HAMNET Report 15 October 2017

This week it was KwaZulu Natal’s turn to get the weather! Tuesday’s flash flood claimed 11 lives, and caused damage to hospitals, at least 133 schools, factories, homes and key infrastructure. Power outages were also reported, as the storm spread up the East coast towards the City of uMhlathuze, incorporating Empangeni and Richards Bay. Chad Mileham reported on Tuesday that the Emergency 7.110 Net was activated by 13h00, and kept a listening watch, until any likelihood of further damage had dissipated.  In idle speculation, I estimated that, if that amount of rain had fallen in the catchment area of Cape Town’s dams, our drought would have been broken and dams completely filled! Nature just isn’t fair, is it?

Kobus van der Merwe drew our attention to the magnitude 6.6 earthquake very near Bouvet Island on Tuesday, with the possibility of a Tsunami aimed at us, which fortunately didn’t happen. He pondered on how equipped we would be to deal with this kind of coastal flooding. Good question!

Chad Mileham has also been posting the ARRL posts regarding the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico to the HAMNET Facebook Pages. Look for HAMNET on Facebook, and you will find two pages to view. Thank you Chad!

Advance warning of severe weather conditions come from Vietnam, where Cyclone Khanun-17 is expected to strike from the East on Tuesday; and England and Ireland, where Hurricane Ophelia-17 is threatening from the South-West, moving slowly up off the coast of North Africa and destined for Ireland on Sunday, and England on Monday. And California’s residents and fire agencies are battling 18 huge wildfires that have claimed about 24 lives, forced at least 100,000 people to evacuate their homes, and destroyed countless properties. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service in that country is heavily involved with coordination and management of the evacuees.

Researchers at William Carey University in Mississippi are studying how disaster drones could carry medical kits to victims in a mass casualty event, before an ambulance arrives. Bystanders could use the kits to help victims, or first responders on the scene could use them when multiple victims are injured.

CNN says the disaster drones, which also could deliver medicine to hard-to-reach remote locations, were designed and built at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. The researchers have various prototypes, said Italo Subbarao, senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, who is involved in the university’s telemedicine drone research project.

“We have a kit that is a general medical emergency kit that we would probably fly to a farmer’s home, for a rural type of general medical emergency,” Subbarao said, such as a heart attack.

“We’ve got kits that are designed to go into the wilderness so that if you’re stung by a bee or you’ve got a snake bite, things of that nature, we can provide assistance in that moment,” he said. “Most recently, we demonstrated our trauma kits.”

These kits could be used in a mass casualty event like a terror attack or a train crash, or when someone needs critical care. “We look at this as a piece of the puzzle, an important piece of the puzzle, that can connect with the local emergency management system,” he said.

Subbarao and his colleagues follow in the footsteps of researchers around the world who are investigating how drones could help save lives and possibly even beat an ambulance to a medical emergency scene.

A team of researchers in Sweden recently tested whether a drone or an ambulance had a faster response time in delivering an automated external defibrillator to a patient in cardiac arrest. The device gives instructions to a bystander to use it for checking the heart rhythm and, if needed, sending an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.

The researchers conducted 18 consecutive flights with the drone, with an average flight distance of 3.2 kilometers, or about 2 miles. They compared the dispatch and travel time of the drone with the dispatch and travel time of emergency medical services.

The researchers found that the drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases, with an average reduction in response time of about 16 minutes, and that no adverse events or technical problems occurred during any of the drone flights. During a medical emergency, those minutes can be the difference between life and death. This preliminary study was published in the journal JAMA in June.

Yet much more research needs to be conducted before you could see first-responder drones flying around, delivering medical care.

Certain limitations of the technology include whether a drone could carry heavy medical supplies, could withstand the impact of extreme weather or could limit the risk of technical glitches.

In Mississippi, Subbarao and his colleagues are planning to continue their research.

“For now, we’ve been working with the Mississippi Emergency Management (Agency) and Mississippi (State) Department of Public Health. We’re in conversations with the state agencies to help us study our product, help us refine what we’re doing here,” Subbarao said.

Whether in Sweden or the United States, how would a disaster drone work? First, each drone should be equipped with medical kits and instructions.

In the US, those kits could incorporate recommendations put forth in the federal Department of Homeland Security’s initiative Stop the Bleed, which is intended to help bystanders become trained, equipped and empowered to tend to emergency situations before professional help arrives, according to developers.

A drone could also include audio or video communication systems so that the person who receives it could talk to a doctor for assistance. The researchers in Mississippi have been working with Google Glass and other types of visual technologies for this communications aspect, Subbarao said.

Thank you to CNN for these notes.

A fairly shallow cold front is approaching the Western Cape as I write this, and, if the rain gods look kindly on us, up to 22mm of rain could fall in these parts between now and next Thursday. Please hold thumbs for us..

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

HAMNET Report 8 October 2017

News of rescue efforts after Hurricane Maria, is coming mostly from Puerto Rico, it being an island with a huge population of over 3 million.

The ARRL Newsline reports that the Amateur Radio volunteers on the ground in Puerto Rico continue to provide assistance in a number of areas. Amateur Radio resources have been reallocated around the island better to meet communications needs.

Volunteer Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, a HamNation presenter, and a FEMA team member were tasked with calling 68 hospitals and medical facilities. They asked a series of 12 questions geared towards obtaining a better understanding of each facility’s communication capabilities, and to see if urgent care supplies and needs were being met.

Gary Sessums, KC5QCN, the Amateur Radio liaison to the ESF-2 Communications Task Force, coordinated the installation of a VHF Amateur Radio repeater on a mountain peak in El Yunque National Forest. The repeater now gives radio coverage to approximately 60% of Puerto Rico, and also extends radio coverage into the US Virgin Islands.

