HAMNET Report 15 October 2017

This week it was KwaZulu Natal’s turn to get the weather! Tuesday’s flash flood claimed 11 lives, and caused damage to hospitals, at least 133 schools, factories, homes and key infrastructure. Power outages were also reported, as the storm spread up the East coast towards the City of uMhlathuze, incorporating Empangeni and Richards Bay. Chad Mileham reported on Tuesday that the Emergency 7.110 Net was activated by 13h00, and kept a listening watch, until any likelihood of further damage had dissipated.  In idle speculation, I estimated that, if that amount of rain had fallen in the catchment area of Cape Town’s dams, our drought would have been broken and dams completely filled! Nature just isn’t fair, is it?

Kobus van der Merwe drew our attention to the magnitude 6.6 earthquake very near Bouvet Island on Tuesday, with the possibility of a Tsunami aimed at us, which fortunately didn’t happen. He pondered on how equipped we would be to deal with this kind of coastal flooding. Good question!

Chad Mileham has also been posting the ARRL posts regarding the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico to the HAMNET Facebook Pages. Look for HAMNET on Facebook, and you will find two pages to view. Thank you Chad!

Advance warning of severe weather conditions come from Vietnam, where Cyclone Khanun-17 is expected to strike from the East on Tuesday; and England and Ireland, where Hurricane Ophelia-17 is threatening from the South-West, moving slowly up off the coast of North Africa and destined for Ireland on Sunday, and England on Monday. And California’s residents and fire agencies are battling 18 huge wildfires that have claimed about 24 lives, forced at least 100,000 people to evacuate their homes, and destroyed countless properties. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service in that country is heavily involved with coordination and management of the evacuees.

Researchers at William Carey University in Mississippi are studying how disaster drones could carry medical kits to victims in a mass casualty event, before an ambulance arrives. Bystanders could use the kits to help victims, or first responders on the scene could use them when multiple victims are injured.

CNN says the disaster drones, which also could deliver medicine to hard-to-reach remote locations, were designed and built at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. The researchers have various prototypes, said Italo Subbarao, senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, who is involved in the university’s telemedicine drone research project.

“We have a kit that is a general medical emergency kit that we would probably fly to a farmer’s home, for a rural type of general medical emergency,” Subbarao said, such as a heart attack.

“We’ve got kits that are designed to go into the wilderness so that if you’re stung by a bee or you’ve got a snake bite, things of that nature, we can provide assistance in that moment,” he said. “Most recently, we demonstrated our trauma kits.”

These kits could be used in a mass casualty event like a terror attack or a train crash, or when someone needs critical care. “We look at this as a piece of the puzzle, an important piece of the puzzle, that can connect with the local emergency management system,” he said.

Subbarao and his colleagues follow in the footsteps of researchers around the world who are investigating how drones could help save lives and possibly even beat an ambulance to a medical emergency scene.

A team of researchers in Sweden recently tested whether a drone or an ambulance had a faster response time in delivering an automated external defibrillator to a patient in cardiac arrest. The device gives instructions to a bystander to use it for checking the heart rhythm and, if needed, sending an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.

The researchers conducted 18 consecutive flights with the drone, with an average flight distance of 3.2 kilometers, or about 2 miles. They compared the dispatch and travel time of the drone with the dispatch and travel time of emergency medical services.

The researchers found that the drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases, with an average reduction in response time of about 16 minutes, and that no adverse events or technical problems occurred during any of the drone flights. During a medical emergency, those minutes can be the difference between life and death. This preliminary study was published in the journal JAMA in June.

Yet much more research needs to be conducted before you could see first-responder drones flying around, delivering medical care.

Certain limitations of the technology include whether a drone could carry heavy medical supplies, could withstand the impact of extreme weather or could limit the risk of technical glitches.

In Mississippi, Subbarao and his colleagues are planning to continue their research.

“For now, we’ve been working with the Mississippi Emergency Management (Agency) and Mississippi (State) Department of Public Health. We’re in conversations with the state agencies to help us study our product, help us refine what we’re doing here,” Subbarao said.

Whether in Sweden or the United States, how would a disaster drone work? First, each drone should be equipped with medical kits and instructions.

In the US, those kits could incorporate recommendations put forth in the federal Department of Homeland Security’s initiative Stop the Bleed, which is intended to help bystanders become trained, equipped and empowered to tend to emergency situations before professional help arrives, according to developers.

A drone could also include audio or video communication systems so that the person who receives it could talk to a doctor for assistance. The researchers in Mississippi have been working with Google Glass and other types of visual technologies for this communications aspect, Subbarao said.

Thank you to CNN for these notes.

A fairly shallow cold front is approaching the Western Cape as I write this, and, if the rain gods look kindly on us, up to 22mm of rain could fall in these parts between now and next Thursday. Please hold thumbs for us..

