HAMNET Report 20th October 2019

Adrian, YO3HJV, reporting to the IARU Region 1, says that last week, The Department for Emergency Situations (DSU) held a big exercise in two counties in Romania. The subject of this exercise was the cooperation between institutions and NGO’s to a forest fire situation.

The exercise took place in two remote areas in the West part of Romania in Hunedoara County and Caras Severin County.

More than 500 firemen, rescuers, Mountain Gendarmerie, Military forces, Aviation and Search and Rescue Dog organisations were involved.

We played an important role because the area was subject to intermittent mobile phone service and no TETRA network. Again, we used DMR in both sites and this helped us to provide both voice and GPS locations for the intervention forces.

In Hunedoara we used a single repeater for the whole area, and in Caras Severin we used two DMR repeaters linked via 3G, as the sites had some mobile signal.

The exercise was very useful both for us, to test our knowledge and technology, and for the IGSU to show them, directly at intervention forces level, how our systems work.

The short story is that we were extremely appreciated and we established a lot of useful contacts for future cooperation.

The network we used was based on SLR5500 repeaters, portable tripods with 5m telescopic masts and vertical antennas, DM4600 fixed radios and DP4801E portable radios. The software of choice was SmartPTT Enterprise.

Thank you to Adrian and Greg G0DUB for sharing that report.

Another report from Greg G0DUB, Emergency Communications Coordinator for IARU Region 1, says that the 44th HamRadio Exhibition at Friedrichshafen attracted 14300 visitors, among them around 27 Emergency Communicators from 14 countries who attended the IARU meeting for Emergency Communicators on Friday 21st June.

After the introduction and Region 1 report, there were interesting presentations followed by a good exchange of information in an Open Forum session which carried on beyond the official closing time of the meeting.

Mike SP9XWM and Cris SP7WME spoke about the use of new technology in exercises in Poland. There was then an Open Discussion on what use we could make of Satellites and other new modes for Emergency Communications, discussing Low Earth Orbit as well as Geostationary satellites, HF conditions and weak signal message modes (e.g. JS8call).

Alberto IK1YLO spoke about the NEIFLEX (North East Italian Flood Exercise) European Exercise of 5/9 June 2018 followed by an update on their national DMR project. Ron 4X1IG made a presentation on how emergency communications are being grown in Israel by using a ‘Contest as a drill’.

Oliver DL7TNY provided an introduction to AREDN data networks which got many attendees to look at the networks in practice on the DARC stand in the main hall.

An Open Forum was then followed by a short exercise on how we may respond to a power grid failure.

The next Ham Radio on the Bodensee is on June 26 – 28 2020 and will include another emergency communications meeting.

The third IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Workshop (ECW) was held in Lima, Peru, earlier this month on the 3rd October, immediately following the 20th General Assembly of IARU Region 2. The Emergency Communications Workshop was sponsored by the Executive Committee of IARU Region 2, and hosted by Radio Club Peruano. Region 2 Emergency Coordinators and subject matter experts discussed recent incident responses with the goal of increasing the capacity of amateurs in IARU Region 2 to respond to large scale, multinational communication emergencies and disasters. The ECW provided an opportunity for leaders to network with the goal of increasing cooperation and collaboration for future responses. Twenty-three countries from around the globe were represented.

Among the many highlights of the workshop was a presentation on Winlink, the ever-growing hybrid Internet/Amateur Radio email network.

Thanks to the ARES e-Letter for this short report.

And the ever-willing Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal, reports that HAMNET KZN had a last minute request from Daan ZS6CD from Nelspruit to assist the judges from the Endurance Walking Association of SA at a two day event being held on the Bluff in Durban on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th October that coincided with their AGM.  The participants were members of the SANDF, SAPS and Correctional Services.  44 teams, comprising 6 walkers each, and 65 individuals entered, making a total of 329 participants.

Week day events are always a challenge, with the majority of our members unavailable due to work commitments.  Ben ZS5BN, Terry ZS5TX and Rob ZS5ROB offered to assist, and Keith was able to take leave to assist on the Friday.

As things turned out, the Metro Police did not grant approval for the event to take place on Thursday, although the organisers had submitted their application at the beginning of May.  The situation was eventually resolved and an additional 10Km was added to the route that was approved for Friday.  The event started at 07H00 at the old whaling station, along to Brighton Beach, then out towards Mondi in Isipingo and finishing at the Bluff Military Base at around 16H00, a total distance of some 45Km.

HAMNET’s main function was to complete sequence sheets recording team/walker number/time in case of any team lodging a dispute, and reporting any medical emergencies.  Communications were via 145.500 MHz simplex.

Keith was pleased to report that only one medical case was reported, involving a walker who collapsed after climbing the stairs from Brighton Beach leading up to Airlie Road, and was transported to hospital suffering from dehydration.

A sincere vote of thanks was received from the organisers for HAMNET’s assistance at such short notice.

Well done to you and your helpers, Keith!

Keith tells us that HAMNET KZN will also be assisting with next Sunday’s “Amashovashova Classic” Cycle Event from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, following the route of the Comrades Marathon, and ending in Durban. There will be four different races, two starting in Pietermaritzburg, one at Cato Ridge, and one at Hillcrest.

The 145.750 Midlands repeater and the 145.625 Highway repeater will give good coverage of the race. 15 operators will be deployed, and about 10,000 entries for the race have been received.

Good luck for this event, Keith – we look forward to a report-back in coming weeks.