Andy Anderson, KEØAYJ, is stationed at the Guajataca Dam, providing communications support to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority between their control facility and the dam as the water levels are lowered to prevent the dam from collapsing.

Safe and Well data collection continues at Red Cross shelters, and in reunification work that involves going out into areas that have no communications. Hams are engaged in setting up equipment and entering data into the Red Cross Safe and Well website. Hams also facilitate survivors’ access to cell or satellite phones so they can call a loved one to let them know they are safe.

Reunification team officials have expressed that hams have become invaluable to the teams, not only performing communications duties, but also having become proficient in multiple skill sets for the Red Cross. Ham radio volunteers are acting as navigators, reunification workers, and anything else that is needed. To date, they have completed 60 reunifications.

Donations to the response effort continue, with EPCOM (El Paso Communications Systems) donating 40 Icom IC-F3001 handheld radios, and the Yasme Foundation providing an Amateur Radio repeater that will be installed at the Arecibo Observatory to provide Search And Rescue communications.

Dobbins Air Reserve Base reported this week that a C-5M Super Galaxy from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, landed there to provide airlift for AT&T communications equipment and technicians.

The airlift mission provided critical infrastructure restoration in support of life-saving activities underway in Puerto Rico. Many of the island’s three million residents have been without communications since the island took the full brunt of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.

To restore communication capabilities on the island, AT&T provided mobile communications assets in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  This equipment included three vehicles: two satellite cell on light trucks (COLT) and one emergency communication vehicle (EMV). Members of AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team use these vehicles to restore Wi-Fi, LAN lines and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) capabilities, explained Lou Fiorenza, an AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team member.

Meanwhile, six years on, consequences of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to be uncovered. Scientists say they’ve found new and “unexpected” sources of radioactive material dozens of kilometres away from the site.

New radioactivity has been discovered in salty groundwater and sands beneath beaches up to 100km away from the disaster site, according to the findings published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ journal on Monday.

Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US and Japan’s Kanazawa University revealed high levels of persistent caesium-137 in eight beaches, sampled for the study between 2013 and 2016.

These levels turned out to be up to 10 times higher than levels in seawater of the power plant harbour, according to the press release on the WHOI website.

“No one expected that the highest levels of caesium in ocean water today would be found not in the harbour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but in the groundwater many miles away below the beach sands,” one of the researchers, Virginie Sanial, said. The radioactive element the scientists suggest travelled from the crippled plant with ocean currents days and weeks after the reactor meltdowns. The sand grains have been storing it for years, slowly emitting caesium into ocean.

“Only time will slowly remove the caesium from the sands as it naturally decays away and is washed out by seawater,” Sanial said.

Despite the study showing that caesium doesn’t pose a risk to public health, the research still warns of such unsuspected pathways and storage of contamination, which should be considered in nuclear power plant monitoring.

“There are 440 operational nuclear reactors in the world, with approximately one-half situated along the coastline,” the study reads.

And in Cape Town, details of the three-phased approach to the water disaster have been released. Phase one is operating already, with the current restrictive regulations applied, and will involve throttling water, with rationing, resulting in short-period supply disruptions, zoned outages likely to occur during peak water usage times, but no disruption to critical services like hospitals and clinics. Phase two will involve collection of predefined quantities of drinking water per person per day from collection points, but carefully controlled maintenance of sewage systems, and availability of water in areas prone to fires or risk of disease, like informal settlements.

Phase three, or extreme disaster conditions, will place emphasis on minimising the impact on human life, dignity and property, but water will not be available in homes or workplaces, drinking water from aquifers and springs will be distributed, and close attention to safety and security will be paid by the authorities. It can be expected that tariffs for any water delivered to households will go up. Serious business indeed!

The dams supplying water to the Cape Town area stand at 37.2% full at present, down from 61.9% this time last year. At least 10% of this will be too muddy to use!

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

HAMNET Report 1 October 2017

As I scan the internet for news of emergency communications and good news, I see only notices of support, stories of damage and accounts of message relays, over and over again. Friends, we are still in the aftermath of multiple hurricanes in the Caribbean, and earthquakes in Mexico. Here are some notes from all over.

HMS Ocean has arrived in the British Virgin Islands to support the population there, and USS Wasp, a US Navy Amphibious ship is in the leeward Islands, also to protect the lives and belongings of survivors of Hurricane Maria, from disease, and criminal looting, which has been taking place. Maria hit with 155mph winds and unleashed a torrential downpour with some locations receiving nearly 40 inches of rain. The storm’s combination of high winds and heavy rains knocked out the power to the island of Puerto Rico, amongst others, leaving its 3.5 million residents without electricity, possibly for months. Officials are stating that there hasn’t been a storm of this intensity to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, and the island is currently without power, and likely to remain so. Hopefully, at least one hospital ship will be despatched to the area, to provide basic care to the injured and the frail.

Bill Fastenau, a radio club director, said that in two hours, on just one channel, he heard about 50 requests relayed by Puerto Rico ham radio operators, from individuals hoping to let people on the mainland know that they had survived the hurricane.

Currently, the traffic is just one-way — from Puerto Rico to the United States — and when people might be able to send messages back to Puerto Rico is another unknown.

For the moment, it is just too hard for Puerto Rico ham radio operators to locate the intended recipients — and they have had to jury-rig storm-damaged systems too.

