By Tuesday the 19th, Greg Mossop G0DUB was reporting that Hurricane Maria was moving through areas still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma just weeks ago and had been reassessed as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane.
Amateur Radio groups were preparing for this next storm and the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN), was activated on the morning of the 18th September 2017 at 10h30 UTC on the frequency 3815 kHz, and would subsequently move to 7188 kHz at 11h00 UTC.
It was intended to maintain 24 hour coverage during the passage of the system, and immediately after, in case there was the need to pass health and welfare traffic.
This followed earlier notices from the Puerto Rican and the Dominican Republic Emcomm operators, who advised they would be using the following frequencies;
Puerto Rico – 7188 kHz and 7192 kHz
Dominican Republic 7065 kHz, but depending on propagation also 3780 kHz
With the potential to suffer QRM from a wider area, the normal operation of the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325MHz had also started.
On Thursday Greg told us that XE2O of the FMRE in Mexico reported that they were maintaining an Emergency Network on 7060 kHz with the support of many Mexican radio amateurs. They had also deployed two mobile emergency communication units, one of them to the south of Mexico City and the other to the communities near the city where communication problems have been reported.
They had permanent contact on HF between the Command and Control centre in Mexico co-ordinating the emergency response and the Emergency Network of the FMRE.
9Y4J reported that Health and Welfare traffic in and out of Dominica continued to be passed via amateur radio, on frequencies 7188 kHz, and 3815 kHz.
However, the airports remained closed, and an assessment of the seaports was underway. This will help determine how soon relief goods, and substantial human resources, can access the island.
Further media reports said that, in the immediate aftermath of then-Category 5 Hurricane Maria’s passage over Dominica on Monday, Frans van Santbrink, J69DS, on St. Lucia, checked into the VoIP Hurricane Net to relay damage reports he’d gathered via repeater conversations with other hams there. The New York Times also reported and posted audio that Amateur Radio was a primary source to gather initial damage reports from the storm-ravaged Caribbean Island nation of some 70,000 residents. US-based Julian Antoine, J73JA, solicited reports via a VoIP connection with the J73MAN repeater on Dominica.
“All power lines are down, our telephone lines are down, Internet lines, everything is down,” came a reply to Antoine’s inquiry. “Roads are blocked with debris. No confirmed information on fatalities or injuries.”
On Friday, Greg posted that “Hurricane Maria continues to move through the Caribbean with Puerto Rico the latest to be affected, losing power and many cellular phone stations. The SATERN net is operating on 14.265MHz with bilingual (Spanish/English) operators looking for any messages out of Puerto Rico.
“It has been reported from the Dominican Republic that some Puerto Rican stations are operating on 7085 and 7095 kHz and they are communicating with those stations.
“Co-Operation is starting between networks in the area and between all countries in the Caribbean area, and their assistance is appreciated.”
On Tuesday evening, GDACS posted the first news of the second disastrous Earthquake in Mexico, a magnitude 7.1 temblor at 20h14 CAT, in an area where 8.5 million people live within a 100km radius of the quake. We have watched and listened to reports all week of frantic searches through the rubble of collapsed buildings and schools, and the death toll rising steadily toward the 300 mark. The FMRE National Emergency Net was activated on 7060kHz, 3690kHz and 14120kHz, and has been handling traffic to make up for the loss of some cellular networks, FMRE President Al Tomez, XE2O, told the ARRL.
Greg G0DUB also reported on the IARU Region 1 conference at Landshut, which closed just at the weekend. He said there had been a good meeting on last Sunday, amongst emergency communicators, where ideas about social media being used to spread important information regarding emergencies were discussed. Such things as international WhatsApp groups and possibly a FaceBook page to post urgent news on were mentioned, particularly bearing in mind the fact that FaceBook translation is improving, thus making dissemination to people not conversant in your language more effective.
On a local, and happier note, I have received a short report from Alister ZS1OK, on the Cape Town Peace Trail Run, which Hamnet helped marshal, last weekend. This was not the marathon run on Sunday, but rather an off-road run on the slopes of Lion’s Head and Signal Hill on Saturday, finishing down at the Green Point athletics track. Alister says:
“The race went off successfully, with more than 330 trail runners enjoying the splendid views on the 12 and 22km routes. The weather was very windy initially, but settled to become a splendid day. This was the first event where we benefitted from using an event caravan and a 4×4 vehicle provided by the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management. A big thank you to the City of Cape Town!
“Six operators were able to assist with facilitating communications for the recovery of some injured runners, fortunately none of which were serious.”
Thanks for the report Alister!
As the long weekend progresses, and holiday-makers rush to and from their holiday destinations, may I make an appeal to all emergency communicators to keep their radios on, and monitor emergency frequencies and central repeaters, to be better able to help their fellow South Africans in case of need? Thank you very much.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.