HAMNET REPORT 20th June 2021

First of all, a grand Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I hope you are spoiled no more and no less than you spoiled your wives on Mother’s Day! Enjoy being with your families!

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, HAMNET Regional Director for KZN, has sent me a report of the 70.3 Ironman Event held in Durban’s beachfront area on the 6th of June. He says he “had a team of 7 Hamnet KZN members who assisted with communications for the event. Race control was manned by Keith ZS5WFD and Deon ZS5DD based at Pirates Lifesaving Club in front of Suncoast Casino complex opposite the old Natal Command building.  Due to Covid-19 restrictions the number of participants was only 830, which was considerably lower than the 3000 from 2019. The event was therefore categorized as “Low Risk”.

“The event consisted of a 1,9Km swim at uShaka Beach, two laps of the bike stage along the M4 Ruth First highway out to Umdloti and back which made 90.1Km, then a leisurely run of 2 laps along the promenade between New Beach and Blue Lagoon covering 21.1Km.

“Communications were maintained on 145.550 Simplex and the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club Repeater and I am pleased to report that there were no serious incidents.

“It felt really good to be out and about doing what we enjoy!!” said Keith.

Thanks for that Keith. I’m glad you were able to squeeze that in before the effect of the COVID-19 third wave began to be felt. I expect it will be a while now before we all get to help at similar events.

With America’s vaccination programme proceeding smoothly, and the number of cases not climbing from the India Coronavirus variant as much as in Europe, American Hams are gearing up for their Field Day exercise which takes place next weekend the 26th and 27th of June. Obviously distancing and exposure rules will be followed, but at least the number of amateurs on the air will increase, so look out for unexpected DX next weekend.

The ARRL Letter of June the 16th reports that on May 31, the ARES LAX (Los Angeles, California) Northeast District conducted its fifth Saturday Exercise – dubbed SatEx and themed “Return of the Operators” – which was deemed a “smashing success.” Assistant District Emergency Coordinator for the Hollywood district, David Ahrendts, KK6DA, was credited with devising a challenging exercise scenario that included deteriorating conditions and focused on building an ad hoc network of stations for the response.

The exercise began with a simulated earthquake at 08h30. Participating stations sent DYFI (Did You Feel It) reports to the US Geological Survey (USGS) and welfare messages to their out-of-state contacts through HF and VHF gateways. Stations were encouraged to use the K6YZF-11 VARA FM digipeater to connect to Winlink hybrid RF/email gateways AJ7C, W6BI and K6IRF.

At 09h00 the hospital net commenced operation on the southern California Disaster Amateur Radio Network (DARN) and stations with digital traffic were directed to ARES 501 (local designation for an emergency simplex frequency) to pass hospital traffic to the Medical Alert Centre (MAC). No infrastructure digipeaters were to be used, simulating deteriorating conditions post-event. In an ironic twist, life imitated exercise with conditions actually deteriorating on the 2-meter band after 09h00. However, without skipping a beat, stations affected asked for relays, and digipeater operators and other stations offered to act as relays and digipeaters. Their training kicked in and stations overcame adverse conditions effectively.

Hospital stations sent a list of check-ins, Hospital Status Assessments, Resource Requests, and check-outs using Winlink. Beaconed Hospital Service Levels using APRS were transmitted to the MAC station during the exercise. The MAC station responded with acknowledgements and replies containing simulated approvals and ETAs for resources requested. In some cases the traffic was sent directly to the MAC; in others, stations coordinated digipeats of messages through other hospital stations.

Reports were received of problems encountered during the exercise.

  • Powering stations remainrd an ongoing challenge. Solar panels and high capacity batteries paired with low current draw devices proved effective remedies for some stations.
  • Location. While some hospital stations enjoyed rooftop access, others had to operate at street level, often surrounded by buildings. It was impressive how the latter stations overcame their location challenges through creativity and teamwork. Digipeating through other hospital stations, for example, proved an effective remedy.
  • Antenna height and location. Several stations commented on field antenna height and/or location as challenges at their sites. Mitigation suggestions from those stations included trying different deployment systems, relocating antennas and trying directional antennas going forward

Successes evident from the exercise:

  • Operators are well trained and displayed excellent esprit de corps.
  • Traffic handling was effective in spite of challenging conditions.
  • Regular training and practice prior to the exercise helped overcome in-the-field challenges during the exercise.
  • Operators acted in calm, collected, professional manners and worked well together as a team.
  • Even without infrastructure, stations were able to pass traffic, building an ad hoc network of hospital stations.

Thanks to the ARRL for the story of this successful exercise.

Here’s a happy story of new technology helping a legally blind radio operator, Ben Murray KD8JBS, see with 20/20 vision.

Ben wears an eSight device, which resembles virtual reality goggles. The technology uses a camera to process an image in real time. The image is then re-processed through some algorithms in the glasses and then presented back to the user on two OLED screens in front of his eyes, and he can zoom up to 24x and adjust contrast.

As a radio amateur, Murray’s favourite activities incorporate a public service bent. “I enjoy hamfests and Volunteer Examiner testing sessions. I’m the VE liaison for Williams County, Ohio, and I’m the Emergency Coordinator,” he told ARRL. “I also enjoy public service activities such as festivals and parades where they include amateur radio [for] communications.”

Murray has been a ham since 2008. He upgraded to Amateur Extra class in 2012.

Clearly there’s a lot of technology built in to the headband he wears around his head with the OLED screens perched just above the centre point of his eyes, so he can see both the eSight screens, and below them for nearby awareness.

Thanks to this week’s ARRL Letter for that story.

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