Puerto Rico’s Arecibo 350 metre radio telescope dish was also damaged in the hurricane, with some antenna feeds falling away from the feed-horn and damaging tiles of the dish below. Arecibo has made many historical discoveries, from passing asteroids, to Fast Radio Bursts, to the first evidence of gravitational waves, to helping in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, mapping the surface of Venus, and the rotational period of Mercury. It was also responsible for sending the strongest radio signal into space ever generated – a massive 20 trillion watt emission, consisting of 1679 bits, and carrying a single simple coded pictorial message, in the hopes that alien life will be able to decode it, when it arrives in the Globular Cluster M13, 21000 light years from us and containing about 300 000 stars.

Back on earth, on Dominica, shops have been looted, houses are completely destroyed, and potable water is now the problem, with standing water starting to smell, and no reticulated water available.

Greg G0DUB has sent further information about Dominica. He says:

“The following update has been received from Jeff 9Y4J via Cesar Pio Santos HR2P, the IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Co-ordinator, concerning the relief efforts in Dominica, with specific reference to Telecommunications.

“1. An emergency operating centre was activated using the call sign J73EOC, with batteries and a generator installed.

“2. The NEOC is being manned by radio amateurs, some of whom arrived from neighbouring countries.

“3. Limited mobile service is available in the capital of Roseau with free SMS messaging and WiFi being provided.

“4. Troops from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, The UK, and France have arrived and are bringing some order back to the country after widespread looting.

“5 The USA has started activating their citizens.

“6 The CEWN (Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net) webmaster, Franz/J69DS has established a link from his server to the EOC in Roseau in order to pass on the more than 2,000 messages on hand.

“7 The CEWN continues to maintain a watch on 7188 kHz and 3815 kHz daily.

“8 Major infrastructural damage was done, thus limiting access to many areas on the island.”

And on St Croix, thieves stole the generator belonging to AT&T’s Gallow Bay Tower, causing a domino-effect internet and then cell-phone system collapse. A borrowed generator has been linked up, and is being guarded 24 hours a day by civilians, because communications on the island is the single most important system needed to bring relief and care where required.

At the other edge of the Pacific Rim of Fire, more than 120,000 people have fled a menacing volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, fearing it will erupt for the first time in more than half a century as increasing tremors rattle the region.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun said the numbers (leaving) on Sunday (according to) disaster officials are more than double previous estimates and are continuing to rise, they say. It includes people who left voluntarily as well as those told to evacuate from a nine to twelve kilometre zone around Mount Agung.

Authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level on Friday following a “tremendous increase” in seismic activity. Its last eruption in 1963 killed 1,100 people.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, a senior Cabinet minister, said on Sunday that the districts surrounding the volcano “must be prepared for the worst”.

Presumably, the volcano is evidence of further tectonic plate shift, some of which caused the Mexican earthquakes last week, killing more than 320 people.

I am pleased, though, to bring you a little good news in the form of a report from Grant ZS1GS, Western Cape Regional Director for HAMNET, of a successful deployment of HAMNET volunteers to assist with the Marloth Trail Run, held outside Swellendam in the Western Cape, over the long weekend.

Grant reports that four checkpoints and a base were manned by a total of 10 operators, with an 11th operating as a rover, and a 12th acting as a very useful HF and VHF relay station from his home. Two cross-band repeaters were implemented, to make contact with base easier, and the event went off without any serious mishaps. The rush to and from Swellendam was made easier for the team by Monday’s public holiday, and I gather the rest and relaxation before and after the race made up for any hard work during it. Well done Grant, and all who helped.

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

HAMNET Report 24 September 2017

By Tuesday the 19th, Greg Mossop G0DUB was reporting that Hurricane Maria was moving through areas still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma just weeks ago and had been reassessed as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane.

Amateur Radio groups were preparing for this next storm and the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN), was activated on the morning of the 18th September 2017 at 10h30 UTC on the frequency 3815 kHz, and would subsequently move to 7188 kHz at 11h00 UTC.

It was intended to maintain 24 hour coverage during the passage of the system, and immediately after, in case there was the need to pass health and welfare traffic.

This followed earlier notices from the Puerto Rican and the Dominican Republic Emcomm operators, who advised they would be using the following frequencies;

Puerto Rico – 7188 kHz and 7192 kHz

Dominican Republic 7065 kHz,  but depending on propagation also 3780 kHz

With the potential to suffer QRM from a wider area, the normal operation of the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325MHz had also started.

On Thursday Greg told us that XE2O of the FMRE in Mexico reported that they were maintaining an Emergency Network on 7060 kHz with the support of many Mexican radio amateurs. They had also deployed two mobile emergency communication units, one of them to the south of Mexico City and the other to the communities near the city where communication problems have been reported.

They had permanent contact on HF between the Command and Control centre in Mexico co-ordinating the emergency response and the Emergency Network of the FMRE.

9Y4J reported that Health and Welfare traffic in and out of Dominica continued to be passed via amateur radio, on frequencies 7188 kHz, and 3815 kHz.

However, the airports remained closed, and an assessment of the seaports was underway. This will help determine how soon relief goods, and substantial human resources, can access the island.

Further media reports said that, in the immediate aftermath of then-Category 5 Hurricane Maria’s passage over Dominica on Monday, Frans van Santbrink, J69DS, on St. Lucia, checked into the VoIP Hurricane Net to relay damage reports he’d gathered via repeater conversations with other hams there. The New York Times also reported and posted audio that Amateur Radio was a primary source to gather initial damage reports from the storm-ravaged Caribbean Island nation of some 70,000 residents. US-based Julian Antoine, J73JA, solicited reports via a VoIP connection with the J73MAN repeater on Dominica.

