HAMNET Report 6 May 2018

For those of you wondering whether last week’s heavy rain made any difference to our dam levels, I can tell you that the state of the Western Cape dams, and the Cape Town System dams, both rose by about one percentage point, compared to the previous week. Pictures of the dams show very little difference, but every drop helps. It remains to be seen how wet May is.

At the members meeting of HAMNET Western Cape, held at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital on Wednesday evening, Grant ZS1GS, Regional Director, awarded the Jack Twine Awards and HAMNET pens to those amateurs who were unable to attend the SARL Awards Dinner held two weeks ago. The awards were received with acclaim, and photographs were taken to ensure a memory of these awards for posterity. Well done, Fellows!

I found an interesting article in RadioZS of May 1973, by Doug Brook, ZS1AE, reporting on the enthusiasm of earlier amateurs for the principles of HAMNET.

Doug writes:

“The wonderful response from Amateurs throughout South Africa has more than justified the combined efforts of the Civil Defence Authorities and the SARL Sub-Committee to launch a network to provide radio communications in times of Emergency.

“Many good names were submitted for the network and had it not been deemed necessary for the name to be as near usable in English and Afrikaans as possible, expressive of the participation of Radio Amateurs, and as brief as possible, the final choice would have been an extremely difficult one.

“However, one of the names which appeared consistently among the questionnaires was the simple and eye-catching title of ‘HAMNET’ which your subcommittee has since discussed with your Council and also with the Civil Defence Liaison team and all have agreed that this will become the official name of the Network of Radio Amateurs who have volunteered to assist with the provision of radio communications should the necessity ever arise.

“No attempt is being made to define the meaning of the word ‘Emergency’, as it is felt that such an attempt will not only be inadequate but may also tend to be misleading.

“Torrential rains causing serious flooding and in some instances threats of dams bursting have been occurring far more regularly than one likes to believe possible in these modern and enlightened days.

“The disasters mentioned above are typical of natural occurrences which result in a partial or even complete breakdown in normal communications. With the approvals which have been secured from the authorities, it is now possible for the Radio Amateur¬† to step into the picture and provide vital communication links which may otherwise take hours or even days to set up on an official basis.

“Once the Authorities have regained control of a situation, the Radio Amateur will have fulfilled his obligations.

“A number of Amateurs, who feel that they may possibly be officially engaged during an emergency, have offered their equipment to HAMNET. These offers are greatly appreciated and have been carefully noted.

“Still other amateurs have offered to buy special equipment for the Emergency Network, but your Sub-Committee has decided that this will be an unnecessary imposition on the pocket and the good will of the Amateurs concerned and accordingly make it known that Amateurs are not expected to purchase any special equipment for ‘HAMNET’.

“The Civil Defence Authorities have made it quite clear that amateurs are being requested to provide emergency communications on an exclusively voluntary basis, and to this end, do not wish to impose any discipline of a military nature upon those willing amateurs.

“Likewise, the authorities will not at this stage give any consideration to the provision of any radio equipment whatsoever.

“The authorities are however keen to encourage the amateur in all other respects, and your Sub-Committee has welcomed the offer by the Authorities to permit and to participate in large scale exercises of simulated emergencies.”

The report then goes on to mention the keeping of good logs, and encourages the appointment of regional representatives of HAMNET, to allow good co-operation between the HAMNET Sub-Committee on the SARL Council, and the Branches of the SARL, as they were then constituted.

Doug concludes by saying: “In the meantime, you are thanked for your generous support and for your patience while the various developments have taken place”.

Thank you to the RadioZS archives for the article by Doug Brook ZS1AE.

HAMNET has been occupying itself this weekend in a communications exercise of the type mentioned in Doug Brook’s article. The style of the exercise has been kept most secretive, and, as I write this, I know neither what the exercise will consist of, nor the times during which it will run. This is exactly as one might expect an emergency to take place, as there should be no chance to practise the skills needed during the exercise, nor any advance notice of what to expect. It is known that teams have been activated in all the divisions to act on the instructions of the organisers from Division Two, and we wait with interest to see what happens.

I’m sure we’ll have more news of the event next week.

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