HAMNET Report 26th January 2020

Pieter, ZL1PDT, has sent me a link to an article from Bundesnetzagentur, the German Federal Network Agency, quoted by Southgate Amateur Radio News, noting that the agency has banned the sale of around 3.5 million products in online market surveillance. These devices can cause radio interference or electromagnetic incompatibilities and must not be sold in the EU.

In 2019, the authority issued a further 600,000 products with sales bans or corrective measures for economic operators in Germany. In addition, the import of almost 400,000 non-compliant products to Germany was prohibited.

In 2019, the BNetA’s investigations were once again aimed at individual online retailers who offered large numbers of items on the Internet.

This enabled providers of so-called mini spy detectors – also known as bug finders – to be identified. The devices offered in millions of pieces were particularly noticeable due to formal defects, such as a lack of CE marking or a missing German operating manual. Devices that do not bear the CE mark are not intended for the European market and can pose a risk to consumers.

Among the total of 3.5 million non-compliant devices were, among other things, more than 600,000 Bluetooth speakers and almost 500,000 jamming transmitters, the sale and distribution of which is not permitted in Europe, because communication services (e.g. mobile radio or GPS Navigation services) and emergency calls can be prevented. Such devices are often used illegally to carry out crimes.

Consumers are ordering more and more products online directly from third party countries. Therefore, the Federal Network Agency works closely with customs. Customs reported a total of 13,000 suspicious shipments to the Federal Network Agency in 2019. In more than 90% of the cases, the products were not released for the German market. A total of around 400,000 products were affected.

The number of device types in German retail verified by the Federal Network Agency was over 5,400 in 2019. The authority has issued a total of 59 sales bans and 721 formal letters to remedy formal defects for non-compliant products. Around 600,000 products were affected.

Wouldn’t it be nice if these kinds of controls were applied throughout the world? We would all be able to purchase directly, or on-line, without a fear of receiving products deficient in adequate quality controls.

Now for some medical news concerning the worrying outbreak of an upper respiratory infection caused by a new Corona Virus in China. Corona viruses are relatively common causes for a snotty nose. Patients have all the usual runny noses, sore throat, dry cough, and sore body symptoms, and the disease usually gets better within the customary 5 days or so.

Not so, this Corona Virus. The symptoms are more severe, more prolonged, and with the tendency to descend into the chest with a severe cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and possibly respiratory failure, requiring ventilation in an ICU. A small proportion of those patients don’t survive.

This copy of the Corona Virus arose in Wuhan, central China, and there have been about 40 deaths in a total of about 800 patients identified with the disease. Up until this week, no evidence had been found for person-to-person transmission, but the World Health Organisation has changed this view.

Univadis Medical News reported on last Monday that the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan, central China, tripled over last weekend and the virus has now been detected outside China, in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. There have now been reports of human-to-human transmission, with two people contracting the virus from family members, while some medical workers have also tested positive for the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centre for infectious disease modelling in London, UK, estimates that a total of 1,723 cases of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan had onset of symptoms by 12 January. Estimates are based on the catchment population of Wuhan, the incubation period, the detection period and the volume of international travel.

It is recommended that surveillance be expanded to well-connected Chinese cities.

Air passengers from the affected region are being screened at major airports in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and the US, although the WHO has not yet issued travel restrictions.

There is no evidence of this Corona Virus in South Africa yet. Let’s hold thumbs!

The ARRL Letter for January 23rd, reports that Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory has been affected by the recent spate of earthquakes and aftershocks. The landmark Arecibo radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility was a victim of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Members of the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club (NVARC) have stepped up to assist in support and recovery efforts for the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility. NVARC members Phil Erickson, W1PJE; Rod Hersh, WA1TAC, and Jim Wilber, AB1WQ, participated in daily scheduled radio contacts with Arecibo’s lead telescope operator and spectrum manager, Angel Vazquez, WP3R. Other NVARC members volunteered to serve as back-up stations.

“All AO staff members are safe, and our technical teams have completed preliminary visual analysis of the primary structure and have found no immediate damage/issues, however a more detailed inspection needs to be completed once the aftershocks subside,” said Francisco Córdova, Arecibo Observatory’s director, at the University of Central Florida.