“All power lines are down, our telephone lines are down, Internet lines, everything is down,” came a reply to Antoine’s inquiry. “Roads are blocked with debris. No confirmed information on fatalities or injuries.”

On Friday, Greg  posted that “Hurricane Maria continues to move through the Caribbean with Puerto Rico the latest to be affected, losing power and many cellular phone stations. The SATERN net is operating on 14.265MHz with bilingual (Spanish/English) operators looking for any messages out of Puerto Rico.

“It has been reported from the Dominican Republic that some Puerto Rican stations are operating on 7085 and 7095 kHz and they are communicating with those stations.

“Co-Operation is starting between networks in the area and between all countries in the Caribbean area, and their assistance is appreciated.”

On Tuesday evening, GDACS  posted the first news of the second disastrous Earthquake in Mexico, a magnitude 7.1 temblor at 20h14 CAT, in an area where 8.5 million people live within a 100km radius of the quake. We have watched and listened to reports all week of frantic searches through the rubble of collapsed buildings and schools, and the death toll rising steadily toward the 300 mark. The FMRE National Emergency Net was activated on 7060kHz, 3690kHz and 14120kHz, and has been handling traffic to make up for the loss of some cellular networks, FMRE President Al Tomez, XE2O, told the ARRL.

Greg G0DUB also reported on the IARU Region 1 conference at Landshut, which closed just at the weekend. He said there had been a good meeting on last Sunday, amongst emergency communicators, where ideas about social media being used to spread important information regarding emergencies were discussed. Such things as international WhatsApp groups and possibly a FaceBook page to post urgent news on were mentioned, particularly bearing in mind the fact that FaceBook translation is improving, thus making dissemination to people not conversant in your language more effective.

On a local, and happier note, I have received a short report from Alister ZS1OK, on the Cape Town Peace Trail Run, which Hamnet helped marshal, last weekend. This was not the marathon run on Sunday, but rather an off-road run on the slopes of Lion’s Head and Signal Hill on Saturday, finishing down at the Green Point athletics track. Alister says:

“The race went off successfully, with more than 330 trail runners enjoying the splendid views on the 12 and 22km routes. The weather was very windy initially, but settled to become a splendid day. This was the first event where we benefitted from using an event caravan and a 4×4 vehicle provided by the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management. A big thank you to the City of Cape Town!

“Six operators were able to assist with facilitating communications for the recovery of some injured runners, fortunately none of which were serious.”

Thanks for the report Alister!

As the long weekend progresses, and holiday-makers rush to and from their holiday destinations, may I make an appeal to all emergency communicators to keep their radios on, and monitor emergency frequencies and central repeaters, to be better able to help their fellow South Africans in case of need? Thank you very much.

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

HAMNET Report 17 September 2017

Stationed in an empty field at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, South Carolina, Virginia Tech electrical engineering Professor Greg Earle and his team waited for the total solar eclipse of 2017. Rather than travelling toward the path of totality to see one of “nature’s most awe-inspiring sights,” Earle prepared to put his three-year-old hypothesis on radio propagation to the test.

With roughly two minutes to run diagnostics for the bulk of their project, Earle and his friends sat nestled between high-powered radars and transceivers. In the still of silence, they heard the sound of crickets turn on like clockwork, confused by their early bedtime call at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Over a dozen colleagues were involved in the making of vertical radar equipment that extrapolated data before, during and following the period of artificial light induced by the total solar eclipse.

After studying the ionosphere in graduate school, which is a part of the sky that conducts atmospheric electricity above 50 kilometres, Earle used his specialized research to understand unquantified events such as auroras and later eclipses in terms of radio, GPS and radar operation.

The eclipse, according to Earle, writing in the CollegiateTimes, will give him an opportunity to collect astronomical research with at least three separate technologies that were nonexistent in the early 1900s.

Not only are GPS receivers global now, allowing researchers to mine an extraordinary amount of data per cubic mile, but Software Defined Radio is barely a decade old. This programming function gives a computer the capability to act like a radio receiver but at an even faster speed.

These tools, partnered with the knowledge of thousands of wave frequencies from competing HAM radio operators, is what Earle believes separates his work from serendipitous discovery.

When an eclipse happens the artificial night allows more radio energy to generate signal strength rather than being consumed by the neutral particles in the ionosphere.

With over 700,000 HAM radio operators in the United States, all operating in the same frequencies, being monitored by Virginia Tech’s research team, Earle designed rules for a radio contest that would test wave efficiency, with tasks like, “How quickly can you make contact with someone from all of the 50 states?”

Once the Reverse Beacon Network goes through these logs, it will then be made available for this scientific study.

If artificial night could be manipulated in the future, Earle says that this research could lead to more secure communication between government officials in top secret situations.

“Once we know the effects better, there may indeed be people, especially in the Department of Defence (DOD) community who look at that seriously as a way to change the communication channel either for ourselves or for anybody we are currently having a conflict with,” Earle said.

In order to comprehend the extensive science behind a solar eclipse, Earle relates the world to a paper map and the eclipse to the lens on a magnifying glass; however, the roughly circular region that is magnified will act at wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye. The goal of his project is to look at as many rays propagating through that intensified region and its signal by-products, as possible.

Although it is estimated that the research will not be released to the public for another year or two, Earle has received instantaneous feedback from SuperDARN radar equipment, courtesy of a Blacksburg company, which has seemingly confirmed their simulations suggesting low frequency propagations to give long propagation paths in the eclipsed region.

The team is currently working on a presentation of findings for a meeting with the American Geophysical Union this December.

Thank you to the CollegiateTimes for this extract.

