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Emergency communication by amateur radio stations.
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IN HAMNET's Amateur Radio Report........a week of much activity - read more...........

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Something has gone terribly wrong. Normal ways of doing things are not working. The fastest way to turn an emergency into a full disaster is to lose communications.

Radio Amateurs understand emergencies. For over 70 years they have provided emergency communications for organisations. When normal ways of communication fail or get overloaded Radio Amateurs will be there.  

HAMNET, the National Emergency Communications division of the South African Radio League (SARL), provides communications for emergencies and can mobilise experienced communicators who with their own radio equipment will back up official channels or take over when all else fails.


The SARL represents all Radio Amateurs in South Africa at all levels of Government and through the IARU at the International Telecommunications Union. Radio Amateurs or "Hams" use two-way radio communication to make contact with other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use satellites and on occasion speak with astronauts. Radio Hams can do this from home or while mobile in cars, boats or on foot.

Radio Hams have a full range of communication modes at their disposal. These include plain voice, Morse code, numerous digital computer modes and even graphical modes like television. A licensed radio amateur is able to join in experiments using all these modes.






Headquarters Report 

SUNDAYS - during the AMATEUR RADIO TODAY transmission, starting at 10h00 South African Standard Time (SAST), on HF and on many VHF and UHF repeaters around the country. (Current bulletin posted below)

Western Cape ZS1DZ or ZS1DCC

On the 1st Wednesday evening of the month, HAMNET's Western Cape monthly meeting is held at 19h30 SAST at Tygerberg Hospital's Provincial Emergency Management Centre.  

The radio bulletin is transmitted at 19h30 SAST on a Wednesday evening, on the local 145.700MHz repeater, with relays on to 1860 or 3760kHz LSB, 144.300MHz USB, and Echolink, via ZS1DCC-R, on the 2nd and consecutive Wednesdays of each month.

Eastern Cape ZS2PE or ZS2BRC

There is a weekly net on 52.950MHz at 20h00 SAST on a Wednesday evening, and local HAMNET news is included in the PEARS bulletin on Sunday morning at 08h45 SAST on the 145.700Mhz repeater, with a relay on to 7098kHz LSB.

Northern Cape ZS3NC

Free State ZS4DCC

KwaZulu Natal ZS5DCC or ZS84SIG

Quarterly meetings are held on the 2nd Saturday afternoon of the month, at 12h30 for 13h00 SAST, either at Ethekwini Disaster Managment Centre or the 84th Signals Unit in Durban. The next 2 dates are 10/9 and 10/12. 

On Sunday mornings at 07h00 SAST, on 145.625MHz, there is a bulletin, also relayed on to 3760 and 7110kHz, and you can listen on Echolink via ZS5PMB-R.

There is a formal radio bulletin at 19h30 SAST once a month on a Wednesday evening,on the 145.625MHz Highway repeater, and informal nets at the same time, and on the same frequency, every other Wednesday evening.

Gauteng South ZS6

Monthly meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at 19h00 SAST at the East Rand Branch clubhouse. On all other Thursday evenings, a social gathering is held at the same venue to chat or maintain equipment. 

Gauteng North ZS6PTA

Limpopo ZS6

Mpumalanga ZS6

Northern Western Province ZS6 






Alister ZS1OK has mailed me an interesting insert about a club in Canton, Ohio, where the Quarter Century Wireless Association have reported on a high altitude balloon with APRS tracking which was launched off the Portage Lakes in Ohio, 279 days ago. This is apparently the second balloon they have launched from there, with the intention that it would ascend to about 40000 feet (12200 metres), and then be carried by the jetstream wind currents for as long as possible.

Well, 279 days later, it is still being tracked, and can be watched on by looking for the call sign W8MV-11. The payload consists only of an APRS Skytracker, and two solar panels to drive it. This has the small disadvantage that, if the balloon veers too far North or South of the equator, the incident light on the panels is not enough to permit the tracker to generate a signal, so the transmissions are intermittent, and of course, never when the balloon is in the earth’s shadow.

