City of Cape Town DRM Koeberg Nuclear Disaster Exercise 23 November 2017

Alister van Tonder ZS1OK writes:

HAMNET was invited to participate by the Disaster Risk Management of the City of Cape Town with their annual Koeberg Nuclear Disaster Exercise.  This was the first time we participated with this particular exercise and the second time we’ve participated with the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management exercises.

We had seven volunteers who participated, consisting of David zs1dav, Dean zs1kp, Hendrik zs1eee, Philip zs1pvv, Rob zs1sa, Stephen zs1bsw, and Alister zs1ok.

The exercise simulated a nuclear leak at Koeberg, and we had HAMNET personnel in the following roles:

  • Joint Operations Centre – Dean as a former mechanical engineer at Koeberg sat with the rest of the members in the JOC and from here all the aspects of the exercise was managed.


Figure 1. A view of the various role players managing the exercise from the JOC


Figure 2 The video walls inside the JOC depicting information relevant to the exercise

  • HAMNET Communications Room. Rob zs1sa and Stephen zs1bsw were behind the controls relaying messages as and when required, using the VHF/UHF and HF equipment.
  • Command Bus – David zs1dav represented HAMNET at the Command Bus, which at one stage departed at high speed to a new location quite some distance from where they were due them being put at “risk” by the a change in wind direction which carries “radiation” with it. Dave’s multi-faceted ability came to the rescue of some of the very hungry participants when he was able to open their tuna cans, which was part of the day’s ration packs, with his Leatherman.


Figure 3 One of the two locations where the Command Bus was parked, together with various role players also taking part in the exercise.

  • Hendrik zs1eee and Philip zs1pvv were stationed at the Koeberg Volunteer Centre from where they operated on both VHF/UHF and HF.
  • Alister zs1ok was a part-time roving participant during the event. One of the advantages of living in Cape Town was setting up a cross-band repeater on Blouberg Hill .


Figure 4 A cross-band repeater set up on Blouberg Hill – with a magnificent view from there


In general the exercise and the HAMNET participation went off well.  Everyone learnt a great deal in various ways, and since this was the first exercise of this nature with the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management there are several areas where we could definitely improve on.

 Feedback, Suggestions and Improvements

We would love to get more HAMNET operators to participate, despite the exercise being run during normal working hours.

We need to make use more of digital technologies, in particular systems that can be used to send text to other operators or participants.  This requirement is particularly relevant for information or formal communications issued from the JOC and the HAMNET Comms Room.  Using text based system is the best way to keep operators well informed without interrupting them with their parallel activities. An operator can re-read a text message rather than having to request a voice message to be resent for clarification.  Specific terminology can be used in a text based message which would be more difficult to convey in a standard voice message.  The other major advantage of a text based system is that it automatically provides a log of all messages, communication and whatever else needs to be recorded.

In prior discussions with ESCOM they expressed specific interest in HAMNET’s ability to offer backup communications because of their ability to transfer text messages and files (using digital modes, e.g. fldigi) as well as sending of emails (e.g. using Winlink) via radio.

The ability to provide nomadic HF comms rather than mobile HF comms.  We generally do not require HF comms to be used while driving a vehicle.  In this context an HF station requires the ability to up and leave to a new location within minutes.  The operator should therefore ideally operate from their vehicle or a go-box and all that is required is to pack away their HF antenna.  The operator must be able to set up to use 80m and 60m comms with the current propagation conditions.  During winter months being able to use 160m would also be required.

HF comms is important to test and maintain since there is a requirement with certain of the Koeberg exercises for the Koeberg region to be “vacated” and for the command teams to relocate to rural areas such as Citrusdal, Mooreesburg or even Ceres to get away from “nuclear fall-out and contamination”.  During such events it is vital to maintain comms via HF due to these areas not necessarily being served via VHF/UHF repeaters.

During a real Koeberg incident HAMNET would be required to assist for several days.  It is therefore important having sufficient HAMNET volunteers to permit operations to run over multiple days using 12 hour shifts.

  1. JOC – Joint Operations Center

Meticulous notes were maintained by Dean during the development of the exercise.

It was felt that using an electronic version of this which could automatically share vital information with all the HAMNET role players and would be of much more value than only using voice communications.

This concept was reinforced by the fact that it is impractical to use radio communication (handheld radio) in a controlled environment such as the JOC, and the audio from the radio caused disruptions.  Even using a headset with the radio was said to be impractical in this setup.