The ARRL Letter for 14 September carries news of the other two geophysical events of the last week. Hurricane Irma sowed death and destruction over Central Florida last weekend, and resulted in significant river flooding over most of the Florida peninsula. Millions were left without power. Thirty Florida counties were under mandatory evacuation orders, and thousands took advantage of Red Cross shelters.

SKYWARN nets activated in the West Central Florida Section and elsewhere to gather severe weather information, and Florida’s Statewide Amateur Radio Network conducted a coordination and assistance net to help communicate between the county EOCs and the State EOC and to provide assistance to Amateur Radio operators in other ways, time permitting. The priority during the weekend was tactical shelter communication, EOC communication, and SKYWARN nets as Hurricane Irma approached. “Once Irma was downgraded to a Tropical Storm, our focus shifted to collecting post-storm reports and handling emergency and priority traffic only,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said.

As if Earth’s weather was not bad enough already, an X-class solar flare at around [18h00 our time] on Sunday, September 10, hobbled the HF bands. The widespread communication blackout lasted for nearly 3 hours and “could not have happened at a worse time,” Graves said. “But,” he added, “we cannot control Mother Nature, only work around her.” Earlier solar flares had also affected HF propagation.

Greg Mossop G0DUB announced on Friday that “Mexican Radio Amateurs are activating again to deal with Hurricane Max which is due to hit the area of Guererra in the next few hours. They will be using 7060 and 14120 kHz for this storm and are also watching Tropical Storm 15-E, also known as Norma, which will move to the North of their country over the next few days.” So please keep away from 7060kHz and 14120kHz these next few days, until the all-clear is given.

Finally, the British “TX Factor” episode 18 launched yesterday, and is available for you to view, on their website, www.txfactor.co.uk. This episode covers the recent YOTA activity week in London, at which South Africa was represented, and a look at moonbounce, using the 32 metre dish at Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall.

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

Scouting Hamnet Members

This weekend 3 Hamnet members went to a Potjiekos Competition day that had 4×4 activities and a quarter mile drag strip. The reason we went was to see if we could have future field days there and also promote Hamnet as they had a smallish flea market. one Hamnet member was a marshal and tw took part in the 4×4 obstacle course. Gerhard Coetzee, ZS3TG, was the Marshal and the driver Dylan Walsh, ZS3DW, with co-driver (father) Roy Walsh, ZS3RW, took part in the 4×4 course.


Driver ZS3DW

Driver ZS3DW

IMG_4442 IMG_4465

HAMNET Report 10 September 2017

Well, more and more natural disaster news comes through. For the first time in recorded history, there were two hurricanes in close proximity to each other bearing down on the Caribbean with sustained wind-speeds of greater than 150mph (or 240kph). They are Irma and Jose, and, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, Irma is approaching Florida, and expected to move straight up Florida’s straight axis this evening, our time, having ravaged a lot of the Caribbean islands since Thursday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, on Thursday, the Dominican Republic had its population of 10.7 million in shelters as the hurricane churned overhead, Turks and Caicos experienced a storm surge of 6 metres on their low lying islands, Anguilla’s 17000 people reported significant structural damage and at least one death, St Barts suffered rooftops ripped off their houses, an electrical grid disruption, and rivers of debris flowing through streets. The dual nationality island of St Maarten/St Martin, suffered at least 8 deaths amongst its total population of 77000 people, Barbuda reported damage to 95% of all structures, and the death of a 2-year-old, but neighbouring island Antigua was less affected. And Haiti, which still hasn’t recovered from its previous hurricane Matthew damage in 2016, is being shored up as Hurricane Jose approaches.

Sadly, John ZS1JNT, tells me that friends of his on St Maarten island report widespread looting of the damaged boats there for anything sellable, and a supermarket opening its doors, letting the locals help themselves, to prevent further damage to their buildings by the looters.

The ARRL Bulletin dated 8 September says:

Please be aware that due to the breadth of this series of weather events, numerous emergency and public service nets are in session, especially on the 80, 40, and 20 meter bands. All stations should be aware that in a large-scale natural disaster, immediate threats to life and property can happen quickly. In order for Amateur Radio to play an effective role in supporting humanitarian efforts, it is key that all licensees cooperate to minimize potential on-air problems.

Amateurs should also be aware that the primary users on the 60-meter channels are using those channels extensively. Amateur stations, as secondary users, must ensure that their communications are conducted in such a manner to ensure that Federal government stations, as primary users, can have immediate use of any 60-meter channel. Amateurs, please make sure you are leaving adequate breaks between transmissions to allow the primary stations to use the frequency. If a primary user does break into an amateur contact on the frequency, the amateurs involved should immediately cease their transmissions.

At this time, it is ARRL’s understanding that only Amateur Radio Emergency or Amateur Radio Priority traffic is moving in and out of the affected areas. Amateur Radio Health and Welfare communications are being queued up for later delivery into the affected area, as the emergency and priority traffic eases.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) reports its frequency being used as of Saturday afternoon is 14.325 MHz, while the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) is operating on 14.265 MHz.

Meanwhile, a smaller category 2 hurricane, named Katia is hovering on the North coast of Southern Mexico, and Greg Mossop G0DUB notes:

The National Emergency Network of the Mexican National Society (FMRE) declared on September 8 that they would be using the following frequencies as they prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Katia.

20m 14.120 MHz
40m 7.060 MHz
80m 3.690 MHz

14.325 MHz was also expected to be used to co-ordinate with the USA Hurricane Watch Net.

And at least 61 people have died after the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century struck off the Southern coast on Friday morning at 04h49 UTC.

