HAMNET Report 4 February 2018

An article in RADIOWORLD, on 1st February, discussed the false incoming missile alert raised in Hawaii on January 13, 2018.

In the minutes after the false missile Emergency Alert System alert was delivered in Hawaii, there was a great deal of general confusion — a lack of communication, general perplexity about the next steps, and phone call after phone call that didn’t get through to the right recipients.

But one group in particular said it knew exactly what it felt it had to do. While an official retraction from emergency officials of the alert did not come until 38 minutes had elapsed, amateur radio operators were able to confirm within 13 minutes that the Hawaii EAS alert was false.

“The big thing is, when all else fails, we’re able to provide emergency communications as required,” said Mike Lisenco, a member of the board of directors for the Amateur Radio Relay League.

At a hearing on  25th January, called by the Senate Commerce Committee, Lisenco discussed the role that amateur radio operators played in responding to the Hawaii EAS alert response. He noted that amateur radio, as a distributed form of communications infrastructure, is easily adapted to changing emergency conditions in disaster response situations.

And in this case amateur radio operators in Hawaii were well-prepared for the emergency event.

“Ironically, amateur radio members in Hawaii had just been drilling 20 hours before the actual false alarm, so everything was fresh on their minds,” Lisenco said during the hearing.

Rumours and stories began to circulate through various VHF and UHF repeaters about the alarm as part of the Hawaii State Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. Amateur radio operators picked up a conversation from a Coast Guard vessel outside the area that was relaying news that the alert was false. The operators, taught to listen for a local siren that indicates a true emergency, realized that siren had not sounded.

The result was that amateur radio networks were able to disseminate validated cancellation information long before the cellular networks via WEA were able to do so, Lisenco said.

“Because they were able to disseminate that information freely, they were able to get word out right way [that the alert was false],” Lisenco said.

At the hearing Sen. Roger Wicker asked why amateur radios are considered valuable in a situation such as these.

“We’re not dependent on the [same] infrastructure to operate,” Lisenco said. “And because we understand how radio works, we’re able to adapt quickly to many situations.”

The use of amateur radio proved vital during Hurricane Katrina, Wicker’s office said, when amateur radio operators helped restore communications lines with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief entities when the primary emergency response network was down.

“We have amateur operators both within and outside a disaster area,” Lisenco said. “That gives us a unique ability to disseminate information within a disaster zone that others don’t have.” During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, amateur radio operators within the flood zones sent information to the outside to get first responders to where people needed help, he said.

And the official NASA website has issued an article written by Erik Lopez, discussing the ways in which Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) connects and inspires the world. The four ways are:

1) First-hand education about life in space

ARISS events educate students, teachers, and parents about living and working in space.

2) Direct connection with astronauts

Each ham radio contact brings a  student closer to space by connecting them directly to an astronaut aboard the space station. Each contact could potentially plant the seed of a future career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

3) Sharing amateur radio technologies

Ham radio educates the general public about amateur radio technologies, providing an opportunity for amateur radio experimentation and evaluation of new technologies.

4) Building global partnerships 

Like the space station, ham radio represents a multinational collaboration among different organizations to achieve one shared purpose. Each contact connects audiences from around the world, further uniting the world in the efforts of space exploration. Since 2000, ham radio has reached 57 countries in which more than 1,000 schools or organizations have been involved.

Thank you, Erik, for these thoughts!

The Martinsville Daily wonders if you have ever wondered why 2-way communications around the world commonly include the person on the receiving end saying “Roger” or “Roger that?” Well… here’s the story of how it came to be…

The first radio communications were in Morse code. In order to speed things up, abbreviations were used for everything. If the message was received the receiver would indicate this by responding with the letter “R”, abbreviation for “received.” When voice replaced Morse code as the preferred method the phonetic alphabet was used for letters to avoid confusion. The word “Roger” was assigned to the letter “R” at that time, so when the receiver got the message he/she would respond by saying “R” which meant received. Since protocol dictated the used of phonetics, “R” became “Roger.”

The first meeting of the Western Cape Division of HAMNET takes place this week on Wednesday evening, the 7th, at 19h30, at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg hospital, and all interested hams are welcome to attend. And our first sports event takes place this coming Saturday the 10th, out of Durbanville. It is the 99km cycle race, called appropriately the “99er”, and takes the riders out almost as far as Wellington and then back towards the N7 via Philadelphia, before using the N7 to get back in to Durbanville via Vissershok. Thirteen radio teams will shepherd the riders along the route, and the weather looks good at this stage for next Saturday. I’ll report back in a future bulletin. Umm.. Roger?!

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