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

HAMNET Report 8 October 2017

News of rescue efforts after Hurricane Maria, is coming mostly from Puerto Rico, it being an island with a huge population of over 3 million.

The ARRL Newsline reports that the Amateur Radio volunteers on the ground in Puerto Rico continue to provide assistance in a number of areas. Amateur Radio resources have been reallocated around the island better to meet communications needs.

Volunteer Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, a HamNation presenter, and a FEMA team member were tasked with calling 68 hospitals and medical facilities. They asked a series of 12 questions geared towards obtaining a better understanding of each facility’s communication capabilities, and to see if urgent care supplies and needs were being met.

Gary Sessums, KC5QCN, the Amateur Radio liaison to the ESF-2 Communications Task Force, coordinated the installation of a VHF Amateur Radio repeater on a mountain peak in El Yunque National Forest. The repeater now gives radio coverage to approximately 60% of Puerto Rico, and also extends radio coverage into the US Virgin Islands.

Andy Anderson, KEØAYJ, is stationed at the Guajataca Dam, providing communications support to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority between their control facility and the dam as the water levels are lowered to prevent the dam from collapsing.

Safe and Well data collection continues at Red Cross shelters, and in reunification work that involves going out into areas that have no communications. Hams are engaged in setting up equipment and entering data into the Red Cross Safe and Well website. Hams also facilitate survivors’ access to cell or satellite phones so they can call a loved one to let them know they are safe.

Reunification team officials have expressed that hams have become invaluable to the teams, not only performing communications duties, but also having become proficient in multiple skill sets for the Red Cross. Ham radio volunteers are acting as navigators, reunification workers, and anything else that is needed. To date, they have completed 60 reunifications.

Donations to the response effort continue, with EPCOM (El Paso Communications Systems) donating 40 Icom IC-F3001 handheld radios, and the Yasme Foundation providing an Amateur Radio repeater that will be installed at the Arecibo Observatory to provide Search And Rescue communications.

Dobbins Air Reserve Base reported this week that a C-5M Super Galaxy from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, landed there to provide airlift for AT&T communications equipment and technicians.

The airlift mission provided critical infrastructure restoration in support of life-saving activities underway in Puerto Rico. Many of the island’s three million residents have been without communications since the island took the full brunt of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.

To restore communication capabilities on the island, AT&T provided mobile communications assets in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  This equipment included three vehicles: two satellite cell on light trucks (COLT) and one emergency communication vehicle (EMV). Members of AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team use these vehicles to restore Wi-Fi, LAN lines and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) capabilities, explained Lou Fiorenza, an AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team member.

Meanwhile, six years on, consequences of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to be uncovered. Scientists say they’ve found new and “unexpected” sources of radioactive material dozens of kilometres away from the site.

New radioactivity has been discovered in salty groundwater and sands beneath beaches up to 100km away from the disaster site, according to the findings published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ journal on Monday.

Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US and Japan’s Kanazawa University revealed high levels of persistent caesium-137 in eight beaches, sampled for the study between 2013 and 2016.

These levels turned out to be up to 10 times higher than levels in seawater of the power plant harbour, according to the press release on the WHOI website.

“No one expected that the highest levels of caesium in ocean water today would be found not in the harbour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but in the groundwater many miles away below the beach sands,” one of the researchers, Virginie Sanial, said. The radioactive element the scientists suggest travelled from the crippled plant with ocean currents days and weeks after the reactor meltdowns. The sand grains have been storing it for years, slowly emitting caesium into ocean.

“Only time will slowly remove the caesium from the sands as it naturally decays away and is washed out by seawater,” Sanial said.

Despite the study showing that caesium doesn’t pose a risk to public health, the research still warns of such unsuspected pathways and storage of contamination, which should be considered in nuclear power plant monitoring.

“There are 440 operational nuclear reactors in the world, with approximately one-half situated along the coastline,” the study reads.

And in Cape Town, details of the three-phased approach to the water disaster have been released. Phase one is operating already, with the current restrictive regulations applied, and will involve throttling water, with rationing, resulting in short-period supply disruptions, zoned outages likely to occur during peak water usage times, but no disruption to critical services like hospitals and clinics. Phase two will involve collection of predefined quantities of drinking water per person per day from collection points, but carefully controlled maintenance of sewage systems, and availability of water in areas prone to fires or risk of disease, like informal settlements.

Phase three, or extreme disaster conditions, will place emphasis on minimising the impact on human life, dignity and property, but water will not be available in homes or workplaces, drinking water from aquifers and springs will be distributed, and close attention to safety and security will be paid by the authorities. It can be expected that tariffs for any water delivered to households will go up. Serious business indeed!

The dams supplying water to the Cape Town area stand at 37.2% full at present, down from 61.9% this time last year. At least 10% of this will be too muddy to use!

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

HAMNET Report 1 October 2017

As I scan the internet for news of emergency communications and good news, I see only notices of support, stories of damage and accounts of message relays, over and over again. Friends, we are still in the aftermath of multiple hurricanes in the Caribbean, and earthquakes in Mexico. Here are some notes from all over.