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

HAMNET Report 6th October 2019

An Amateur Radio Emergency Network activated as Hurricane Lorenzo approached the Azores — an autonomous region of Portugal in the Atlantic. Amateur Radio volunteers worked with the government and emergency response teams, using VHF and UHF repeaters, HF, and Amateur Radio satellite. A request was issued for stations to yield to any emergency traffic coming in and out of the Azores (CU, CQ8, CR8, CS8 and CT8 prefixes).

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in the US reported that a hurricane warning was in effect for Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira islands. Lorenzo, a Category 2 storm, was maintaining its strength as it headed toward the Azores, where it was expected to bring hurricane conditions to some areas early on Wednesday.

Lorenzo at one point was a Category 5 storm, the first ever recorded as far north and east in the Atlantic.

As of 18h00 UTC on Tuesday, Hurricane Lorenzo was some 385 miles southwest of Flores with maximum sustained winds of 160 kph, moving to the northeast at 40 kph.

Radio amateurs established HF inter-island links on 80, 40, and 20 meters — 3760, 3770, and 3750 kHz; 7110, 7100, and 7060 kHz; and 14 300, 14 310, and 14 320 kHz. The 20-meter frequencies were designated for communications with stations outside of the Azores.

Over the weekend, AMSAT-NA received a request from radio amateurs involved with emergency communications in the Azores to forgo operation of the AO-92 satellite this week. They asked that AO-92 remain in U/v to handle potential emergency traffic, with passes covering the Azores and Portugal the most critical.

Thanks to the ARRL News for this precis of their statement.

From Matt Hamblen, writing in FierceElectronics, comes the story of Pedro Cruz, who spent weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in September 2017 helping bring food and water to people trapped in remote areas.

He quickly realized he could use an airborne drone to help, using its video connection to read dozens of messages painted on the ground asking rescue crews to bring water, food or medicine.

It wasn’t until nearly a year after the hurricane devastated the island territory in September 2017 that Cruz figured out a way to connect his drone to disaster aid through a computerized visual recognition tool.

Almost by luck, he said in an interview with FierceElectronics, he learned about an IBM Call for Code hackathon being held in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, in August 2018. Developers were asked to find tech solutions for natural disaster preparedness, and as a self-taught developer, Cruz decided to join up.

Cruz ended up winning first place at the hackathon for a tool he introduced and later developed into DroneAid.

It uses visual recognition to detect and count emergency icons like SOS on the ground from video streams overhead. Then, it automatically plots the emergency needs on a map for first responders.

Following the hackathon, Cruz further developed DroneAid and later became a full-time developer advocate for IBM. On Wednesday, IBM also made DroneAid an open source project as part of its Code and Response initiative, a $25 million program to encourage development of open source technology designed to address global problems like disaster relief.

“Our team decided to open source DroneAid because I feel it’s important to make this technology available to as many people as possible,” Cruz said in a blog posted on Wednesday.

As a freelance web developer, he couldn’t reach clients for weeks after Maria hit. Just afterwards, he used his drone to locate his grandmother who waved from outside her isolated home that she was doing OK. Two weeks after the storm passed, “we would go out to the mountains in the centre of island and it still looked like the hurricane had passed just two days earlier…That’s where the inspiration for DroneAid came from. With a tool like this we can make our response a lot faster and many organizations can go out and help.”

Weeks after the hurricane passed, Cruz’s grandmother was hospitalized with a respiratory condition and later died. He later dedicated DroneAid to her memory.

Cruz plans to work from the bottom-up to get more people trained on using drones for emergency response. He has also worked top-down and has reached out to San Juan officials and the Red Cross. He hopes to talk to leaders in other cities about drone responses for all kinds of natural disasters.

One discovery Cruz made early on was that artificial intelligence computer vision systems needed to read a standard set of icons asking for assistance instead of reading handwritten messages on the ground in various languages through optical character recognition. He settled on eight different icons – such as SOS, OK, food, water, medicine – drawn from a recognized set of icons used by the United Nations. They can be printed on mats that are distributed prior to a storm or spray-painted or drawn by hand.

Cruz explained that a drone can survey an area for the icons placed on the ground by people in need or community groups. As DroneAid detects and counts the images, they are plotted on a map in a Web dashboard to help first responders prioritize needs. The AI model has to be trained on the standard icons to be able to detect them in low light and faded conditions.

When the AI model is applied to the live stream of images coming from the drone, each video frame is analysed and, if any emergency icons are found, their location is captured and plotted on a map. Any drone that can capture a video stream can be used.

The Disasters Emergency Committee tells us they launched the Cyclone Idai Appeal on 21st March 2019, after the cyclone swept through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Across the three countries, at least 900 people were killed and around three million were left in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Just a few weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth followed, further weakening Mozambique’s ability to respond to the destruction. This was the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones hit Mozambique in the same season, further weakening the country’s ability to respond to the destruction caused by Idai.

Idai brought strong winds and widespread flooding, ripping apart roads, bridges, houses, schools, and health facilities and submerging vast swathes of agricultural land.

With the aid effort fully underway, DEC charities, working closely with national partners to support government-led relief efforts, are prioritising the delivery of clean water, and building toilets and handwashing facilities to tackle the outbreak of cholera. They are also delivering emergency shelter materials and blankets, foods such as pulses and maize flour, and urgent health assistance. Focusing on longer-term food security and rehabilitation of livelihoods is paramount and some members are already providing seeds and tools to communities.

The DEC fundraising appeal raised £43 million in all, a tidy sum indeed!

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