals, but users disagree, noting GPS devices must have an unobstructed view of a number of satellites in space to properly function.

“Sixty kilohertz permeates in a way GPS can’t,” Sullivan told VOA, explaining that WWVB’s very low frequency signal can be received inside buildings and it is an important backup to GPS in case adversaries attempt to interfere with the satellite radio-navigation system.

WWV and WWVH broadcast on a number of shortwave frequencies, meaning their signals can be received globally.

WWV, the oldest continuously operating radio station in the United States, first went on the air from Washington in 1919, conducting propagation experiments and playing music. In the early years, it also transmitted — via Morse code — news reports prepared by the Agriculture Department.

The station subsequently was moved to Maryland and then to Colorado in 1966. WWV has been a frequency standard since 1922 and has disseminated official U.S. time since 1944.

All of the NIST stations rely on extremely precise atomic clocks for the accuracy of their time signals.

One second is defined as the period of the transition between two energy levels of the ground state of the Cesium-133 atom, making Cesium oscillators the primary standard for time and frequency measurements.

WWV, at two minutes past every hour, also transmits a 440 hertz note (A above middle C on a piano), something it has done since 1936, allowing musicians to tune their pianos and other instruments.

All three stations retain a huge following worldwide, according to Sullivan.

Tom Kelly, an amateur radio operator in the state of Oregon, has launched a petition to try to save the stations. Kelly’s petition calls the stations “an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” noting their transmissions of marine storm warnings, GPS satellite health reports and specific information about solar activity and radio propagation conditions.

Britain, China, Germany, Japan and Russia also have very low frequency time transmissions, but their stations are too distant to automatically set clocks in the United States.

Thanks to the Voice of America for this report.

Then, time in Europe.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that BBC News reports the EU Commission is proposing to end the practice of adjusting clocks by an hour in spring and autumn after a survey found most Europeans opposed it.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said millions “believe that in future, summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen”.

The Commission’s proposal requires support from the 28 national governments and MEPs to become law.

In the EU clocks switch between winter and summer under daylight saving time.

A European Parliament resolution says it is “crucial to maintain a unified EU time regime”.

However, the Commission has not yet drafted details of that proposed change.

And now it’s Time in South Africa to return you to the Amateur Radio Today Studio!

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

HAMNET Report 2 September 2018

On Wednesday 29th of August the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management department held an exercise with the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to test their disaster processes under the watchful eyes of inspectors of the National Nuclear Regulator.  HAMNET participated with the exercise and were ready to provide emergency communication backup should any of the other existing services have failed (or be simulated to fail).

In matters of this scale there are multiple layers of redundancy to ensure that, even should multiple simultaneous faults occur for whatever reason, the situation would never put the general public at risk.

In preparation for the exercise, a mobile VHF/UHF cross-band repeater was installed at a high site known to provide suitable coverage to areas where other existing systems were struggling with coverage, and where coverage would be required.

Three HAMNET members participated with this exercise – Dean ZS1KP, Hendrik ZS1EEE and Alister ZS1OK.  After setting up the HAMNET communications room at Goodwood for the specific requirements necessitated for this exercise, we were able to follow the development of the exercise from the spill-over JOC – which had CCTV coverage of the active Disaster Management Operations Centre – where the exercise was playing itself out.

As could be expected there were a couple of curved balls thrown at the emergency management committee, but these were all dealt with very well and in due process and time.

In the end, due to the specifics of this exercise, the HAMNET members earmarked to be mobile operators in support of the exercise were not deployed, but it was a good training ground to follow the process as it unfolded from the spill-over JOC.

After the exercise was concluded, the mobile cross-band repeater was retrieved, and in preparation for future events, the radio coverage in some areas, and this experience, is to be included in future operating procedures.

Thank you to Alister ZS1OK, for providing these notes of the exercise.

KCCI News at Noon on August the 29th stated that the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico in 2017 is now the United States’ deadliest natural disaster in the last century.  A new study suggests nearly 3,000 people died after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. The government initially reported the death toll at 64.

While volunteering on the island with the American Red Cross, Juan Trujillo helped an amateur radio group re-establish communication among hospitals. Through their HAM radios, Trujillo said volunteers were able to determine which patients needed immediate help and could help facilitate trips to San Juan by ambulance or helicopter.

“They were critical, but they were still alive in the facility they were brought into,” he said. “After that, we did not know. I did not know if they were going to make it or not. We did not (ever) have that information.”

Trujillo said he trusts the increased reported death toll because of the destruction he saw in Puerto Rico.

“We knew the activity was real,” he said. “We knew the emergency was really a true emergency for everyone.”

Trujillo said that, despite the harrowing moments, he would volunteer again in a heartbeat. “A little bit of help was provided by my doing,” he said. “So yes, I would do it anytime.”

