HAMNET Report 8th March 2020

National Director Grant Southey ZS1GS has sent me a summary of last weekend’s HAMNET gathering held in Division Six for all HAMNET Directors. Attending, were Michael ZS1MJT, Andrew ZS2G, Dave ZS2DH, Roy ZS3RW, Riaan ZS4PR, Keith ZS5WFD, Leon ZS6LMG, Brian ZS6YZ, Linda ZS6LML, Anette ZR6D, together with Grant Southey ZS1GS.

The first session was attended by the SARL President, Nico van Rensburg ZS6QL and Louw Erasmus ZS6LME. The first hour of the meeting was an introductory session by the SARL council, in which they announced that Grant Southey would officially become National Director. During the session issues common to the SARL and HAMNET were discussed. The council is extremely appreciative of the role that HAMNET plays within the SARL, and encouraged members present to think creatively regarding the future of HAMNET. The session was a good opportunity to realign the goals of HAMNET with those of the League.

The second session was a discussion by the head of the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC), Ms Santjie White. The ARCC is responsible for the search and rescue of missing aircraft in a vast area in and around South Africa, as far south as the South Pole, and starting at the Greenwich Meridian in the west to a boundary just east of Madagascar. HAMNET and ARCC have a memorandum of understanding to assist with communications in the search for lost aircraft and passengers.

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to determining requirements to take HAMNET forward. The items discussed included:

  • HAMNET Identity – we are aiming to create a single form of identity for all the regions so that there is one HAMNET
  • Uniforms – based on the point above, we are looking for one uniform to be used by all regions so that other national organizations can easily identify HAMNET members
  • A Members Portal – this was a useful function on the website previously, but is now non-functional and we will investigate a path forward to get this up and running
  • Membership Cards – these are required to have an expiry date, but many new members do not yet have one. The printer needs to be resurrected.
  • Training – a uniform approach is once again required, with various levels of competence as well as different areas of expertise for all members. It is not envisaged that all members will be required to be competent in all fields.
  • Events & Exercises. Every member is happy when practicing his hobby and everyone in attendance requested more exercises. Instead of placing the burden on one region, it was decided to rotate the responsibility. The 2020 exercise will be arranged by Divisions 3 & 4. Being regions with small membership, they will share the responsibility again in the future.
  • The Way Forward – a strategy with key areas of focus was devised. These areas are:

Partnerships: We need to create partnerships with relevant agencies

Uniformity:  In the way we operate and appear

Respect:  By others such as fellow hams and in disaster circles

Strength:  By recruiting more members and improving competencies

Evaluation, Introspection and Pro-activity: Becoming more relevant to our goals.

Thank you, Grant, for this fine summary. The future of the HAMNET Group looks good if these goals can be realized.

Now here’s an endorsement of the recognition that digital communications hold a special place in emergency situations. Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (INDOTEL) and the Emergency Operations Center (COE) signed an agreement on February the 11th, that formalizes the use of Amateur Radio bands and processes to be used in case of a disaster.

The signing took place at the Emergency Operations Centre by General Juan Manuel Mendez of COE and Mr. Nelson Guillen, President of Indotel.  After the document signing, they highlighted the important work of radio amateurs and the support they provide to the community during and after any disaster event.

The document commits radio amateurs to use the WINLINK system as a means of transferring information to and from the Dominican Republic, and providing local communications support for disaster response for Civil Defence, the COE, and the Dominican Red Cross and other aid agencies.

With 9 countries in Africa, including South Africa, definitely harbouring COVID-19 cases, the risk of a South African epidemic advances inexorably closer. The only way to make it possible for our very stretched ICU facilities to be able to deal with all those who will need ventilators, is to DELAY the speed of transmission throughout the country. The magic word is CONTAINMENT. If one case in a suburb can be contained until the patient has got better, without infecting anybody else, that locus of infection will die out. Any irrational desire to travel between areas, local or international, should be discouraged as much as possible. Travellers to and from Europe are playing with fire, and of course, between us and the Far East are asking for trouble. I personally think airlines should be banned from carrying passengers at all. That is how the new cases in America, Africa, and South America arose – all via travellers from Italy! Does one need any more evidence than this?

The ARRL News says that amateur radio events have been cancelled or postponed as a result of coronavirus fears.

The Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) has requested that all events scheduled in the next two weeks be cancelled or postponed. Affected events include the West Nippon Ham Fair on March 8, the Chugoku Regional Amateur Radio Direction Finding Competition on March 15, and the Kagawa Ham Festival on March 22.

Members of the Nara DX Association Japan have postponed the planned V6J IOTA DXpedition to Murilo Island in the Hall Islands at least until next year or later. “We hope the propagation will be better then,” the group said. “We hope spreading of coronaviruses will be stopped right away.”

In England, the Wythall Radio Club decided this week to cancel its March 15th  hamfest. “As a responsible club, we have taken this step to minimize any risks to the expected 400+ visitors and traders from the COVID-19 virus, due to the uncertainties regarding the spread of the virus,” the club said.

In late February, Alex Gromme, 5B4ALX, postponed his March 18 – April 2 T30ET DXpedition to Tarawa (West Kiribati) because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Kiribati Ministry of Health told Gromme that he would need to be quarantined for 14 days in Honiara, Solomon Islands, before getting medical approval to continue on to Kiribati. He’s now looking at October 2020, assuming the COVID-19 situation is resolved by then.

Travel restrictions imposed on individuals entering American Samoa as a result of the coronavirus outbreak caused Swains Island W8S DXpedition organizers to postpone that DXpedition until later in the year. The team members were unable to comply with a 14-day mandatory quarantine in Hawaii, and announced tentative dates of 23rd September to 6th October. Thanks to JARL, Southgate Amateur Radio News, and OPDX.

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