Site operations were suspended and access was limited to essential personnel, according to the latest information available from the Arecibo Observatory website.

Over several days, when commercial power and water were not available near Arecibo, club members inquired about potential assistance. Although conditions are slowly improving on the northern portion of the island where the observatory is located, Vazquez noted that thousands of people displaced from their homes in the hard-hit southern part of the island had to camp outside, due to extensive structural damage and ongoing aftershocks.

NVARC members were also able to provide messages of support from MIT’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, and from program officers at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Geospace Facilities Division in Washington, DC. NSF funds the observation programs and scientific research at Arecibo Observatory. NVARC said the radio contacts would continue as the recovery proceeds.

Quietly remembering my Mother’s 109th birthday today the 26th, this is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 19th January 2020

The International Telecommunications Union has issued its “Guidelines for national emergency telecommunications plan” this week, and notes on pages 80 and 81 that “radio amateurs have supported communications in emergency situations on a voluntary basis since the beginning of radio communications. They are experts in radio communications and have the equipment, skills and necessary frequencies allocated by ITU (2017d) to deploy networks in emergency events quickly and efficiently.

“The support provided by radio amateurs in cases of emergency has the following advantages:
• There is great coverage, due to the large number of amateur radio stations available and operating in all regions and in almost every country in the world.
• The coverage of amateur radio stations becomes a network independent of others.
• There are training programmes and simulation exercises for emergencies developed by national radio amateurs for situations of telecommunications in emergencies.
• They are qualified temporary volunteers who provide skills and experience essential for emergency telecommunications, with the sole purpose of supporting humanitarian aid services.
• They have skill in solving problems related to the use of telecommunications during emergencies with often very limited resources.
• Many amateur radio stations trained to handle emergency telecommunications have alternative power sources, such as battery power, solar power or generator power and can operate during power disruptions.”

Your writer finds it satisfying to note in what good regard the ITU continues to hold amateur radio. Let us endeavour to improve our standing with the authorities even more.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the ARRL has launched the bi-monthly amateur radio magazine On the Air and has made the premier issue freely available to read on the internet

The magazine’s Editorial Director Becky Schoenfield W1BXY says “Every other month, On the Air will bring you project builds, operating techniques and know-how, definitions to make you fluent in hamspeak, stories from the community, wisdom from experienced hams, and much more.”

The first issue of On the Air January/February 2020, includes:
• A guide to buying your first handheld radio
• Step-by-step instructions for building simple antennas for VHF and HF
• A full-page infographic that explains how the ionosphere makes long-distance radio communication possible
• An “Up Close” Q & A with Jeremy Hong, KD8TUO, who reveals his favourite resources for new hams.
• …and much more!

Read On the Air at the short URL https://tinyurl.com/On-the-Air

Here’s good news of what radio amateurs with a sense of purpose can do for their community.

The Millennium Post reports that a 14-year-old girl was rescued from the clutches of kidnappers, after her grandparents alerted Gangasagar Mela authorities on Tuesday.

Suparna Mondal, a resident of Ghola, Khana in South 24-Parganas, was on her way to Gangasagar Mela along with her grandparents. When they reached Kachuberia Ghat at around 9 am, the crowd increased and she went missing. The grandparents then contacted the additional district magistrate (LR) and narrated the incident. A frantic search for the teenager started and she was traced within five hours.

“We have reunited the girl with her family members after a few hours of search,” said state minister for Fire and Emergency Services Sujit Bose.

“The additional district magistrate (LR) and Dr P Ulaganathan, district magistrate of South 24-Parganas, gave us a special task of tracing the girl. Our ham radio operators in-charge at Kachuberia Ghat – Abhrajit Das and S Sourabh – immediately informed all the team members at different locations across Sagar Island. The girl, along with three youths, was traced at road number five leading to Kapil Muni Temple. When our team members intercepted the youths, they ran away leaving the girl,” said Ambarish Nag Biswas, custodian and secretary of the West Bengal Radio Club (WBRC), an organisation of ham radio enthusiasts.

Well done, people, and thanks to Southgate News again for that insert.