Anyway, the speed of travel of the balloon up there and the tracks it has followed since launch indicate that W8MV-11 has circled the earth 16 times since launch and there is no indication that it is going to stop anytime soon. Currently it holds the record for the longest flight of a balloon carrying amateur radio. You can read more details at the home page of the QC Wireless Association at

Thanks, Alister.

Southgate Amateur Radio News has again reported on the workshops via Zoom or YouTube channels coming from IARU Region 2 since the end of April. Those held so far have been huge successes, with more than 200 participants tuning in live, and up to 1100 viewings of the YouTube videos subsequently.

Emergency Communications (in Spanish) was aired on 29th April, again in English on 6th May, and repeated on 13th May. Satellite Communications for beginners was presented in Spanish on 20th May and in English last Wednesday the 27th. June the 3rd sees a presentation on “Field Day in Social Distancing” in English, and FT8/FT4 Digital Modes in English on 10th June, followed by the same topic in Spanish on 17th June. The workshops take place at 02h00 our time early Thursday mornings.

EmComm enthusiasts in Region 1 of the IARU are encouraged to listen out for advertisements of the virtual emcomm meetings to be held at the time that the Friedrichshafen Hamfest should have taken place at the end of June, which will be carried live, probably on YouTube. I will attempt to give you enough time and information to register for the meeting when it is held.

Southgate news has also reported on a good news story out of India after Cyclone Amphan struck last week.

The New Indian Express reports that as communications failed post-Amphan, a ham radio club tuned in to save the day.

For two days after Cyclone Amphan tore through the state, Ramkrishna Kar, a resident of Barasat town in North 24 Parganas district, had no news of his family in Bagbazar area of Sagar Island in South 24 Parganas district.

Kar, who lives in Barasat for work-related reasons, had no idea how his parents, wife and son were doing since Sagar Island, which bore the brunt of the storm, got completely cut off from the rest of the state.

With electricity, internet and mobile networks down, Kar got in touch with the ham radio operators at the West Bengal Radio Club. The club dispatched one of its members, Dibas Mondol, to contact Kar’s family. Mondol cycled through the desolate landscape to reach Kar’s home. There, he shot their video message, and transmitted it using slow scan television (SSTV), which is a way of sending video images over a voice bandwidth.

Deborah Kotz, from the University of Maryland, writes that scientists from their School of Medicine (UMSOM) developed an experimental diagnostic test for COVID-19 that can visually detect the presence of the virus in 10 minutes. It uses a simple assay containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect a colour change when the virus is present. The test does not require the use of any advanced laboratory techniques, such as those commonly used to amplify DNA, for analysis. The authors published their work last week in the American Chemical Society's nanotechnology journal ACS Nano.

"Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection. Additional studies are needed, however, to confirm whether this is indeed the case," said study leader Dipanjan Pan, Ph.D., Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and Pediatrics at the UMSOM.

Once a nasal swab or saliva sample is obtained from a patient, the RNA is extracted from the sample via a simple process that takes about 10 minutes. The test uses a highly specific molecule attached to the gold nanoparticles to detect a particular protein. This protein is part of the genetic sequence that is unique to the novel coronavirus. When the biosensor binds to the virus's gene sequence, the gold nanoparticles respond by turning the liquid reagent from purple to blue.

"The accuracy of any COVID-19 test is based on being able to reliably detect any virus. This means it does not give a false negative result if the virus actually is present, nor a false positive result if the virus is not present," said Dr. Pan. "Many of the diagnostic tests currently on the market cannot detect the virus until several days after infection. For this reason, they have a significant rate of false negative results."

"This RNA-based test appears to be very promising in terms of detecting the virus. The innovative approach provides results without the need for a sophisticated laboratory facility," said study co-author Matthew Frieman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UMSOM.

Although more clinical studies are warranted, this test could be far less expensive to produce and process than a standard COVID-19 lab test; it does not require laboratory equipment or trained personnel to run the test and analyse the results. If this new test meets FDA expectations, it could potentially be used in daycare centres, nursing homes, college campuses, and work places as a surveillance technique to monitor any resurgence of infections.

This all sounds very promising, and time will soon tell if the test is a golden bullet that can make diagnosis and epidemiology much easier.

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


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This page last modified: 6/7/2016