HAMNET'S Summer National 24 hour communications exercise took place late in October 2015. This was the fourth edition of the HAMNET Communications Exercise, which was previously held as a "Winter Exercise" The exercise was held from 12:00 on the 24 October until 12:00 SAST on 25 October 2015.
As in the past teams consisted of at least 4 members, of which the leader and at least half the team were HAMNET members. Teams deployed themselves at a variety of locations and also activated one Disaster Centre. Teams were encouraged to find locations that were of some interest and remote to their normal points of operation.
The theme of the exercise was “black out", where all stations were required to
operate all activities off the grid. This included radio equipment, lighting, cooking and any other related activities. The exercise was held to afford teams an opportunity to learn about their capabilities and very importantly their short comings.
“In the past we used a point allocation system which this time was abandoned in favour of a total outcome evaluation”, organiser Grant Southey said. “The overall success was judged on how teams co-operated with each other. Another new concept this year was the "priority" message. At various times a random team had to get a message through to another specific team. The messages and times were not disclosed before the start of the competition and the teams had to use all resources at their disposal (except telephones or cell phones) to get the messages through to the destination.“
The organisers hoped to create a fun environment within which teams could operate to experiment with their equipment and test their capabilities and practice their emergency communications protocols. After the exercise a report had to be submitted with the experiences of the teams, containing information including their location, team members, and equipment used as well as a record of what they felt worked for them and what they felt they needed to improve on. “We hope to send out a questionnaire afterwards to help assess the organisation, and help to improve future exercises.” Grant said
He and his team of organisers plan to issue a final report at the beginning of December. A summary of the report will be available on this site.
WHEN ALL FAILS AMATEUR RADIO SUCCEEDS
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.
HAMNET REPORT 7 FEBRUARY 2016
KwaZulu Natal was hit by a magnitude 3.1 earthquake yesterday morning, apparently not severe enough to cause damage or loss of life, but disturbing to Durban and surrounding inhabitants. So far, no threatening aftershocks have been felt, but Hamnet KZN is monitoring and standing by.
Taiwan was also hit by an earthquake yesterday measuring 6.4 on the Richter Scale. Buildings have collapsed and people are still trapped as I write this. Greg Mossop, G0DUB, tells us that the emergency communications agency has activated HF nets on 7060, 7050 and 3560kHz, and requests that these frequencies be kept clear of casual communications.
The first of Hamnet Western Cape's sporting events of the year went by without incident yesterday the 6th. The weather was fine to hot and very windless, as 5000 cyclists took to the roads out of Durbanville, direction Wellington, and back via Philadelphia, and on to the N7, before a killer of a mountain climb up Vissershok and in to Durbanville again. Fourteen Hamnet operators, 12 of them mobile, all equipped with APRS trackers, observed and monitored the race, while five APRS equipped ambulances and rapid response vehicles responded to the few falls and injuries reported. One rider was admitted to hospital with chest pain, but is not known to be in a serious condition. Hamnet thanks the volunteers who got up in the middle of the night to support the charity event. We'll be doing another one next Sunday the 14th!
The last week has seen memorials to the two Shuttle tragedies, some 17 years apart, and the loss of two musicians, one from Earth Wind and Fire, and the other from the Eagles. Some of you may know that the lead guitarist of the Eagles, Joe Walsh, is a radio amateur, call sign WB6ACU, and a very close friend of Bob Heil, the maker of all those fine microphones we often use. Joe Walsh's associate in the Eagles, Glen Frey, died this week, of complications from medication used to treat serious illnesses he had suffered from for years. Our sympathies are with the families of the artists, and their amateur radio friends.
Water shortages continue across the Southern part of Africa, and our neighbour to the North of us, Zimbabwe, has declared a state of disaster due to the drought currently being experienced. More than a quarter of the population there face food shortages, while nearly 75% of all crops have withered, and at least 16500 cattle have died from starvation and drought. .We can only hope that el nino will soon end its crippling effects.
Meanwhile, the ARRL weekly newsletter mentions the distribution of clean water in America too. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service in Ohio was called in to assist with the distribution of water, after lead heavily contaminated the local reticulated supply. Amateurs helped move more than 166 pallets of water in 6 days in January.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has reported on the way local health workers have stepped up to the challenge of disaster response in Africa. Writing in their 4th February publication, they refer to local Malawian Red Cross Society officer Yacinta Namacha, who used her National Disaster Training to step in to an emergency response role during severe floods there last year. Immediately able to deploy to flooded areas, she was able to conduct needs assessments to determine what support was most needed. She had previously done training in practical simulations of disaster situations, managing distribution of relief teams, and plans for recovery. She took charge of prioritizing vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women, and was able to ensure that their dignity was maintained. A good example of home-grown rescuers providing relief, while the international agencies were still marshalling their forces.
In similar vein, an article in Emergency Management, dated 3 February, refers to the value of local radio operators in filling the communications gaps when severe weather destroys normal channels. It quotes the help given by the National Hurricane Centre's station, WX4NHC, in Florida, in connecting field hospitals, medical centres, hospital ships, medical suppliers, charter airplane schedules and emergency helicopter and fast boat rescues during the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Systems like this work because of established relationships between government agencies and groups of volunteer amateur radio operators. Something to be encouraged in our country!
Finally, Hamnet received good publicity in the American Ham Radio publication, CQ. It's February edition carries a report and some photographs of our October Summer Challenge. Tom Smerk, AA6TS, is CQ's World Wide editor, and he wrote to us for news and pictures of the exercise, which he had apparently picked up from other amateur news sources. His insert has been received by email, and distributed to Hamnet National Councillors, and regional networks. For a country not very strong on amateur radio hobbyists, we are developing a reputation for being very active, a situation which is to be encouraged.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for Hamnet in South Africa.