Now, writing in Bloomberg Opinion, Adam Minter reports that smoke and ash erupted on Sunday from the Taal volcano in the Philippines, with the plume rising almost 15 km into the atmosphere and threatening hundreds of thousands of people. The Philippine government mobilized quickly. By Wednesday, more than 38,000 people were staying in evacuation centres, and many thousands more had dispersed to family throughout the country. Meanwhile, the government began to distribute supplies, including 100,000 protective face masks, in and around the eruption zone. There’s little time to waste: Volcanologists are warning that a hazardous eruption could come at any time.

Thanks to their planning, leaders in the Philippines hope that that eruption, if and when it comes, won’t be nearly as catastrophic as it would have been 10 years ago. Back then, the Philippines, like most emerging-market countries, mostly responded to disasters by cleaning up afterwards. Today, preparedness is a national priority, and the Philippines is a model for how emerging-market governments in the world’s most disaster-prone region can be ready for the worst.

Since 1970, 59% of the global death toll from disasters — about 2 million people — occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a United Nations report. Economic losses have also been profound, totalling about US$675 billion annually. The region’s disaster outlook is growing worse because of urbanization in vulnerable areas, degradation of the environment and the influence of a warming climate on extreme weather. In 2018, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for almost half of the world’s 281 natural disasters, and eight of the 10 deadliest. Already in 2020, at least 60 people have died as a result of flooding in Jakarta, and tens of thousands remain in temporary shelters.

Thanks to its location, the Philippines is more vulnerable to disaster than its neighbours. On average, eight or nine tropical cyclones make landfall on its coasts annually, bringing storm surges, flooding and landslides — phenomena that are likely to become more frequent and intensify as the climate warms. The country is perched atop the “Ring of Fire” — a geologically active path along the Pacific Ocean — and is home to 53 active volcanos and fault lines capable of major earthquakes near the country’s biggest cities!

By comparison, South Africa is a very safe haven, when viewed from the point of view of natural disasters. We have much to be grateful for.

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

HAMNET Report 12th January 2020

Anette Jacobs, ZR1D, has sent a very nice summation of activities in which HAMNET Gauteng South participated last year. Some of them were referred to in previous bulletins, but I thought I wouldn’t carve up her report, so here it is:

The cycle races went very well, as usual the guys doing an excellent job. We remember the incident when a motorist attacked Johan ZS6DMX – it was serious but we still had a laugh afterwards. The members acted effectively during the cycle races and where needed, serious cases were dealt with quickly and effectively, thanks to our training. We would like to thank our team in the JOC for responding quickly to the information provided from the field and making sure that every incident was taken care of.

Our meetings every month were all about training. The dedication and effort that Glynn ZS6GLN, Leon ZS6LMG, Johan ZS6DMX and Pieter ZS6PHS put in is highly appreciated. It enables us to enter a situation with insight without negatively affecting ourselves and other people’s lives. Where members could not attend in person, they attended via Discord.

At Hobby-X we received a lot of inquiries about what HAMNET does and what it entails.

The effectiveness of QO-100 was tested with a link from the Wolkberg to Johannesburg, and Leon ZS6LMG and the team also successfully demonstrated being able to provide a video feed via the satellite to the ARCC.

A highlight was when Brian ZS6YZ and Leon ZS6LMG represented the IARU at the ATU Workshop in Maputo early in December. Brian and Leon presented 2 papers during the workshop that were so effective that they resulted in several African States making inquiries about Amateur Radio Member Societies in their own countries, with the intention of getting amateurs involved in their emergency communications plans. Gary Immelman ZS6YI, the only living founder member of HAMNET, and several HAMNET Gauteng South members welcomed them back at OR Tambo.

Sadly, Deon ZS6DAB was shot when he was caught in the middle of a cash-in-transit heist. Again thanks to training, Deon was in hospital in record time and HAMNET members assisted the SAPS to cordon off the scene to enable them to do their work. HAMNET also prepared a helicopter landing zone so that another victim could be airlifted to hospital. Fortunately everything went well and Deon and the other victim are in full recovery. Thank you Leon, for arranging for Chaplains to comfort the victims and their loved ones.

