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IN HAMNET's Amateur Radio excellent document on disassters over the past 103 years......

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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.


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9 February 2014

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1 November 2013


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 or 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 23 November 2014

In a 73 page document released by the ITU-T being the International Telecommunications Union Standardization Sector, much is discussed around disasters that have taken place over the past 113 years and as information data gathering improved over the years, much can be learnt from this publication.

Trying to highlight all the information into three to 4 minutes is not easy but the peak period for natural disasters was during the years 2000 to 2010 probably due to more accurate and reliable information being gathered from around the world.

Mitigation and lessons learnt from earlier disasters has brought down the death toll quite considerably but it is interesting to note the highest death toll occurred in 1931 when the Yangtze River flooded in China killing an unbelievable 4 million people. The next biggest death toll was in 1970, the Bhola Cyclone in Bangladesh that killed more than half a million people.

1976 in China, the Tangshan earthquake killed more than 240, 000 people and recently we all remember 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami, 2008, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar,  the Sichuan Province quake in China and lastly the 2010 Haiti quake that killed hundreds of people.

Although deaths have decreased over the years, many more people are being displaced by these natural disasters which are a real challenge to the authorities in the countries concerned. Naturally the financial burden on reparations just went through the ceiling in the later years exceeding $350 billion.

Much is discussed around communication during and after natural disasters and it is well known that normal communication is usually the first to suffer. Telephone lines, cell phone networks and other means of communication usually fail first. The reliance on networks is highlighted by volumes immediately after any disaster until such time as networks either fail or become totally overloaded and are shut down.

Various means of communication are highlighted from normal landlines, cell phones, smart phones, TV and radio. The document also looks at recovery time after every disaster and on average restoring power takes the longest. Next is Gas, water supply and Telecommunications – roughly in that order.

A lot of the document is spent on mitigation factors on how to prepare and overcome the problems associated with such disasters and in depth studies were made of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Italian quake, various cyclones and floods, Cyclone Katrina, the Japan quake/tsunami and many other natural disasters that hit various countries especially during the past 10 to 15 years.

Finally, the use of amateur radio (IARU) received a lot of attention as an adequate and reliable means of communication as an alternative when other means are not available.

Organisations associated with emergency relief are encouraged to make more use of amateur radio or “radio Hams” as they are fully equipped to handle such events, supply their own power and can be placed in various strategic positions when needed.

An excellent publication and well worth a good study.

Reporting for Hamnet, this is Francois Botha – ZS6BUU.



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This page last modified: 3/12/2013