The magnitude 8.1 quake, which was felt as far afield as Mexico City and Guatemala City, was registered off Mexico’s southern coast just as heavy rains from Hurricane Katia lashed the east. The epicentre was in the Pacific Ocean, some 1,000 kilometres southeast of the capital and 120 kilometres off the coast.

With the Earthquake hitting Mexico on Friday, we should assume that these frequencies are in use now as they respond to that disaster.

Various Winlink nodes may also be used to deal with the emergencies.

With HF propagation disturbed after the solar flare on Wednesday, Greg asks that we take all steps to avoid interference to emergency communications activities in the Caribbean.

To add insult to injury, a series of massive explosions on the Sun caused a radio network designed to warn people of the hurricanes in the Caribbean, to go on the fritz during the time period when it would have been issuing information about Hurricane Irma, both the manager of the network and a NOAA representative confirmed to Motherboard, whom we thank for these notes.

Solar flares like the ones reported this week are known to interfere with high frequency radio signals. “When that solar flare happens, it’s like static frying,” Bobby Graves, Net Manager for Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), told reporters over the phone. This group of licensed amateur radio operators, based across North and Central America and the Caribbean, works with the National Hurricane Centre to disseminate information about storms. When a solar flare happens, “it’s like they just turned the radio off,” Graves, who lives in Brandon, Mississippi, said.

Bob Rutledge, lead forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre, confirmed receiving “isolated” reports from the Caribbean about radio blackouts related to the series of solar flares observed on the Sun this week, including from HWN. “It’s truly a complete radio blackout,” Rutledge said. “The signal just can’t get through.”

HWN also gathers data from people on the ground and sends the information back to the NHC in Miami, according to Graves. He said that blackouts this week lasted from 20 minutes to up to four hours.

“It’s sad, knowing you’re trying to get the information out, or maybe someone out there is trying to talk back to you,” Graves told me. Radio operators have to wait out the solar storm, and “hopefully the people are still there when the frequency is recovered.”

Starting on September 4, a series of solar flares belched radiation and solar plasma at Earth—including three of the largest and most powerful types of solar flare, which are called X-class, Rutledge told Motherboard. Many more were M-class, a lower designation.

One was an X9.3 flare, the largest recorded in about a decade, according to NASA. NOAA’s space weather agency issued warnings for geomagnetic storms, which are major disturbances in our planet’s magnetosphere that can meddle with all kinds of technologies we rely on, including satellites, radio communications, and GPS signals. According to Graves, these storms make everything sound “gurgly,” like you’re talking “underwater.”

Just what the emergency networks in the Caribbean needed this week!

Let it not be said that we don’t live in interesting times…

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

HAMNET Report 3 September 2017

The World Wide Web this week has been flooded, if you’ll pardon my choice of words, by news of Hurricanes and Monsoon rains.

In Texas, one meteorologist estimated that by the time Hurricane Harvey subsides it will have dropped a mind-boggling 95 trillion litres of water across the state. Certain locations along the Gulf of Mexico are expected to see as much rain in a few short days as is typical in an entire year. Harvey has wrought havoc along the Texas Gulf Coast, just as meteorologists warned it would. The previous benchmark for flooding in an American city was Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which dumped 40 inches of rain on Houston in five days, killing nearly two dozen people and causing $5 billion in damage. Harvey delivered as much rain as Allison in roughly half the time

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers have been pitching in to support communication at some Red Cross shelters in south Texas in the ongoing aftermath of catastrophic and unprecedented flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey, now a Tropical Depression. ARES members also have been serving as net control liaisons to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management (OEM). At mid-week, some 3 dozen volunteers were assisting at shelters. Another dozen were on tap to serve as OEM liaisons. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said the Red Cross is in need of Red Cross-trained shelter managers and volunteer management specialists.

A variety of emergency, health-and-welfare traffic, and tactical nets in south Texas have been active on HF at various times of the day as well as on a wide array of VHF and UHF repeaters, which remain available as needed. On August 31st, the National Hurricane Centre reported that flooding rains were continuing across far eastern Texas and western Louisiana, with heavy rainfall expected to spread north-eastward through the lower Mississippi Valley and into the Tennessee Valley over the next day or two. ARES volunteers are on standby in Louisiana.

Earlier this week, ARES team members were advised that the impact to the region’s communications infrastructure had been relatively minimal, considering the strength of the storm and the magnitude of the flooding. The storm did ravage cellular service in some Texas counties, however, especially Aransas (84%) and Refugio (73%) counties, the FCC reported. Overall, however, the FCC deemed the cellular system 95% functional.

ARRL South Texas Public Information Officer Mike Urich, KA5CVH, told ARRL on August 30th that “hardening” of the telecommunications infrastructure to make it more immune to storm damage had diminished the need for Amateur Radio communication support and altered hams’ traditional role there. Urich pointed out, however, that the Amateur Radio telecommunications infrastructure in South Texas has remained analogue, as “the lowest common denominator” of technology — VHF/UHF FM, and HF — and has the highest degree of interoperability. “That’s what we train to, that’s what we teach, that’s what we practice,” he said. Urich said the area’s extensive system of repeaters makes it possible for local radio amateurs to serve as “another set of eyes and ears” in spotting and reporting problems that may require official attention.

320, or 4%, of the 7,804 cell sites in the region were out of service, the WSJ reported. And although most cell towers have backup batteries, they only last about 8 hours, and if they’re flooded or their equipment is blown away, they’re toast.

On the government side, FEMA does have an app to push information about disaster preparedness, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the FCC is working to protect communications networks, monitoring outages, working with the Department of Homeland Security and state and local partners, and has activated the Disaster Information Reporting System.