  1. HAMNET Communications Room

At least two operators are required for the Control room as there is just too much happening in parallel for one operator to manage appropriately.

Since it was the first time that both Rob zs1sa and Stephen zs1bsw operated from the HAMNET communications room they were not very familiar with the facility’s equipment despite them being skilled amateur radio operators.  During an emergency it is vital for operators know their equipment well and are able to optimally use the equipment.  It is not a static operating environment and there are ongoing changes required on the equipment.

Despite having sound dampening facilities, which is ideal for a very active comms control centre, the one drawback of the facility is that it is isolated from where real the rubber hits the road.  As a result they have insufficient information about the development exercise.  Having the text based system mentioned above would also greatly assist.

  1. Command Bus

It was the second time David zs1dav has been with the Command Bus and fortunately the staff operating from the bus were well informed of his presence and his role.  Since the bus may be redeployed to more suitable or different locations at any time it is vital for this HAMNET operator to be set up and proficient at using mobile comms.  Even their HF equipment needs to be setup such that they can redeploy at short notice – and merely recover their long wire antenna deployed from their vehicle.

  1. Volunteer Centre

Hendrik zs1eee and Philip zs1pvv are quite adept at setting up a station in a new location.  This was their first involvement at this facility and as we also intended testing HF communications, the HF antenna had to be set up in a manner that the environment remained safe for other staff participating in the event.  We did not want people to get RF burns from the antennas.

One of the drawbacks of using a cross-band repeater is that it does not provide any feedback (i.e. a whiplash) when pressing your PTT. Thus an operator using a cross-band repeater needs to have two radios – each one tuned to one of the frequencies of the cross-band repeater.  When transmitting on the one radio you should hear yourself on the other radio.

All the personnel at the Volunteer Centre were required to relocate to a new location necessitating moving the radio station elsewhere.  Thus this nomadic requirement makes the ability to have a go-box very practical.  Basically unplug your power (if you are only using mains), pack away your antenna, and load your equipment in the vehicle and move to the next location.

  1. Rover One

Alister zs1ok was mobile during part of the exercise, and being mobile leaves an operator with a limited ability to effectively participate with communications while driving.  You need a second person to assist –  either as driver or as communicator.  Particularly once you start using digital comms (text or graphics) it would be safer and better to have one to assist you.

Once again thank you to everyone on the team who made this event a learning event and an enjoyable one!!

Alister van Tonder  ZS1OK


A group of six Hamnet operators from the Western Cape, assisted with the event communications at the Kogelberg WIldrunner which took place in rainy conditions at Kleinmond on Saturday morning, 12th of August. The six operators consisted of: Matt (ZS1MTF) and Steven (ZS1DAD) who operated from a location where having vehicles with high ground clearance was essential. John (ZS1JNT) and Douw (ZS1DGK) operated from the golf course parking area while Peter (ZS1PDE) and Alister (ZS1OK) operated the base station located in the parking area of the Kleinmond beach and lagoon. It was the first time for Steven and John were involved in a trail running event.

Conditions were rather wet, with regular rain squalls during the event and this impacted the runners having to negotiate areas of large standing water in some of the trail areas. Because of the wet conditions we mostly operated from within our vehicles.

Fortunately there were no serious incidents during the event and support of the comms went off well without issues.

REPORT of HAMNET WCP’s involvement in two cycle tours February 2017

HAMNET Western Cape was again invited to assist with communications during two cycling events in February.

The first was the el Shaddai 99er Cycle Tour, on 11th February, involving some 4000 riders and 14 mobile radio stations. The race started at the racecourse in Durbanville, and progressed out towards the R44 between Paarl and Wellington, before crossing the countryside along the Philadelphia Road, and then down to the N7 via van Schoorsdrift, before entering Durbanville again up Vissershok, a total distance of just over 100km. A shorter route trimmed off some of the circuit for the less ambitious riders.

The JOC was established at the Racecourse, where Metro EMS’ Disaster Bus and my ancient Autovilla were parked next to each other. The medical contingent for the race plus ambulance dispatch and sweep vehicle dispatch occupied the disaster bus, while Carol, ZS1MOM,  and I occupied the van under a roof for coolth, and ran the radio comms. We communicated with the ambulance and sweep dispatch by means of a handheld VHF radio. Two VHF repeaters in the Cape were isolated from the inked system for our transmissions, a simplex frequency between the rovers was organised in case one of them could not be heard at the JOC and needed a message relayed, and a mobile stand-in APRS digipeater was installed on the top of the Meerendal Hill by Alister ZS1OK, to give better APRS coverage to all the vehicles tracked. All the 14 rovers had trackers in their vehicles, and we installed portable trackers in the 5 rescue ambulances and the three organiser’s race marshal’s vehicles.

