REPORT 25 September 2016

The South African Development Community has issued a forecast for the rainfall outlook during the 2016/2017 Summer. Whereas below normal rainfall conditions prevailed in the previous year due to the El Nino effect, the coming season is expected to bring normal to above-normal rainfall in our Summer rainfall areas. This should provide a good opportunity to maximise agricultural production, and farmers are encouraged to commit a larger portion of their cropland to medium to late maturing high performance produce as well as drought-tolerant varieties. Crop diversification is also encouraged.

Water and energy sectors will prioritize the filling of low reservoirs, and Disaster Risk Reduction departments will watch closely the potential for heavier rainfall to result in flooding. Outbreaks of water and vector-borne diseases will also be monitored closely.

The key recommendation is that planning for extreme events is an essential way forward for all SADC Member States to mitigate and adapt to the threatening nature of the adverse effects of climate variability.

The ARRL’s Simulated Emergency Test, or SET takes place on the 1st and 2nd October, and is aimed at testing the skills and preparedness of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and other organizations that are called into action in actual emergency situations.

The object of the annual nationwide exercise is to test training and skills and to try out new methods. “It’s a time to work with partner organizations and served agencies to get to know them better and to determine their needs before an emergency or disaster strikes,” said Steve Ewald  WV1X. “Knowing whom to contact within partner groups, the planned procedures will help everyone to accomplish their goals and succeed in their missions”. Best wishes to the American amateur community for that one. Thank you to the ARRL news for the report.

It seems that natural and man-made disasters are increasingly frequent phenomena, capable of striking an any time, irrespective of local regional or international boundaries.

The role and extent of participation that governments should have mitigating the effects of disasters are subjects for legitimate debate; but one constant in disaster preparedness and response is the involvement of trained volunteers supplementing and enhancing the work of emergency officials.

Amateur radio, indeed, is a 100-year-old technology still relevant in the 21st Century. During an emergency, ham radio has the capability to provide wireless service locally and regionally through repeater systems as well as nationally and internationally.

All volunteers operating ham radio equipment are licensed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa as amateur radio operators, after passing qualifying examinations on electronic theory and amateur radio protocol.

Amateur radio operators hope that their emergency communications expertise is never needed.

However, a cursory scan of the amateur radio bands in the aftermath of hazardous weather emphasizes the randomness of disasters and the consistency of the human response: ham radio operators, operating on portable power supplies, are a steady source of comfort and assistance relaying messages to and from emergency authorities.

In dealing with disaster, a novel approach to provision of clean rooms for use as medical treatment or emergency rooms has come from Japan, where mobile “emergency rooms” that are made of cardboard and can be assembled in just an hour, could make all the difference in a natural disaster.

There is also the prospect of shipping these ER’s overseas when other countries are hit by earthquakes and other calamities.

The structure is airtight and able to withstand nasty weather, unlike conventional tents.

A company called Kanda Package embarked on the project three years ago with financial assistance from the prefectural government as part of a program to respond better to natural disasters. Construction is simple. It is just a matter of inserting cardboard panels into plastic frames. No tools are needed.

And after two days of extreme tectonic activity in the Pacific Rim of Fire, with about 25 quakes of up to 4.5 magnitude a day, a magnitude 6.3 shock struck 29km off the East coast of Philippines yesterday morning our time early at about 1am. About 700000 people live within 100km of the quake, but, being offshore, the effect seems to be less drastic. No further news is forthcoming as I write this, and hopefully this was the climax of the shaking felt since Thursday in the area.

Just slightly North of the earthquake, Tropical Cyclone MEGI-16, yet another storm, is bearing down on the Chinese mainland, with maximum expected winds of 185kph, and sustained winds of about 100kph. It is expected to make landfall on Monday. So bad weather season is far from over in the Pacific.

I think we should continue to give thanks that we live in a relatively benign area, and that our natural disasters are always of a much more mild nature. This, however, should not give us cause for complacency, and HAMNET members need constantly to be ready to roll in case of any situation, whether small or large.

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