Thank you to the ARRL and many American News agencies for these details.

Another Hurricane, this one called “Irma” is starting to be felt in the Atlantic and predictions forecast that this storm will be heading toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Meanwhile, across the globe, seasonal monsoon rain has inundated the Eastern side of India, with the major affected area being most of the Bihar state villages. National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India, Jayu S. Bhide VU2JAU, reports that HAMS from East Bengal and Patna were in action passing messages during the flooding. 1300 deaths were reported and about 8 million people have been displaced. This kind of makes Hurricane Harvey seem mild, by comparison.

The emergency communications teams helped the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams. All HAMS assisted in controlling the communication on VHF mainly. The situation was brought under control, and the NDRF rescued most of the people identified by the HAMS in their message handling. The affected areas now mainly face a problem with drinking water as all the boring pumps are contaminated due to the flood. Fresh water and food packets are reaching the flood area. The monsoonal rain also affected neighbouring Bangladesh but no report on emergency communications from there has been provided.

Monsoon rains also hit early on Tuesday August 29 causing flooding in the Mumbai and Pune areas with immediate action by local HAMS helping out during the adverse weather. All traffic was disrupted, even local trains and buses were submerged and unable to move. Children stranded in a school were left hungry and the electricity also went off.

Satish Shah VU2SVS and Ankur Puranik VU2AXN and 50 HAMS involved arranging food and power for the school. The HAMs of Mumbai were in touch with each other, even those who don’t have a VHF transceiver. The ‘ZELLO app’ was used to connect those without suitable radio equipment to interface with a VHF HAM radio frequency. Many workers were stranded in their offices or at railway stations until midnight. Looking after the central railway in Mumbai were the Bharat Scouts & Guides that had undergone previous disaster communication training. The recent rain is likely to remain for a while, with schools and offices closed. All the HAMS are kept on alert by government and local bodies should their communications be needed

– Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee with Jayu S. Bhide VU2JAU National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India.

As the saying goes “Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink!”

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

HAMNET Report 27 August 2017

Dave Holliday ZS5HN has sent in a report on last week’s iSimangaliso four day mountain bike event. He writes:

HAMNET KZN assisted with Communications for the 2017 iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day Event held from the 17 – 20 August, this year starting in Mkuze Reserve, going through Phinda Reserve, both home to the Big 5, on past Lake Sibaya and then Lake St Lucia. Our communication channels were good, using VHF Simplex with a High Site Relay, Mike ZS5MB and Rob ZS5ROB running Ops Control, and with Communications with the Phinda Rangers on their Radio Network. Dave says he was at the JOC, John ZS5J served as a Rover, and Craig ZS5CD and Guy ZR5GB drove the 2 Sweep Vehicles patrolling the route.

The JOC and Ops Control also had communications with the Doctor, Medics & Ambulances on Event VHF Portables.

Each day both the JOC and Ops Control Relay moved to new positions to cover the route as it progressed Southward towards St Lucia. On the 4th day the route was around St Lucia so HAMNET was not required, and returned back to Durban.

Early on the second day, Guy ZR5GB was injured when the vehicle he was in hit a tree in Mkuze Reserve, when the driver lost control. Guy suffered bruises to his left & right ribs, but is apparently making a good recovery at home.

The formal report issued also refers to all kinds of minor accidents and damage to vehicles, broken axles, lots of vehicle and cyclist punctures, and minor injuries to riders and sweeper crews. Animals got in the way, routes had to be changed on the fly, as trees fell across the tracks, and the ambulances were kept busy with a total of 44 injuries amongst the riders.

All in all, an eventful race, I’d say! Thank you Dave for your work and the report.

Two tropical storms in both Western and Eastern Hemispheres are demanding attention. Off the coast of China, Tropical Cyclone Pakhar -17 is manifesting winds of up to 139km/h and sweeping westwards towards Vietnam. Two point six million people are being threatened by wind speeds of up to 120km/h.

And in the Bay of Mexico, Hurricane Harvey is making landfall over Southern Texas with wind speeds in excess of 200km/h. Half a million Texas inhabitants are in its path. Thursday’s warnings carried recommendations on safe behaviour, making communications plans with your family, stocking up with essential household goods and food, and preparing your house for the strong winds. Even distant family members have been advised on how to maintain contact if possible, and how to support their Texas families during the hurricane’s traverse of Southern Texas. Mandatory evacuations have been announced of areas expected to be hardest hit, and Red Cross workers have been mobilised in preparation for shelter management.

Our usual source of information, Greg Mossop, G0DUB, IARU Region 1 emergency communications coordinator notes that, as Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast in the USA, various nets are activating as part of the emergency response. In addition to tropical and hurricane-force winds along the Texas coast and further inland, the main concern with this storm is heavy rain and flooding in an area which has not has a hurricane make landfall for nine years.

Many of the frequencies used will be outside Region 1 allocations in 80m and 40m but there are some on 20m which may suffer from Region 1 QRM if operators are not careful. The US National Hurricane Centre station WX4NHC activated at 1900 UTC 25th August on 14.325 MHz. The Hurricane Watch Net operates from 1500 UTC on their daytime frequency of 14.325 MHz. When the 20 meter band closes they are likely to move over to 7.268 MHz. The VoIP Hurricane Net was expected to activate at 2 PM EDT/1800 UTC on Friday 25th August.

The Southern Territory SATERN Net was due to activate for one day on Saturday, 26 August 2017 during local daylight hours on its regular frequency of 7.262 MHz.

And shortly before making landfall on the Texas coast yesterday morning early, our time, the Hurricane was upgraded to a category 4 storm, exceeding all previous predictions.