Puerto Rico’s governor commissioned an independent review of how the island responded to the hurricane. Trujillo said he hopes the review helps the island prepare for natural disasters in the future.

Southgate Amateur Radio News has reported that the National Telecommunications Commission of Honduras (abbreviated CONATEL in Spanish), delivered radio communications equipment to COPECO on August 22, 2018, that had been donated by ITU for emergency communications.

Honduras is part of a pilot project of ITU that includes Central America and the Caribbean, aiming to achieve full implementation in South America.

Miguel Alcaine, ITU Area D Representative, said: “The most important thing is that CONATEL, COPECO and the radio amateurs start working with the WinLink tool. I am very happy to know that we are doing something before disaster strikes”.

Lisandro Rosales, National Commissioned Minister of COPECO, stated that “one of COPECO’s objectives has been the strengthening of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and, thanks to them, the institution has one of the most powerful communications networks of the region, with coverage of 95% of the national territory”.

Minister Rosales also said that “We have realized that telecommunications is a key element in order to give early warnings and to warn about imminent danger, or to coordinate assistance or reconstruction activities”.

The cooperation agreement also includes a training process. To this effect, COPECO technicians, along with professionals of the 911 National Emergency System and CONATEL personnel, initiated a series of workshops, with the support of Honduran radio amateurs.

Omar Paredes, HR1OP, secretary of Club de Radio Aficionados Central de Honduras (CRACH), commented: “This program and radio equipment will allow first responders that work during emergencies to send information through radio waves in high-frequency (HF) bands, when telephone and digital communications collapse or if there are power outages”.

Now, in news from the ARRL, a team of moonbounce enthusiasts expect to activate the 32-meter dish antenna GHY-6 at Goonhilly, on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall (IO70jb) in the UK, on September 1 – 2, operating as GB6GHY. The group, including G8GTZ, G8GKQ, and G4NNS, will be on the HB9Q logger while operational, which should be between 0800 and 1200 UTC, but “earlier if possible,” they’ve said.

GB6GHY will concentrate on 3.4 GHz on September 1 and 5.7 GHz on September 2, with the ability to switch bands immediately.

“Anyone with a relatively small dish (3-meter or less) should be able to work us,” their announcement said. The European Space Agency is undertaking a project to upgrade Goonhilly Earth Station to track missions to the Moon and Mars. The work will see the GHY-6 antenna — which carried the 1985 Live Aid concert around the world — upgraded over the span of 2 years.

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

Koeberg Exercise – 29 August 2018

On Wednesday 29th of August the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management department had an exercise with the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to test their disaster processes under the watchful eyes of inspectors of the National Nuclear Rugulator.  HAMNET participated with the exercise and were ready to provide emergency communication backup should any of the other existing services have failed (or be simulated to fail).
In matters of this scale there are multiple layers of redundancy to ensure that even should multiple simulateneous faults occur for whatever reason, the situation would never put the general public at risk.
Exercises of this nature always have a planned element of surprise.  The exact nature of the simulated disaster is determined by NNR on the day of the simulated disaster, and as it plays out during the day more real life curved balls are brought into the mix to simulate aspects of a disaster situation which is unexpected and tests the multiple levels and layers of all involved are tested.  Various organisations are involved in these exercises, consisting of SAPS, SANDF, ESCOM, NNR, Dept of Health, Traffic Police, Law Enforcement, Arrow Bus company, etc. etc.
In this particular exercise, the simulated explosion caused “damage” to an on-site nuclear waste storage facility with consequent “release” of radiation and eventual on-site power failure resulting in the disaster centre having to relocate to another (planned) site.  This resulted in several backup power generators having to come on-line to provide power for control systems at the power station itself.
In preparation for the exercise a mobile VHF/UHF crossband repeater was installed at a high site known to provide suitable coverage to areas where other existing systems were struggling with coverage and where coverage would be required.
Three Hamnet members participated with this exercise – Dean (ZS1KP(, Hendrik (ZS1EEE) and Alister (ZS1OK).  After setting up the Hamnet communications room at Goodwood for the specfiic requirements necessitated for this exercise, we were able to follow the development of the exercise from the spill-over JOC – which had CCTV coverage of the active Disaster Management Operations Centre – where the exercise was playing itself out.
As could be expected there were a couple of curved balls thrown at the emergency management committee but these were all dealt with very well and in due process and time.
In the end, due the the specifics of this exercise the Hamnet members earmarked to be mobile operators in support of the exercise were not deployed, but it was a good training ground to follow the process as it unfolded from the spill-over JOC.
After the exercise was concluded the mobile crossband repeater was retrieved, and in preparation for future events, the radio coverage in some areas and this info is to be included into future operating procedures.
Thanks again to those who participated and to Alister for arranging our response!

