HAMNET Report 17 December 2017

Greg Mossop, G0DUB has reported to IARU Region One agencies that Tilen S56CT reported the activation of Radio Amateurs in Slovenia last Saturday after heavy snow caused damage in a small region in Slovenia, Zasavje, affecting about 20000 citizens. Electrical power lines were down and consequently internet and phone networks. A lot of roads were also blocked due to fallen trees.

A large part of the major town, Trbovlje  lost electrical power, including the 112 Emergency Call receiving station. Calls from the public were transferred from Zasavje  region to the Call receiving station in  Ljubljana. Slovenian call centres are also dispatch centres, so this increased their workload dispatching teams outside their normal area.

A few hours after the breakdown, operators from the regional Emergency Communications group S50ATR (Trbovlje) organised themselves to offer help with redundancy communications between the centres in Trbovlje and Ljubljana. The Centre in Trbovlje was very happy to accept the help, so Matjaz S57MK and Roman S56HVF immediately went to Trbovlje with enough charged radios for the professional communications, using Winlink through packet radio P2P connection to a local radio club which had a satellite internet connection and reliable electricity. Also communication through the FM/DMR repeater system was established and has served as a link between Trbovlje and Ljubljana. In Ljubljana the S50ALJ regional team has also been activated to assist NC112 in Ljubljana using the S55DHF FM/DMR wide coverage repeater.

Zasavje region is known for its mountainous terrain and difficult radio coverage. Amateur Radio provides 3 repeater locations in that region along with a packet radio node on a TV tower, satellite internet at the radio club S59DOR in Trbovlje and of course HF with Pactor and Winmor, for Winlink. All good examples of the diversity that amateur radio can bring to emergency communications.

Thanks Greg.

The ARRL Newsletter issued on Friday reports that, since its start on December 4, the massive and only partially contained Thomas Fire in Southern California had consumed nearly 240,000 acres by mid-week, destroyed more than 700 single-family residences and threatened thousands more, and caused residents in fire-threatened areas to evacuate. Amateur Radio volunteers had been supporting communication for American Red Cross shelter sites in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, passing traffic between evacuation centres. One of several fires that broke out across Southern California, the Thomas Fire is far and away the largest. The Ventura County Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS)/Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Net activated on December 5, “as smoke filled the air, and the fire grew to catastrophic proportions,” said Ray Smith, KI6VED, who volunteered with his wife Jade, KI6VFQ. Their home was included in an evacuation order.

“The worst night for the crew at Nordhoff came Wednesday, December 6, when the fire surrounded the Town of Ojai on three sides,” Smith explained. “The incident commander decided to shelter in place, instead of trying to move 250 refugees out on the only open exit, which was sometimes closed.”

Smith told ARRL that several fire vehicles dispatched to Nordhoff High School, a shelter site, taking up positions around the campus, and fire fighters stood guard by classrooms, opened to accommodate evacuees sleeping in their cars, some with their pets. “They were warned that if the trucks sounded their air horns, they were to pick up the [pet] cages and run for shelter on campus immediately,” Smith said. “The flames moved East to West along Nordhoff Ridge, with an army of fire fighters retreating before them. For a time, the radio operators, like everyone else, did not know what would happen to them.” Smith said the fire passed within 2 miles of the shelter location. Radio amateurs also deployed to the Ventura County Emergency Operations Centre. ARRL Ventura County District Emergency Coordinator Rob Hanson, W6RH, said the ACS/ARES volunteers staffed four evacuation centres, in addition to the EOC.
Santa Barbara Section Manager Jim Fortney, K6IYK, told ARRL that an Amateur Radio digital network (ARDN) MESH video network live-streamed video from several sites. “Loss of primary power has required using the solar power backup capabilities, but, unfortunately, the heavy smoke has made that backup less than fully reliable,” he said. In addition some sites are down because of power outages, and at least one hilltop site was overrun by fire. In addition to power loss to repeater sites, solar panels charging off-grid batteries have been affected by the huge plumes of smoke blocking them.

As of mid-week, FEMA reported, evacuation orders remained in effect for more than 93,000 residents, although shelter occupancy was down to about 300. A boil water advisory has been issued for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.Thank you to the ARRL report for these excerpts from their weekly news.

Dam levels in the Western Cape continue their dismal drift to empty, with their levels on average 34.2% full, down by 0.9 percentage points on last week. We’ve had a fairly hot week, with intense South-Easters most of the week, which always go with heavy rain in the North East of the country. Water usage in the City of Cape Town’s jurisdiction remains too high at 628 million litres a day, desalination plants are about to come on line, water is starting to flow from boreholes being drilled, but Mr Average Capetonian seems unable to get his personal usage down to less than 87 litres a day. With the prospects for rain in the next four months very slim, it looks like Cape Town’s taps will run dry in May next year. That will result in 25 litres per person being issued per day from collection points around the Peninsula, which will prove an enormous inconvenience to all peoples in all suburbs. If any of you listening have particularly successful rain dances, please contact the author urgently!

Here’s a sobering thought to end with: Do twins ever realise that one of them was unplanned?

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