HAMNET Report 20th March 2022

Tropical cyclone Gombe turned into a dramatic affair, as the statistics after the event bear out. GDACS reported on Wednesday that 15 fatalities had occurred in Nampula province of Mozambique, and one person in Zambezia province was still unaccounted for.

Fifty people were injured and 11 630 displaced to evacuation centres. A total of over 100 000 people were affected and 10 811 houses destroyed, while another 11 882 houses sustained damage.

Meanwhile, in Malawi, the number of fatalities due to the passage of tropical cyclone GOMBE across the Southern Region was reported as 6.

I continue to be thankful that South Africa mostly seems to escape severe punishment from weather-related disasters.

A crowd funded scheme to start transmissions of Voice of America programming material has been started up, with the idea of broadcasting in the general direction of Ukraine and Russia, using a USA-based shortwave station with callsign WRMI.

This is in addition to the two transmissions by the BBC World Service in the afternoons and evenings, also with the hope of making civilians in Ukraine and Russia aware of reasonably unbiased news reporting.

Now, under the heading of Amateur Radio Public Relations, and from the ARES letter for March the 16th, this week, comes a report that, in 2021, the Rural Radio Preparedness Association, an ARRL affiliated club and sponsoring organization of Santa Rosa County (Florida) ARES, was donated funds to purchase a cargo trailer for use in emergency communications. Several members of the ARES team donated time and money to outfit the trailer.

In addition to emergency communications, one of the main goals was to use the trailer for public education of amateur radio and on 18th to 20th February operators had that opportunity at Pensacon. Founded in 2013, Pensacon is the premiere comic book and pop culture convention serving Pensacola and the Gulf Coast. The event draws 10,000 or more people each year with guests lining up for hours for a chance to meet their favourite writer or celebrity.

Recently the ARES group was donated a 17 metre pneumatic mast that was installed on the trailer to get height for antennas. Operators attached a dual-band J-pole antenna as well as a 20 metre long end-fed long-wire antenna for HF operations. Inside the trailer is an ICOM IC-7100 transceiver connected to a laptop. Over the course of the 3-day event, operators had the opportunity to show visitors how email can be sent without a local internet connection by utilizing Winlink. Visitors were amazed that this capability existed, and many were interested in learning more.

Setting up at conventions, festivals, and other events is a great way to help promote amateur radio in your community as an avocation and for emergency communications. If your club or ARES [think HAMNET] team has resources available, reach out to event organizers to see if you could set up a booth or your team’s communications trailer. Most events allow volunteer organizations to set up for free. While you’re at it, see if their event could benefit from volunteer communicators. Before committing, be sure that you have enough volunteers to support the event.

Thanks to the ARES letter for the suggestion.

The Times of India reported on March the 16th that a field operation on how to use amateur radio when all other communications are down, especially during natural calamities or other disasters, was held at NITK Surathkal. It was organised by the NITK Amateur Radio Facility, radio call sign VU2REC, in collaboration with Mangalore Amateur Radio Club, at the NITK Beach, [and] concluded on Sunday.

This event was a part of the ARSI Field Day Contest organised by the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI), where VU2REC is also a corporate life member.
Such field events help in keeping the amateur radio volunteers ready for emergency communication that may be deployed during disaster relief operations.

Licenced amateur radio volunteers from Mangalore, Manipal and Udupi participated in this special field event. The focus was on deploying emergency communication stations in the HF range of the radio spectrum, which is typically suited for establishing point-to-point or point-to-multipoint communication across the globe, without relying on any type of service provider or agency. Such stations are self-sufficient, and do not rely on any support infrastructure. The beach location provided a natural setting, where electricity and shelters were absent, thereby simulating a minimalistic environment, to be one with the elements.

In light of the fact that a radio amateur in America was arrested in February on charges of broadcasting false weather emergencies such as tornado warnings, as well as threatening other operators who requested him to stop, PAhomepage notes that false information shared in this manner could reach many listeners.

Thankfully the airwaves are well regulated and these situations are rare. HAM radio is still a great backup for emergency situations.

Bob Folmar, a radio amateur in Sweet Valley, Luzerne County says that cell towers go down, due to hurricanes, floods and things like that. When they do go down ham radio operators are ready to help coordinate with local agencies as soon as they can.

Amateur radio operators can therefore provide vital backup communications for emergency service providers, when systems fail. The false weather warnings of the arrested ham are especially dangerous in these times of fake news.

The ARRL publication QST subsequently carried a report that the ham in question was found guilty of the contravention and given an appropriate punishment.

Finally, it seems a few HAMNET members around the country think that the hour-long HAMNET bulletin I transmit in the Western Cape on a Wednesday evening at 19h30 Bravo, is worth re-transmitting. [This just goes to prove that you can fool some of the people some of the time!]

Tony Mayall ZS5GR takes the news bulletin off Echolink at ZS1DCC-R, and retransmits it around KZN, and now Danie van der Merwe ZS1OSS tells me he is receiving it on an Open WebRx SDR receiver on the correct frequency, so you can listen by pointing your browser at https://bit.ly/hamnetwcbulletin . The bulletin goes out every Wednesday of the month except the first one, when HAMNET WC holds its member’s meeting, either at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital, or (previously) virtually on the jit.si platform. We hope that further waves of Covid will not force us to hold meetings virtually again.

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