HAMNET Report 26 August 2018

HAMNET is saddened to be losing our National Director, Paul van Spronsen ZS1V, who has announced that he wishes to stand down. Paul has directed a very tight organisation for the last few years, and has been responsible for the development of a well run, and slick emergency communications vehicle. After several years as Western Cape Regional Director, Paul was the natural choice to be elevated to National Director when Francois Botha stood down. Paul’s firm hand and fair management of HAMNET’s affairs have kept our flags flying high. On behalf of all HAMNET members, I thank Paul, and wish him well in his future endeavours.

On the other hand, HAMNET is very pleased to be welcoming Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN as our new CEO. Glynn is well known in all Divisions, and brings to the table his fair and dedicated approach to the principles of HAMNET, so we continue to be in good hands. Well done, Glynn, and best wishes for all success during your term of office!

The Indian area of Kerala was in the news last week too, with devastating monsoon rains flooding huge areas of the state, displacing thousands of people, causing landslides, and destroying infrastructure.

The Times of India reports that  ham radio operators stepped in to provide vital connectivity.

A master control room was set up at district collectorate and amateur radio units were deployed at three taluk offices in Mananthavady, Sultan Bathery and Vythiri. “This will act as a standby communications network if other means of connectivity fail. At present, mobile and landline networks are fine, said district collector, A.R Ajayakumar.

The ham call sign of the District Emergency Operations Centre (DEOC) for flood management at collectorate is VU2PDA. The call signs for taluk offices are – Sultan Bathery VU2JLE, Mananthavady VU3AYR, and Vythiri VU2OJ.

Radio amateurs in the flood-stricken state of Kerala helped with rescue operations there, in part by tracing stranded people through their last mobile phone locations and sharing information with officials. Most telecommunication services in Kerala remain down. Accounts vary, but some 120 hams — and perhaps as many as 300 — were involved in supporting official rescue operations.

“Kerala has been hit by the worst flooding and landslides in 100 years, with six districts and neighbouring areas submerged in 7 to 15 feet of water that has spilled over from nearby rivers,” Suwil Wilson, VU2IT, told ARRL. “One million people are in relief camps, and more than 300 people are dead. Power and mobile communications in the affected areas are cut off.”

Wilson said he coordinated the statewide Amateur Radio response, which was managed by individuals without the involvement of any ham radio organization in India.

“Hams gathered at the Thiruvananthapuram District Administration office, where the District Emergency Operations Centre is functioning, and set up an Amateur Radio emergency communication control centre to work with the District Disaster Management Authority to support rescue and relief operations,” Wilson said, adding that hams from all over Kerala have been relaying reports of people stranded or in need of medical aid. “So far, hams have reported the location and other details of more than 15,000 victims stranded on roofs of houses and other buildings as floodwaters rose to the second floor of buildings.”

“At the control centre, we received messages relayed from other parts of the state and took further actions that resulted in the rescue of over 1,800 people,” Wilson said. “In many cases, the first information was relayed by hams, before any other agency did.”

After the rash of earthquakes which struck Indonesia over last weekend, the next area hit was Venezuela, which sustained a magnitude 7.3 quake on Tuesday the 21st at 23h31 our time. One and a quarter million people live within 100km of the epicentre, and Colombians felt the quake in Bogotá as well.

Karl Hleftschar, YV5YA, National Director of the National Emergency Network of the Radio Club Venezolano, reported that the YV5RNE Network is active on  7088 kHz.

Jose Rafael Gomez, YV1GEC, who lives in the Isla de Margarita, Venezuela commented that the earthquake felt strong, but until then, there had been no interruption of the electric power, or interruption of the gas service.

Roberto Rey, HK3CW, President of La Liga Colombiana de Radio Amadores, reported that in Colombia, “it was felt even in Bogota and was very prolonged.”

It is requested to keep the frequency round about 7088 kHz free of interference.

And on the 22nd of August, a RED alert for Cyclone Soulik-18 was issued, affecting South Korea, and then North Korea as it moved North East, and on to the Southernmost tip of Russia next door. Wind speeds were running at about 120 Km/s.

Then  the ARRL Letter for 22 August reported that ARRL Headquarters is in monitoring mode, as Hurricane Lane approaches Hawaii, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said, and Ham Aid Amateur Radio equipment is available for deployment.

Corey said the Hurricane Watch Net has a team on standby to assist with communication between Hawaii and the mainland, if needed. Amateur Radio at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami is also standing by to assist with communication between the Central Pacific Hurricane Centre and the National Hurricane Centre. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network (SATERN) is also keeping an eye on the situation, but has not activated. The VoIP Hurricane Net is also monitoring the situation.

The ARRL Hawaii Section is engaged with Hawaii Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and on standby to assist with shelter operations, if necessary. Volunteers are also assisting the National Weather Service and state emergency managers. At this time, no personnel or equipment is needed. Corey asked those in the affected area to alert ARRL of any communication issues that might evolve as well as any key information that could be shared via Amateur Radio networks.

The past ten days have indeed been busy for emergency communications operators!

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