The other sad incident was on the Sunday when 3 youngsters went for a swim in the Blesbok Spruit and got into difficulties. Two of them were saved but the third person unfortunately drowned and was recovered the following day. Again, HAMNET members, through their training, were able to assist and arrange Chaplains and provide waterproof radios for the SAPS divers to use.

When the children of Henri ZS6IIX’s vehicle broke down when returning from the coast, all it took was a phone call to Keith Lowes ZS5WFD from HAMNET KZN, and Koos de Kock ZS5KDK responded to assist them and get them on their way again. This is the type of camaraderie that exists between the HAMNET members.

And lastly to close the year off, a number of the operators responded today to the incident where the Transnet fuel line had caught fire in Alberton, and assisted the fire department, by providing them with handheld radios that they could use effectively to coordinate their firefighting efforts.

Thanks, Anette, for the very nice description of your Division’s efforts in 2019.

Now here’s some useful news for all you fellows that don’t know what to do with your stockpiles of used Uranium!

The website Phys.org reports that chemists have found a new use for the waste product of nuclear power—transforming an unused stockpile into a versatile compound which could be used to create valuable commodity chemicals as well as new energy sources.

Depleted uranium (DU) is a radioactive by-product from the process used to create nuclear energy. With many fearing the health risks from DU, it is either stored in expensive facilities or used to manufacture controversial armour-piercing missiles.

But, in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Geoff Cloke, Professor Richard Layfield and Dr. Nikolaos Tsoureas, all at the University of Sussex, have revealed that DU could, in fact, be more useful than we might think.

By using a catalyst which contains depleted uranium, the researchers have managed to convert ethylene (which is defined as an alkene used to make plastic) into ethane (which is an alkane used to produce a number of other compounds including ethanol).

Their work is a breakthrough that could help reduce the heavy burden of large-scale storage of DU, and lead to the transformation of more complicated alkenes.

Prof Layfield said: “The ability to convert alkenes into alkanes is an important chemical reaction that means we may be able to take simple molecules and upgrade them into valuable commodity chemicals, like hydrogenated oils and petrochemicals which can be used as an energy source.

“The fact that we can use depleted uranium to do this provides proof that we don’t need to be afraid of it, as it might actually be very useful for us.”

Working in collaboration with researchers at Université de Toulouse and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Sussex team discovered that an organometallic molecule based on depleted uranium could catalyse the addition of a molecule of hydrogen to the carbon-carbon double bond in ethylene—the simplest member of the alkene family—to create ethane.

Prof. Cloke said: “Nobody has thought to use DU in this way before. While converting ethylene into ethane is nothing new, the use of uranium is a key milestone.”

So maybe those buried concrete silos of used Uranium won’t be necessary anymore.

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

HAMNET Report 5th January 2020


The huge bushfires ravaging large parts of Australia this week occupy centre stage in our first HAMNET report for the new year.

Greg Kelly VK2GPK, President of the Wireless Institute of Australia, reported on 31 December that the WIA has received advice that there are major outages of telecommunications in areas impacted by the bushfires either currently or expected to occur overnight. This disruption advice currently applies to areas of NSW and VIC.

The scope and range of these impacts is unknown at this stage but are predicted to cover all internet and phone (fixed and mobile) and other commercial radio services.

The WIA kindly asks Radio Amateurs to monitor the EMCOM HF frequencies (as per IARU-R3 EMCOM bandplan on the WIA or IARU-R3 website) whenever feasible over the next 24 to 48 hours.

VHF and UHF Repeaters should also be monitored wherever possible.

Amateurs seeking to establish emergency communication should use these EMCOMM frequencies in the first instance, or repeaters if available. Radio Amateurs who are volunteers for WICEN, CREST, etc. should keep themselves updated from the respective websites of these organisations. Emergency Communication is one of the three main reasons Radio Amateurs have access to RF Spectrum. Please assist if and when you can.

As an IARU member society, the WIA has adopted these recommended frequencies. “Centre of Activity” frequencies are not spot frequencies or net frequencies. They are recommended as starting points for emergency traffic which may extend 5 kHz above or below the designated centre frequency.

