REPORT 26 February 2017

On Sunday the 19th February 2017, HAMNET Gauteng South provided services to the annual Dischem Ride for Sight race held from the Boksburg stadium.

This year there were 31 operators manning 10 sweep vehicles, 5 water tables and 4 quantum busses with trailers to collect cyclists that had retired from the race, all driven by Hamnet members. The balance of the team set up, manned and operated the JOCC together with Helivac and the Road Rangers.

This year proved to be a rather challenging race with many incidents being thrown at the team. There were so many injuries and accidents early in the race that ambulances became scarce. At one incident there were 3 cyclists injured and eventually 2 were transported in one ambulance and the 3rd in a second ambulance. The other 3 responded to other incidents leaving the race with minimal available ambulances with incidents piling up. Three more ambulances were brought in, but, coming in out of the cold, they did not know the route and there was no radio communications with them except by phone, making rational response difficult.

Another issue was that the marshals on the short route made a complete error and directed arguably 80% of the short route race down the wrong road! Fortunately Shane (ZS6ZSB) who started sweeping that area noticed the error and called it in. Five of their members were drawn in to manage the incident. The team could not rectify the error as they would never have got the cyclists back on the correct route, so these riders completed a slightly shortened race!

Then, as a result of the inability of closed watering points to reinforce water supplies at points further down the routes, the cut off at Watering Point 3 was enforced by the JOCC as the temperatures were very high and people were dropping out. On the radio, a constant chatter was heard from the busses reporting they were full and returning to base. Unfortunately they had 3 members with PDP’s and 4 busses. Hopefully next year they will have 4 PDP’s amongst their volunteers.

Overall, the race went exceptionally well in the eyes of the organisers who were ecstatic at the way everything had gone. In total there were 5700 cyclists who all had a great day! Thank you, Glynn for the report, and congratulations to the team on snatching a victory from the jaws of chaos.

By contrast, HAMNET Western Cape had an easy time of it marshalling a small group of riders around parts of the Cape Peninsula last Sunday, during the Lion’s Journey for Sight and Service. For the first time that I can remember, HAMNET ran the communications solely on 70cm repeaters, except for APRS, which used the usual 144.800MHz frequency. The weather was fine, but a strong South Easter wind sprang up, and the homecoming for the riders was straight into the teeth of the gale! The sweep vehicles were kept busy towards the end picking up riders who had simply run out of steam, even on the level route. There were no incidents of note, and the route was cleared by 11h30. Thank you to the 10 operators who took part.

HAMNET members in the Western Cape will be drawn in to an exercise this coming week, held under the auspices of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) medical department that trains ambulance medics, who will camp at Nieuweberg Nature Reserve and practise medical rescue techniques. The APRS trackers will be allocated to rescue teams for monitoring purposes, all supervised by HAMNET.

Almost a decade ago, Oregon State lawmakers banned the use of hand-held cell phones to talk or text while driving. Since then smart-phones have exploded in popularity and are used for all sorts of things, not just texting or calling someone.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in 2015 that Oregon’s cell phone law does not technically make it illegal to check Facebook, look up a podcast or even read a Kindle while behind the wheel!

A proposal under consideration now would clarify that all mobile electronic devices are included, and that holding one in your hand for any reason while driving would be a violation. The measure would also increase the penalty for being caught, and increase it even more if the offence led to a crash.

The measure would maintain the current exception to the ban for emergency situations, as well as drivers of emergency vehicles. However, the bill will remove the exception to the law for people operating amateur radios.

That change is opposed by an organization representing amateur radio operators. In written testimony, John Core of the Amateur Radio Relay League said that amateur radios provide an important auxiliary emergency communications option for public agencies during natural disasters. Core wrote that removing the exemption for ham radio operators would “serve as a significant disincentive for Amateurs to install and maintain radios in their vehicles.” End quote.

Thankfully, this exception still holds for radio amateurs in South Africa, who may use a 2 way radio communications device while driving their vehicles, as long as the device is firmly attached to the vehicle, and not a portable or “handheld” radio.

And, at the time of writing, we have been unable to confirm the rumour that HAMNET has already installed three demonstration emergency communications stations complete with APRS digipeaters on the three habitable planets  -1e, -1f and -1g, orbiting the Red Dwarf TRAPPIST-1, 40 light years from Earth, for the benefit of the population there!

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