REPORT 22 January 2017

Bad weather continues to plague Europe, and National Emergency Communications coordinators have been reporting in with their details.

Michal SP9XWM says that they started specific weather monitoring 2 weeks ago in Poland, as severe snowfalls started. Networks will be implemented as weather deteriorates. Critical storm weather conditions in coastal areas occurred twice last week.

In Italy Alberto IK1YLO notes that the weather situation in Central to Southern Italy is  very severe, as snow and very low temperatures are experienced.  Communications capabilities are good with no problems experienced. But, after this report came through, Italy was struck by 9 earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or more on 18 January, and the avalanche we saw reported on, which engulfed a winter hotel and saw many casualties and lives lost.

From Germany, Michael DJ9OZ reports orange warning alerts of very low -15 degree temperatures, a thick layer of snow, some if it banked high by winds of up to 95 km per hour on high mountains in the Black Forrest area.

And in Essex, England, Essex RAYNET was officially notified last Thursday the 12th by Tendring District Council, via the Essex Civil Protection and Emergency Management Team that RAYNET’s support was required due to severe weather warnings in the area. Straight away, Essex RAYNET were en-route to Tendring and, within a few hours, a Control station was operational at Tendring District Council’s Emergency Response Centre in Weeley. Cross-band (2m/70cm) repeaters were active to cover the local area, as well as county-wide for other members of Essex RAYNET.

The group’s primary involvement was to support Tendring District Council, who were coordinating the evacuation of a potential 2,500 residents from Jaywick. Four locations were activated to provide coverage. Essex RAYNET members were deployed to each location making use of a cross-band repeater for robust communication back to Control at the council offices in Weeley. Through the use of cross-band 2m/70cm repeaters, most of the comms could comfortably be achieved using 5 watt handhelds.

In the run-up to an expected tidal surge, most of the effort from the emergency services involved contacting the residents, with police knocking on over 2,000 doors, leafleting residents and messaging via the media, preparing to evacuate the most vulnerable to a rest centre. Fortunately, the tidal surge and the next two high tides turned out to be less severe than expected, and the Raynet members were able to stand down on Friday evening the 13th, after a 40 hour operational involvement.

Thankfully, most of the Western Cape’s severe fires have now been brought under control. Gale-force winds and extremely hot conditions in the Cape have made fire-fighting very difficult, but we know our gales signify your rainfall in the Summer rainfall area, so are content in that knowledge. The fire-fighting teams have been very thinly stretched, some of the firemen working without rest for most of their 24 hour shifts. Local communities have been very generous in their donations of sustenance to the firemen. The most damage to property seems to have been in the Paarl area, where centuries-old farmsteads and large tracts of land under vines or orchards have been destroyed in the blazes.

The situation in our dams around the country, apart from the Western Cape, continue to improve. On average the percentage increase this week compared to last, is 2%, while the Western Cape’s dams have decreased by 2%. The Western Cape’s dams will keep us supplied with drinking water for another 100 days, unless it starts to rain, and rains well. The closer we get to our danger levels, the more stringent will become our restrictions, and it is expected that we will soon be banned completely from watering our gardens. For all to whom this applies, please do everything in your power to use saved water from washing or kitchen usage over and over again, before watering essential parts of your garden with it. Please let no drop of water disappear down the drain unused.

Some of HAMNET Western Cape’s members attended a “think-tank” afternoon yesterday afternoon, to discuss and solve if possible, some of the division’s problems that were raised during the end of 2016 ten-question-survey issued by Grant ZS1GS, the Regional Director. Grant had sent out a list of the accumulated answers to his ten questions previously, and asked those attending to give the responses some thought with a view to planning the training and meeting format for the coming year. The general consensus of opinion seemed to be that more attention needs to be given to the usage of digital communications in emergency situations than is currently the case, and all forms of training or teaching, whether it be in communications, or straightforward advice over antennas, cabling, reusable power options, and suitable radios to own or use, should be encouraged. Unexpected requests to call in on an Emcomm frequency should also be experimented with, to find out who is able to respond, and how quickly.

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