HAMNET Report 25th October 2020

Oliver Schlag, DL7TNY, head of Germany’s Ham Emergency Comms network, has announced that the exercise planned to take place in Germany and 5 surrounding countries from 13th to 15th November, has been cancelled, because of the increasing second wave of Covid-19 cases sweeping Europe now. For the same reason, Jan Rozema, PA0NON, in the Netherlands, has announced that their planned nationwide exercise of 31st October has also been called off.

New cases of coronavirus disease are increasing at alarming rates in Europe, but fortunately, the death rate is much less than it was in April and May. This may be because a different age group of people is contracting the virus now, namely the young, and their infection fatality rate is much lower than in the elderly. Time will tell whether this death rate starts escalating later. In the meantime, be aware that the Northern Hemisphere is entering its winter season, during which the epidemic has the potential to get much worse, and that most amateur radio activities there will be cancelled or postponed until their next summer.

However, in America, the Nationwide Red Cross Emergency Communications Fall Drill will be a joint exercise with ARES set for November 14th, an evolution of the highly successful Spring Drill that had hundreds of participants from some 40 states and Puerto Rico.

The Fall Drill will be a Winlink-specific event with the following goals: (1) to pass traditional Red Cross (ARC) forms from as many states and as many radio amateurs as possible to one of six Divisional Clearinghouses; and (2) to bring as many radio operators as possible up to a “basic” level of Winlink proficiency. To prepare, there has been a twelve-week series of Winlink Workshops held each Thursday at 0100Z on Zoom.

Winlink Proficiency Goals have been written, a Winlink Technical Support Team has been formed, and Metrics for Drill Success have been developed. The proficiency goals are established as a training guideline and reference online training resources. Many hams new to Winlink should find these resources helpful.

Over 300 radio amateurs have signed up for the event and more than a hundred were on a Briefing Call on October 5. There will be one other Briefing Call, in early November. This event is open to all radio amateurs. Although the ARES Letter of 21st October doesn’t say as much, I expect that this will be a virtual drill, with social distancing maintained.

In similar vein, Skywarn Recognition Day on 5th December will run from amateur’s homes. Since 1999, the annual SKYWARN™ Recognition Day has celebrated the long relationship between the amateur community and the National Weather Service programme. The purpose of the event is to recognize amateurs for the vital public service they perform during times of severe weather and to strengthen the bond between radio amateurs and their local National Weather Service office. The event is co-sponsored by the ARRL and the National Weather Service.

Normally each year, radio amateurs participate from home stations and from stations at National Weather Service (NWS) forecast offices with the goal of making contact with as many offices as possible. However, this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, participation from NWS forecast offices will be minimal at best. The focus will shift to contacting as many SKYWARN trained spotters as possible during the event.

Thank you to the ARES Letter for these last two reports.

Social media channels like Twitter and Facebook can hammer people with unreliable information in the wake of a disaster, a University of Canterbury (UC) Ph.D. student has found.

Bipulendra Adhikari, who worked as a journalist in Nepal following the deadly 2015 earthquakes there, is now a Ph.D. student in UC’s Department of Media and Communications. His thesis is focused on disaster communications and how social media networks are used as a source of information.

He says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how people can quickly become swamped by social media posts that are not based on science or facts.

“My research has found that people find it hard to judge trustworthiness of information when they are exposed to a huge amount at once. The World Health Organization has called this ‘infodemic’ a situation where it becomes difficult for people to determine what  a reliable and trustworthy source is, and what is just hearsay or part of conspiracy theories.”

In times of stress people are more vulnerable and less likely to think critically, he says.

“People tend to believe information during the uncertainty of a disaster situation that they wouldn’t under normal circumstances. Their past experiences, existing beliefs and networks of friends both on and off-line also influence their judgements of social media.”

It is very important in these traumatic situations that people are able to get clear, relevant information so they know what they need to do, he says. “Sometimes it can be critical for their personal safety and wellbeing.”

He says having an immediate response from government agencies in a disaster situation is of vital importance. “Rumours, hoaxes and conspiracy theories can fill the void if the government response is delayed.”

Governments also need to revise their strategies to accommodate the growing influence of social media.

“The best way to do this is with a ‘one-window’ approach where detailed information is provided from a single source, such as a regular press briefing where officials provide clear and accurate information that can also be shared on social media.”

However, he found that in Nepal the level of trust in the government dips as time passes after a disaster. “With the passage of time, people become more judgmental even in the government information as they have access to information from alternative sources, mostly through the media.”

Adhikari interviewed some of the millions of residents affected by earthquakes in 2015 while he was working in Kathmandu for Republica, an English-language daily newspaper.

He recently submitted his Ph.D. and hopes to find work in a field where he can help develop policies and plans for managing disasters. “I believe the impact of disaster can be minimized if people have access to effective communication in a timely manner. A good understanding of the social and economic effects of disaster is also helpful when formulating policies.”

Thank you to phys.org for this report.

His work affirms the principle “Information is Power”. If you know correctly what you’re dealing with, you can better mitigate the potential danger.

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