REPORT 9 October 2016

There is a lot of news coming out of HAMNET KZN, by courtesy of Keith Howes ZS5WFD, Regional Director there. In news of recent events, he mentions the display he and Glenn ZS5GD put on at the annual Flame Lily Fete last Saturday in Queensburgh. A picture shows a display of a wide range of ex military sets for the enjoyment of the ex-military retired persons at Flame Lily, and he says interest was high in spite of bad weather there.

Then, yesterday, at their meeting at the eThekwini Disaster Operations Centre, Keith gave a power point presentation originally prepared by Mike ZS5MD, showing the role and capabilities that HAMNET brings to the table. At the same meeting, they were allowed to view the new Disaster Management Communications Bus, currently being commissioned for Durban. The bus has not been formally presented yet, so photos are not available, but Keith says it is a fine example of state-of-the-art technology. We hope to get sight of that valuable asset to Disaster Management soon.

Keith further talks about the Amashovashova Cycle Race taking place on 16th October. Don’t you just love the imaginative names used to describe these sporting events? He and Glen ZWS5GD attended the final planning meeting last Tuesday, and they have submitted their operational plans. Ten HAMNET operators will be active there. Good luck for successful comms and a safe race, Keith!

He also mentions in passing the acquisition of Digital Mobile Radio, or DMR, equipment, which is going to be the way of the future in amateur radio. DMR is very strong in Europe and the United Sates, and the construction of the internet repeater backbone in this country is proceeding slowly. Division Five and Six already have these repeaters, but the rest of us are far behind. A DMR repeater is in the planning stage for the Western Cape, but at present there is virtually no activity here at all. Of course the repeaters are linked to the internet, which means you can be linked to any other repeater anywhere in the world, and develop friendships and enjoy communications with anybody using just your 5w handheld radio. You can also send data and pictures via your DMR connection. Thank you Keith for all that news. We encourage news reports of any sort or kind relative to emergency communications, sporting events, or the weather resulting in communications help being given by HAMNET members, from anywhere in the country, or neighbouring states. Please email such news to me at I thank you.

For the rest, the eyes of the emergency communicators are on the Caribbean, where Hurricane Matthew has been wreaking havoc. I mentioned this storm last week sitting on the Southern side of the Bay of Mexico, and starting to move North. Well, as you probably have heard, it did just that, intensified to a category 4 hurricane with a huge diameter and therefore a wide path of damage, and swept across Haiti, where it exacted the most damage, on to Cuba, and then right up alongside the Florida Peninsula, and is now just off the coast of South Carolina with winds abating slightly from a maximum of nearly 250kph to about 170kph. Huge amounts of rain have been dumped in its path, and Saturday’s news says the death toll is highest in Haiti where about 900 persons are so far reported to have died as a result of collapse of buildings or flooding.

The National Hurricane Centre in Florida activates a Hurricane Watch net, which conveys news from ground based observers in the Caribbean, Central America, Eastern Mexico, Eastern Canada and all the coastal states of the US. The net operates in both English and Spanish, and is active on 14.325MHz USB during the day, and 7.268 MHZ LSB at night. In Cuba, the emergency nets are operating on 7.110 and 7.120 MHz by day, and 3.740 and 3.720 MHz at night. The Dominican Republic uses 7.065 MHz, so please be aware of these frequencies, and remember, that, though you can’t hear them, they may experience interference to emergency communications, because they can hear you! The Voice of America is also broadcasting Hurricane news on 7305kHz, 7405kHz and 9565kHz, all Amplitude Modulation, if you are tuning the short wave bands and want to listen out for them.

Reporters from the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network, or SATERN, say the storm briefly reached category 5 status on the 2nd of October, but abated again to a 4 status, with the winds of 225kph affecting a central swathe of 110km, and tropical storm strength winds extending 330km on either side of the central path. And apart from the wind, there is the rain to think about. Haiti experienced 15 to 20 inches, and 40 inches in isolated places, while Cuba and the Dominican Republic had up to 25 inches of rain! I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty comprehending weather of this magnitude. We can be very grateful that we don’t regularly experience such storms. I used to wonder why houses in the Northern Americas are mostly built of wood. Well partly because brickwork is too expensive, but also so that the houses can quickly be reconstructed if they get blown apart!

So, from South African communications point of view, monitor the frequencies mentioned by all means, but please don’t even think of raising your voice, unless it is clearly obvious that a distant relay is needed.

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