The day started cool, but rapidly became very hot, and by lunchtime, the temperature on Vissershok, where the last riders were entering Durbanville was 35 degrees. In fact the medical team pulled the last few riders off the race (in any case the cut-off would have disqualified them) before they finished the climb up Vissershok, because of the heat, and the risk of exhaustion.

There were no major incidents during the race, and the course was declared cleared before 13h00. My thanks to  ZR1FR, and ZS1’s AGP, MUP, JM, BTD, V, PXK, LN and his wife PTT, DAV, JNT, DUG, PVV, PDE, and of course, MOM and OK.

The second race was the Lion’s Journey for Sight and Service, held on the same Sunday as the Dischem ride for Sight in Gauteng, namely the 19th February. This race is usually held on the first full weekend of the New Year down in the extreme Southern Suburbs of the Peninsula. For some reason not clear to me, it was postponed to a week after the 99er, and then held roughly in the same area as the 99er had been! This had a huge effect on the entries and the enthusiasm of the riders, and the Lions are to be pitied for the hard work they put into a race that was never going to be very profitable for the charities usually supported.

The Race started and finished at Killarney Race track North of Milnerton, and the route followed the Contermanskloof Road and then Tiekiedraai over the Durbanville Hills to enter Durbanville up the well known avenue of trees. After circling around the centre of town, the riders left via Wellington Rd, turned on to Fisantekraal, and then out to the four-way stop at the R304, where they turned left and up to the crossing with the Philadelphia Rd at the Silos, left towards Philadelphia, and then left again to come down the Adderley Rd (M58), right on to Malanshoogte, and finally back to Killarney via the Contermanskloof Road again, a distance of 74km. A shorter route clipped off some 20km for the less ambitious.

For this race, we ran the JOC out of my Autovilla at Killarney, situated next to the medical and organiser contingents in a large workshop on the site. Eight rovers manned the route, Alister ZS1OK again installed his mobile APRS digipeater on Meerendal, and I managed the JOC on my own. We equipped two ambulances and the two back markers for the races with APRS trackers, so I could report to the organisers on the state of the race.

However, this was the first race we have managed in Cape Town entirely on UHF repeaters. It being Sunday morning, the usual VHF repeaters were occupied with bulletins, and so we used the 434.625 UHF repeater on Tygerberg, which was pretty central to the course, and HAMNET’s portable UHF repeater at the same site as the
APRS digipeater, on 438.700MHz, to cover any gaps. It turned out that there were almost no gaps, and the route was well covered by the 434.625 repeater.

The entries for this race were far fewer, and there were no important incidents, so the field was back at the finish by about 11h00. HAMNET received grateful acknowledgments from the Lions organisers, and we in turn promised to be back for both races next year. Hopefully, the Lion’s race will be separated both geographically and chronologically from the 99er next year, to allow both races to benefit from the number of riders entering.

During the event, a call from Wilderness Search and Rescue was received for helpers to retrieve the body of a climber who had fallen on Table Mountain the night before. ZS1GS and ZS1OSK were given permission to leave their rover duties early, to be able to proceed to the call-out. Please see the report on that retrieval by ZS1GS on this same website.

My thanks go to ZS1’s LN and his wife PTT, PXK, EEE, PDE, YT, OSK, GS, BTD, and OK at the digipeater site. Without ZS1OK, neither of these races would have been as successfully marshaled as they were.

Incident – Platteklip Gorge – 19 February 2017

At around 08:30 a call came through for a missing hiker that was located on Platteklip Gorge. There were no operators able to respond and HAMNET WC was assisting on the Lions Journey for Sight & Service Cycle race. After checking with control Grant (ZS1GS) was released from his function to respond to the call.

It appears that the patient, an Icelandic visitor, along with two friends had been hiking the previous day and separated, with the patient choosing to walk down on his own. The friends had offered to walk down with him and after a discussion they had decided to meet up at the bottom of the mountain. When the friends reached the bottom of the mountain the patient was no where to be seen. There was also a running event on the mountain and so it was believed that the patient had sought transport to visit one of the other tourist attractions. Sadly the patient was discovered deceased on Sunday morning.