3.600 MHz.
7.110 MHz.
14.300 MHz.
18.160 MHz.
21.360 MHz.

And, reporting in Amateir Radio Newsline, Graham Kemp VK4BB says that, as bushfires fires consumed more than 4 thousand square miles in New South Wales alone, officials in Australia were bracing for the latest rash of blazes that they said could lead to the most dangerous bushfire week in the nation’s history. New South Wales called a state of emergency and additional fires flared in Western Australia and Queensland. Members of the Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network, or WICEN, were called to harness their radio skills in the face of an overwhelming catastrophe. Edwin Lowe VK2VEL, a Facebook administrator for WICEN New South Wales, told Newsline that hams were deployed to provide logistical support for the Rural Fire Service along with community evacuation and welfare support.

WICEN NSW’s publicity officer Julian Sortland VK2YKS said that hams sent to the Rural Fire Service Command Centre in northern VK2 had begun rotations operating the RFS’ own radio system. Julian said members of WICEN’s parent body, the Volunteer Rescue Association, were staffing the Bush Fire Information Line in Sydney, likely alongside WICEN members.

Edwin said that hams were also functioning as scribes for firefighting Incident Management Teams. He noted, however that it was not so much amateur radio itself playing a critical role here but [quote] “the adaptability and skills of the amateur radio operators who are members of WICEN NSW” [unquote]

In Queensland the VK4RAT VHF and UHF Amateur Radio Repeaters, the VK4RTL 10m 6m and 23cm beacons, the TAC08 CH8 UHF CB Repeater and the SES CH01 Repeater are all off air due to damage done by bushfires that swept through the summit on Sunday evening 10th November.

And summarizing the situation on the 1st of January, 7news.com.au said that

18 people have been killed across this bushfire season – sadly, that number is likely to rise.

More than one-thousand homes have been lost.

Thousands of Australians have been stranded.

The military has been deployed.

Australia is facing a humanitarian crisis.

About 150 fires continued to burn in NSW and Victoria on Thursday.

And all of this happens as NSW braces for a catastrophic weekend of horror weather.

Tens of thousands are also without power after transmission lines were damaged in NSW. Police asked for patience as utility providers attempted to restore power and telecom services.

“We have to make sure that when we restart the power, we do that with safety and confidence, that it will remain on,” NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said.

Residents in Victoria are also still suffering – phones remain cut across much of the region. Tourists on the NSW south coast, a popular holiday region are now being urged to leave as locals and authorities brace for severe and extreme fire danger on Saturday, December 4th .

“Where roads can be accessed, we will be encouraging tourists, especially, to move out of those areas whilst it’s safe to do so,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday, January 1.

Victorian residents were likely to be evacuated by air and sea as the Defence Force began relief operations in the area following a request from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters, were expected to commence work late on Wednesday, with other aircraft and naval vessels due in the coming days.

The town was hit by fire on Tuesday as 4000 people sheltered on a beach amid apocalyptic scenes.

“The next few days are going to be a lot of hard work and the next few months will be a very long and steady process of helping these communities to rebuild,” Mr Andrews said.

Writing in Echo Net Daily on Thursday, Paul Bibby said that Disaster recovery assistance had already been extended to those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by fires in the Bega Valley, Greater Hume, Snowy Monaro, Snowy Valleys and Upper Lachlan Local Government Areas.

‘This will help people whose homes or belongings have been badly damaged,’ Federal Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said.

‘Practical assistance is also available to support ongoing firefighting operations and clean-up efforts.

‘Bushfires have been burning for weeks and pose a threat to lives, properties and communities.

‘We are monitoring the situation closely and will provide further assistance to communities as needed.’

Over 2,200 firefighters, incident management teams and more than 100 firefighting aircraft have been deployed to NSW over the past weeks.

Curiously, and almost simultaneously with all these reports, several sources amongst emergency communications groups around the world have pondered why radio amateurs who are involved in these kind of disaster relief activities, are so shy in drawing attention, with the right kind of publicity, to the work they are doing. Amateur radio emergency communication plays a huge role in ensuring stable communications as wired services are damaged, but nobody bothers to blow their own trumpet.

Is it not time that we all start creating more publicity around the important role we can play?

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