HAMNET Report 25th April 2021

Prnewswire.com reports that, in celebration of World Amateur Radio Day on April 18, Maglite and the ARRL have announced they have formed a partnership based on the common mission of helping people be prepared for emergencies and to serve their communities in extreme situations such as natural disasters. ARRL member-volunteers provide public service through the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®), and by expanding the reservoir of trained operators and technicians in radio communications and radio technology. Mag Instrument is the leading maker of U.S.-manufactured high-quality flashlights that have a deserved reputation for performance, reliability and durability.

“Amateur radio operators, help people in times of difficulty, often by supporting emergency communications when critical infrastructure is damaged, and by responding to the needs of first responders to keep connected,” said Anthony Maglica, Founder, Owner and CEO of MAG Instrument Inc. “We manufacture a product that has been used in public safety for over 40 years and we are very supportive of the incredible dedication of radio amateurs, so culturally this is a great alliance for both brands.”

Maglite is the preferred flashlight brand of many police, fire and other first responder organizations and is the official flashlight of NASAR – the National Association of Search and Rescue. The partnership with ARRL will entail Mag Instrument creating special laser engraved Maglite® products for ARRL as well as offering their members special pricing on a select line of Maglite products, and in turn, those purchases raise funds for ARRL to support their mission.

“ARRL is delighted that Maglite recognizes the service and skill of ARRL members. This partnership will help us introduce amateur radio to more people,” says David Minster, NA2AA, ARRL CEO.

Greg Mossop G0DUB has asked the IARU Region 1 countries’ Emcomm leaders to consider a test using QO-100 geostationary satellite on 9th May at 08h00 UTC. He says he has one or possibly two stations in the UK interested in trying the satellite for region wide communications and in earlier conversations he realised that some Emcomm operators have the capability or are already using the satellite for routine nets.

Greg issued the request on Thursday and has, so far, received expressions of interest from Slovenia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Malta and Slovakia. I’m sure more will join in the next 10 days. The next Region 1 Emergency Communications Co-ordinator’s meeting is scheduled for May the 15th from 14h00 UTC.

Meanwhile, Grant Southey ZS1GS, National HAMNET Director has reminded us to keep away from 7.188MHz, which is being used by the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) to provide round-the-clock coverage during the La Soufriere volcanic eruption on the island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Several neighbouring islands are also being affected by the disaster. When responding to disasters and emergencies such as this, the CEWN utilizes 3.815 MHz LSB and 7.188 MHz LSB. CEWN is requesting that radio amateurs not involved in the volcano response keep these frequencies clear.

Naturally, 3.815 MHz is not within South Africa’s 80m band-plan, so you may listen but you may not transmit on that frequency.

There is a Tropical Cyclone side-swiping the Philippines as I write this, called SURIGAE, affecting the eastern coast of central and northern Philippines, resulting in four fatalities and 13 injured people, as reported by national authorities on 22 April. More than 235,750 people have been affected across Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Eastern Visayas and Caraga Regions. It is expected to weaken, as it moves eastwards over the Philippine Sea, south of Yaeyama and Okinawa Islands in southern Japan. There has not been much news coverage, although the cyclone has been active South and South-east of the Philippines for almost a week now.

A useful hobby and the keen and practiced eye of ARRL member Ben Kuo, AI6YR, helped to guide rescuers to a hiker stranded on a mountainside on April 12. Hiker Rene Compean, 45, had spent the night in a remote region of the Angeles National Forest after getting in a tough spot. After a concerned friend reported Compean missing on Monday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department dispatched search-and-rescue (SAR) teams. Although amateur radio played no direct role in the rescue, Kuo cited his enthusiasm for technology and ham radio satellites, and for Summits on the Air (SOTA), for helping him to develop the skills he needed to guide searchers to the most appropriate area.

Kuo told the Los Angeles Times that he has an odd hobby of looking at photos and determining where they had been taken. He was able to employ his skill to determine the hiker’s likely location using a tiny photo the hiker posted on Twitter that shows his legs and the valley below. As the newspaper reported on April 15, “When [Kuo] saw the photo posted by the Sheriff’s Department, he set to work pulling publicly available satellite images and matching them to the vegetation and terrain below the hiker’s legs.”

Kuo’s eye was good. He sent authorities the GPS coordinates of the most likely area, and the rescue team found Compean less than a mile from that location.

As the LA Times reported, the area where Compean was, was located on steep slopes and very difficult to access, requiring advanced climbing skills. The Sheriff’s Department credited Kuo with saving them hours of fruitless searching. Kuo said this was the first time he’d been involved in a rescue like this one.

And, from Kuo’s own experience of Summits on the Air, he also knew that cell phone reception was poor in the area where SAR teams had been deployed, and that the twitter messages coming from the hiker were not coming from that area. His SOTA experience and practice at locality identification from photo evidence and satellite images resulted in a far quicker rescue of the stranded hiker.

Thanks to the ARRL newsletter of 22nd April for that story.

Like other UCT graduates in this country, I have been mourning the huge losses, both intellectual and financial, incurred during last Sunday’s wildfire. While not personally affected, the thought that so many valuable collections of so much personal work, study, research and publication have been lost in the fire makes my heart ache.

However I was encouraged to read that the fire response crews have used thermal cameras on the ground and from the air to pick up hotspots as small as a R5 coin on or under the ground, to be able to extinguish them before they flared up and started further fires. That’s good use of technology for you!

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