A team of 5 rescue personnel ascended the mountain to assess the situation. Due to the high winds Skymed was not able to fly and the cable cars were also unable to run. After the assessment of the paramedic who confirmed that the patient was deceased it was decided that the patient should be carried down the path. A similar carry out, a few years ago, took almost 30 field operators around 8 hours.

On arrival Grant requested a sitrep and took over the control of Metro1. As more carriers arrived they were dispatched up the mountain to assist with the daunting task of carrying the patient down. Only around 15 carriers responded but the task went quicker than expectded.

Ian (ZS1OSK) was also released from his duties at the J4SnS race and joined the operation. Ian was tasked to be positioned at the junction of the contour path and the Platteklip Gorge path so that he could dissuade hikers from using the path up the mountain. The wind was bad and along with the rescue it was not advisable for the public to be on the mountain.

At around 13:35 the patient was brought to Metro1,  the family where the patient had been staying and the forensic pathology vehicle gathered shortly afterwards. The patient was handed over to forensic pathology for further investigation. A debrief was held and all responding parties stood down.

Rescue – 2 February 2017

At 11:24 a call went out for Noordhoek Peak, with no additional information at the time as to the nature of the incident. Jason (ZS1ZW) was activated, with the initial RV indicated as East Fort on Chapman’s Peak. Upon arrival (11:55) this was amended to Silvermine parking, so final arrival there was 12:32. Between Jason and the Metro Rescue vehicle we were able to load gear and personnel for an initial team and drive them up to the peak. Updates to the call came through that there was a fallen climber in a party, at a minimum Red.

We arrived at Blackburn turnoff at 12:50 and hasty team of 7 deployed at 12:54. Jason, Michael Letegan (Delta S&R) and Tim  relocated up towards Eagles Nest to relay for comms into the gorge, and encountered a portion of the party who had been with the climber. They indicated that there seemed to be some confusion regarding the location, as it was NOT reported as Blackburn Gorge, but rather one over below the Eagle lookout. They were able to indicate the path to the location. We recalled the initial hasty team, although they were also returning, having made contact with a further member of the party who had advised the correct location.

Brian (ZS1BTD) arrived at RV during this time, and ran control at the parking area. Additionally we had to utilise Ewart (MCSA) as a second relay for comms into the Team 1 in the gorge.

Skymed became available after completing a patient transfer but they were unable to assist as the winds in the area were too string for them. The first team reached the patient who sadly declared the patient status “blue”. They requested additional climbing equipment and stretcher to remove the patient. Additional teams arrived as well as a team from forensics department. The patient was retrieved and handed to the forensics people for transportation.

All teams returned to the staging area and held a debrief after which they were all stood down at 17:30.

Rescue – 16 January 2017

At 1745 on 16 Jan 2017, a call went out for a patient fallen approximately 10 metres at Lakeside Pinnacle near caves. Jason (ZS1ZW) was activated, and joined by Brian (ZS1BTD) a little later. Initial hope was to use Skymed, but this option was not available due to winds.

On arrival (1835), Cape Medical Response controller was temporary IC, having been the one that made the call to Metro. Based on the urgency of the patient injury, and having ascertained from the locals that the walk up was not technical, he had despatched 2 of his members (ILS) along with 2 Muizenberg Fire and Rescue personnel to the patient. They reached the patient as I arrived, and gave initial assessment – Broken femur, degloving, and facial scrapes and bruises. 16 year old male, with 3 accompanying family members.

Metro 1 arrived 1838, as did initial MCSA volunteers. Metro medics departed 1842 as hasty team, followed shortly by technical rescuers advance party to determine extraction requirements. Both parties arrived at PT at 1855

Descent commenced approx. 1950, through the various belay points, and reached the road at 2043 where the CMR vehicle A2 was waiting to accept. The patient was transferred by road to Melomed Tokai.

During the final stages of the descent, the road was closed by local NHW members for safety, as well as the possibility of dislodged rocks.

All team members off mountain approx. 2110, debriefed and stood down 2135

The rescue was attended by HAMNET, MCSA, CMR, Muizenberg Fire and Rescue, Hikers Network and METRO personnel. Excluding CMR and Fire, there were 24 responders, a remarkable turnout.

Rescue – 13 January 2017

At around 20:10 on 13 January, a call was put out for a party of hikers that were stranded on top of Table Mountain. Due to the weather conditions the cable car had suspended operations and the hikers were stranded without lights and warm clothing. A team was sent to asses them while they slowly made their way down. Ian Stanbridge (ZS1OSK) responded to assist with communications from Metro1. The patients were reached and assessed where they were treated for hypothermia and assisted further down the mountain.

