REPORT 2016-08-28

Earthquakes fill our news this week. On Wednesday morning early, a magnitude 6.2 quake struck central Italy, followed over the next two days by 7 aftershocks of at least 4.5 magnitude. Towns in central Italy, such as Amatrice and Accumuli were destroyed, and so far, the death toll stands at 290. Rescue efforts continue as I write.

Four teams from RNRE, which presumably is the amateur radio emergency service in Italy, have been activated, one of them a Headquarters station IQ1HR, and the others out in the field of devastation. 7060kHz is the centre of HF frequencies the Italians are using, and all amateurs are asked to keep well clear of this frequency until the stations are stood down.

Greg Mossop G0DUB reports that 10 Italian operators are involved in the area, and another 10 are available to relay at a distance. The three mobile units are using satellite communications via VoIP for improved accuracy of messages.

According to IARU Region One President Don Beattie G3BJ, the Italian Amateur Radio volunteers are “following their planned response with their government” and that any requests for information on missing persons should be made via the Red Cross or other recognized relief organizations.

The worst loss of life was in the town of Amatrice, where more than 180 people died. Tremors in the aftermath of the initial quake were felt as far away as Rome. Survivors are staying in tents or otherwise out of doors. A reported 4300 people were said to be active in rescue operations in the region. Thank you to the ARRL and the IARU for these details.

Meanwhile, quietly, Myanmar (formerly Burma) is recovering from a magnitude 7 earthquake, which struck the central area at a depth of 91km on the same Wednesday at 12h35 our time. Four million people live within 100km of the epicentre and could have been affected, but fortunately the depth of the earthquake meant the devastation at ground level wasn’t as bad, and we have not seen further reports of this quake.

Round the other side of the globe, radio operators in Louisiana and surrounding areas are being stood down as mopping up operations after last weekend’s floods continue. About 135000 people’s lives or homes were affected, and repairs and reconstruction in the area are going to take a long time. 13 people lost their lives in a natural disaster second only to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

And back on the Indian subcontinent, the recent flooding in India triggered by monsoonal rains has resulted in a death toll of 300 and forced many villagers to flee to higher ground. National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India, Jayu Bhide VU2JAU reports that in the eastern region, Ambrish VU2JFA, Dutta VU2TTC and their team are busy in providing necessary communication in North Pargana.

The emergency communications and help being provided by hams coordinates the responding administration. Jayu VU2JAU also reports on flooding in central India with hams again helping the administration as it seeks to prevent any accidents. So far five people have been saved from deep flood waters and brought to safety. Ham deployment has been through the District Commanders with Jayu VU2JAU in frequent liaison with them.

Thank you to Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman, IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee, for this communique.

On a happier note, Johan Meyer ZS6DMX has reported on the HAMNET website of the Curves/SPCA Women’s Fun Walk on 21 August, supported by HAMNET Gauteng South. This was the second occasion HAMNET helped, on a route through a closed off residential area, patrolled by four teams of medical students for medical cover, and controlled from the well appointed Vito Bus owned by Martin ZS6TMN. Nine amateurs assisted, and the fun walk was completed within 2 hours without incident. Do go to HAMNET’s web page at for some pictures and further detail of this event. Funds were raised for the SPCA, and the event also promoted a healthy lifestyle among women. Well done, Curves, HAMNET GS and the SPCA.

In the wake of the earthquakes and disasters, has hosted a discussion around the request that average citizens in the neighbourhood of a disaster open their Wi-Fi networks so those that need it can get on to the web in a hurry. This is a very logical suggestion, but how to do it, without compromising your own security? This is not the first time this suggestion has been made. The disaster communications service called Disaster Tech Lab called for people to open their networks after the Boston bombing. However you don’t want a hack on your personal network or credentials. The way to avoid this is to set up a guest access point on your wireless network so people can get on the internet, but not your network shares, web traffic or connected devices. Hopefully your router has a guest network option, so you only need to define a name for the SSID.

Of course disaster response organisations will set up hubs for their own use, but survivors will want to contact loved ones or cry for help immediately, and those hubs will not be there immediately for them. With proper precautions in place, this initiative is admirable and even sensible, and may be vital, but clearly isn’t a sustainable strategy. A longer term emergency facility is clearly the answer.

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