HMS Ocean has arrived in the British Virgin Islands to support the population there, and USS Wasp, a US Navy Amphibious ship is in the leeward Islands, also to protect the lives and belongings of survivors of Hurricane Maria, from disease, and criminal looting, which has been taking place. Maria hit with 155mph winds and unleashed a torrential downpour with some locations receiving nearly 40 inches of rain. The storm’s combination of high winds and heavy rains knocked out the power to the island of Puerto Rico, amongst others, leaving its 3.5 million residents without electricity, possibly for months. Officials are stating that there hasn’t been a storm of this intensity to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, and the island is currently without power, and likely to remain so. Hopefully, at least one hospital ship will be despatched to the area, to provide basic care to the injured and the frail.

Bill Fastenau, a radio club director, said that in two hours, on just one channel, he heard about 50 requests relayed by Puerto Rico ham radio operators, from individuals hoping to let people on the mainland know that they had survived the hurricane.

Currently, the traffic is just one-way — from Puerto Rico to the United States — and when people might be able to send messages back to Puerto Rico is another unknown.

For the moment, it is just too hard for Puerto Rico ham radio operators to locate the intended recipients — and they have had to jury-rig storm-damaged systems too.

Puerto Rico’s Arecibo 350 metre radio telescope dish was also damaged in the hurricane, with some antenna feeds falling away from the feed-horn and damaging tiles of the dish below. Arecibo has made many historical discoveries, from passing asteroids, to Fast Radio Bursts, to the first evidence of gravitational waves, to helping in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, mapping the surface of Venus, and the rotational period of Mercury. It was also responsible for sending the strongest radio signal into space ever generated – a massive 20 trillion watt emission, consisting of 1679 bits, and carrying a single simple coded pictorial message, in the hopes that alien life will be able to decode it, when it arrives in the Globular Cluster M13, 21000 light years from us and containing about 300 000 stars.

Back on earth, on Dominica, shops have been looted, houses are completely destroyed, and potable water is now the problem, with standing water starting to smell, and no reticulated water available.

Greg G0DUB has sent further information about Dominica. He says:

“The following update has been received from Jeff 9Y4J via Cesar Pio Santos HR2P, the IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Co-ordinator, concerning the relief efforts in Dominica, with specific reference to Telecommunications.

“1. An emergency operating centre was activated using the call sign J73EOC, with batteries and a generator installed.

“2. The NEOC is being manned by radio amateurs, some of whom arrived from neighbouring countries.

“3. Limited mobile service is available in the capital of Roseau with free SMS messaging and WiFi being provided.

“4. Troops from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, The UK, and France have arrived and are bringing some order back to the country after widespread looting.

“5 The USA has started activating their citizens.

“6 The CEWN (Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net) webmaster, Franz/J69DS has established a link from his server to the EOC in Roseau in order to pass on the more than 2,000 messages on hand.

“7 The CEWN continues to maintain a watch on 7188 kHz and 3815 kHz daily.

“8 Major infrastructural damage was done, thus limiting access to many areas on the island.”

And on St Croix, thieves stole the generator belonging to AT&T’s Gallow Bay Tower, causing a domino-effect internet and then cell-phone system collapse. A borrowed generator has been linked up, and is being guarded 24 hours a day by civilians, because communications on the island is the single most important system needed to bring relief and care where required.

At the other edge of the Pacific Rim of Fire, more than 120,000 people have fled a menacing volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, fearing it will erupt for the first time in more than half a century as increasing tremors rattle the region.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun said the numbers (leaving) on Sunday (according to) disaster officials are more than double previous estimates and are continuing to rise, they say. It includes people who left voluntarily as well as those told to evacuate from a nine to twelve kilometre zone around Mount Agung.

Authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level on Friday following a “tremendous increase” in seismic activity. Its last eruption in 1963 killed 1,100 people.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, a senior Cabinet minister, said on Sunday that the districts surrounding the volcano “must be prepared for the worst”.

Presumably, the volcano is evidence of further tectonic plate shift, some of which caused the Mexican earthquakes last week, killing more than 320 people.

I am pleased, though, to bring you a little good news in the form of a report from Grant ZS1GS, Western Cape Regional Director for HAMNET, of a successful deployment of HAMNET volunteers to assist with the Marloth Trail Run, held outside Swellendam in the Western Cape, over the long weekend.

Grant reports that four checkpoints and a base were manned by a total of 10 operators, with an 11th operating as a rover, and a 12th acting as a very useful HF and VHF relay station from his home. Two cross-band repeaters were implemented, to make contact with base easier, and the event went off without any serious mishaps. The rush to and from Swellendam was made easier for the team by Monday’s public holiday, and I gather the rest and relaxation before and after the race made up for any hard work during it. Well done Grant, and all who helped.

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