The stand down was given around 22:00 after a debriefing and the patients went on their way in private transport.

New Year Rescues

Members from HAMNET Western Cape were involved with a number of rescues over the festive period.

On the 1 January 2017, Matt Feinstein (ZS1MTF) responded to a call for a dehydrated patient on Platteklip Gorge. Matt secured the landing zone (LZ) at Kloofnek parking to allow Skymed 1 to operate in the area. The patient was extracted and taken to hospital.

On the 4 January, Jason Codd (ZS1ZW) and Phil Van Den Bossche (ZS1VCC), responded to a call for a patient that had fallen in the Elsie Peak area. This is located around the Fishoek are of Cape Town. A suitable LZ was sought and it was decide to hold this at the Fishoek Provincial Hospital as no other suitable area could be found. The call was only received quite late and the rescue crew had to operate quickly as the light was fading. It was decided to extract the patient with a screamer suit to allow for faster operations. At the same time a call for a patient in difficulty on Platteklip Gorge was received and Liz Southey (ZS1XS), Ian Stainbridge (ZS1OSK) and myself (ZS1GS) responded. This was Ian’s first call so we welcome him to the list of responders. The patient was walked out and brought down by the cable car and was taken away with private transport.

On the 8 January 2017, Ian (ZS1OSK) responded on his own to a call for assistance with a party of 5 requiring help. The party was made up of 2 adults and 3 children. They were mobile but were out of water and were uninjured. Ian manned Metro 1 at the Jeep Track and by sunset the party were safe off the mountain.

I wish to thank all the members involved throughout out the entire holiday period for their support and efforts. It is appreciated by myself and the management of Metro.

Rescues – 22 December 2016

At around 20:30 a call came in for a 20 year old female who was overdue in the Newlands Forest area. I (Grant ZS1GS) responded for logistical support and arrived on scene at 21:00. The female and her family were visiting from Gauteng and she had spent the afternoon alone hiking in the area. She was in cellular contact with her mom and had sent her an image of her location but did not arrive back at the expected time. While a search manager was interviewing the mother of the patient, a second call for a male lost on the Houtbay side came through. This meant that the teams that had gathered were split and some sent to Houtbay while some remained at Newlands forest to search for the missing lady.

The Houtbay call was on Kabonkelberg and the patient had comms via cell phone with the incident commander. He was advised to reserve the battery life for when help was closer so that he could be located easier. Phil Van Den Bossche (ZS1VCC) and Jason Codd (ZS1ZW) were deployed as logistic operators to assist with this rescue.

In the meantime 5 teams of around three people each were sent through the forest to locate the missing lady. From the image that was sent to her mother it appeared that she was at the contour path 2 hours before her last contact with her mother. Further information from a trail runner showed that she was higher than expected and a team was rerouted to the area and ultimately found her shaken and injured but still able to walk herself out most of the way home but she was piggy-backed out the last stretch, which happened via Tafelberg Road.  She was  transported back to Newlands Forest where she was reunited with her family.

At around the same time the patient on Kabonkelberg was reached and he too was in a precarious situation and required the assistance of technical rescuers to get him to safety. He was brought down from the mountain and all parties stood down around 05:00.

These two incidents could have turned out with tragic consequences as the weather was becoming worse and during the night some rain was experienced. Thanks to everyone involved.

Rescue 15 December 2016

At around 08:15 a call came through for a patient that had fallen 20-30 meters on Lionshead. Matt Feinstein (ZS1MTF) and Grant Southey (ZS1GS) responded as LZ operators and reported to Kloofnek. Fortunately the parking had not yet filled up and was still suitable for use as a landing zone. Matt secured the LZ with the help of SANPark Rangers.

Skymed flew in and inserted a rescue technician and medic into the field before landing at Kloofnek. The technician and medic took about 20 minuted to secure the patient and treat him on a dangerous slope before calling for Skymed to extract them. The patient and medic were hoisted out and brought to the LZ where the patient was handed over to a commercial ambulance company, whilst Skymed returned to the field to collect the rescue technician.

The rescue went according to plan and no notable issues arose. The patient suffered back and rib injuries but was fortunate in that he did not have a vertical fall but rather slid 20-30meters and was able to grasp at vegetation to slow the fall.