At ARRL Headquarters, the Emergency Preparedness Staff continued to keep a close watch on Harvey and on Amateur Radio Emergency Service preparations in Texas and neighbouring states. ARRL staff had been coordinating with the American Red Cross, where some 600 Red Cross Volunteers were en route to South Texas. W1AW has been in monitoring mode but will activate, if needed. The ARRL New Mexico Section remains on standby and has offered assistance, if needed. Mexico’s national association for Amateur Radio, FMRE, has also offered assistance.

As of yesterday afternoon, nearly 100 evacuees were in seven open shelters. Another 50 shelter locations were on standby. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, reported yesterday that it anticipated some 20,000 individuals will require sheltering for 4 days, and 10,000 will require sheltering for 14 days. “This is expected to be a long-haul event, up to 6 weeks,” he said in an afternoon update.

It is also possible that Harvey may retreat into the Gulf of Mexico after hitting Texas, regain strength, and then make a second landfall in Louisiana. That state is at a Level III activation.

All these notes were written on Saturday afternoon. You, the reader or listener, may have far more information by the time this bulletin is made available.

After my mention of 47% of statistics quoted being inaccurate last week, National  HAMNET Director Paul van Spronsen, ZS1V, has written in to point out to me that this is mainly due to the fact that 99% of all statistics are invented on the spot! I wonder if he made that up….?

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

HAMNET Report 20 August 2017

A group of six HAMNET operators assisted with the event communications at the Kogelberg Wildrunner Trail Run 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 that Steven and John had been 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 they mostly operated from within their vehicles. Fortunately there were no serious incidents during the event and support of the communications went off well without issues.  Thank you Alister ZS1OK for the report.

Greg G0DUB has reported from the IARU Region 1 Emergency Comms section that the IARU Region 1 conference will be taking place in Landshut, Bavaria, in 31 days time. The different IARU working groups have been asked to have meetings on Sunday 17th September and the Emergency Communications meeting will be at 14:00 in room S.0.211 for two hours.

From earlier responses and the participants list, Greg knows the following people who are listed as Emergency Communications Co-Ordinators will be present at the meeting:

7X2RO, YO3CZW, TF3JA, 9K2QA, 9H1PI, ON7TK and C31US.

The original aim of the WG meetings was to provide good input into the main meetings of the IARU conference. Since Greg does not have many Emergency    Co-Ordinators who are also in their National Society Delegations he thought a meeting could be better spent as an introduction to Emergency Communications to those countries who are not involved yet.

And in another report, Greg, G0DUB, says that Cesar Pio Santor HR2P has reported that as Tropical Storm Harvey passed through the Windward Islands in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) was activated as flooding was reported in Barbados along with some houses losing their roofs. Jeff, 9Y4J, hopes to provide more detail, once more information is collected on the situation in the area, and also on the activities that amateurs are involved in by the passage of Tropical Storm Harvey on the islands of the Caribbean.

The CEWN Network uses the frequencies 7,162 kHz and 3,815 kHz according to propagation conditions. The storm is expected to continue through Central America until Thursday. When a more detailed report is available from Region 2 he will post it to the website.

Times Live reports that KwaZulu-Natal’s disaster management teams were on high alert as extreme weather conditions hit the province.

The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)‚ Nomusa Dube-Ncube‚ appealed to residents‚ particularly in areas prone to heavy snowfalls and flooding‚ to heed the advice and updates from the South African Weather Services when planning trips that require driving or any other outdoor activities.

“We are specifically appealing to parents to ensure that all school-going children avoid precarious routes that are prone to flash flooding. We urge all schools to plan all outdoor activities carefully and in line with the latest weather updates‚” said Dube-Ncube.

She warned snow watchers to stay clear of affected areas as they risk being trapped if the areas become impassable.

Motorists have also been urged by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport‚ Community Safety and Liaison‚ Mxolisi Kaunda‚ to exercise caution.

Heavy snow has fallen in parts of the Eastern Cape and southern Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal‚ with heavy rain and warnings of flooding expected in the province from Friday.

“There have been reports of snow and mist in some parts of the province and certain parts of the Eastern Cape and Lesotho. I urge all motorists to stay clear of areas where there is snow until the situation is back to normal‚” said Kaunda.

Here’s a good news story, where two-way radio saved the life of a runner. The Otago Daily Times reports that a woman who got lost while running in bush near Bluff in Southland was able to contact friends of her plight by cellphone before her battery died.

But police search and rescue volunteers still had a bit of work to do to find the 33-year-old. The woman’s friends called Invercargill police at 7.25 pm on Tuesday. “Contact with the missing person was lost when her cellphone battery died,” police said.

Twelve search volunteers from Invercargill Landsar and amateur radio emergency communications groups, along with police, were involved in the search.

The woman was found at 11pm south of Omaui “slightly cold, but in very good health,” police said. The two-way radio I referred to? Cellphone comms, of course!

Finally, let me leave you with a glimmer of light at the end of the Western Cape’s drought tunnel. The Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town has finally released details of the plans to provide desalinated water at about 4 different sites, to claim water from the ground and the Table Mountain Aquifer by means of several specialised boreholes, and to reclaim water from water treatment plants in and around Cape Town. The campaign to encourage the community to use less that 87 litres of water per person per day continues, and may even be further restricted in future water restriction announcements. The small amount of rain we’ve experienced in the last week or two have actually increased the average dam levels in the Western Cape by two percentage points to 30%, though still badly down on the 57% at this time last year.

And lest you all take me too seriously, may I remind you that research has shown that 47% of all statistics are inaccurate!

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