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IN HAMNET's Amateur Radio Report........a week of much activity read more...........

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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.



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.






International Amateur Radio Union President, Tim Ellam VE6SH/G4HUA told the Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications, or GET-2016, that Amateur Radio is probably more relevant now than it was 25 years ago.


The International Telecommunications Union event GET-2016 was held in Kuwait City on January 26-28th with a slogan of 'Saving lives'.


In an interview at the conference Tim VE6SH/G4HUA said: "We're so dependent now on all kinds of systems of communications - everyone has a cell phone, everyone is used to using the Internet - but they're not used to what happens when those systems go down".


He further said: "Amateur Radio is there. It relies on somewhat old fashioned technology, but there are also advancements in technology that we rely on.


Hams can use computer-based digital techniques to pass message traffic at very low power levels and under poor propagation conditions".


Tim said: "Amateur Radio has kept pace by developing new ways to communicate".


He also spoke to sessions of GET-2016. "Radio amateurs are on the ground, often close to the site of a disaster, or might even be in it."


He told a Leaders' Dialogue forum: "They're there. They're ready to go. For the first 24 to 48 hours you have people on the ground, ready to assist.


"They own their own equipment. They don't rely on commercial networks. If cellular service goes down, they can assist by using HF or VHF or UHF communications on a peer-to-peer basis".


Typical radio amateurs, like Tim himself, are not engineers nor do they work in a technical field, but they know enough to get on the air using alternate power sources and a very simple wire antenna.


He told those at the Leaders  Dialogue forum: "Don't forget the Amateur Radio services.... they're a great asset to you in times of crisis".


The ITU described GET-2016 as an international platform to discuss topics related to worldwide emergency telecommunication policy and disaster risk reduction.


We thank Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman of the IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee for this report.


Meanwhile, here in Cape Town, the fine weather has resulted in huge numbers of hikers and amateur climbers swarming all over the mountains, including Table Mountain, and unfortunately many rescues being made. Between the 4th and the 12th of February, 11 rescues took place in and around Cape Town.


On the 4th, two separate rescues played out, taking all night to be completed. On the night of the 5th, a man fell to his death on Lion's Head, and Hamnet assisted in the retrieval of his body by a SAAF Oryx helicopter, finalising the retrieval at 2.30 am on the 6th. At 10.18pm that same evening, another call came to help look for a lost female climber. She was located by a team in high winds and driving rain at 1am on Table Mountain, but the weather was too extreme to guide her down the mountain, and so the rescue team and the climber spent the night huddled in the restrooms at the Upper Cable Station, until they could find their way down in early morning light on the 7th. Another all-night rescue!


And also on 6th February, another search took place from 10.50pm in the Simons Town area, assisted by Hamnet, and two SANParks rangers brought the two tired and hungry visitors down at 1.30am. Their map had let them down because recent fires had obscured the trails they were trying to use.


Interestingly, in all these rescues, the value of cell phones lay only in raising the alarm by the lost individuals, and then helping with their location by flashing their camera flashes at the rescuers. All other communications took place on radio. Are cell phones as useful as they are made out to be? Something to ponder on....


From Glynn Chamberlain, ZS6GLN, comes news of cycle races in Gauteng South Division on two consecutive weekends. Today the 14th sees the Dischem/Retina SA, "Ride for Sight" race, usually involving 6000 or so riders. Hamnet Gauteng South manage and co-ordinate all the JOC activities which include handling incoming emergency calls, dispatching of emergency personnel, and managing 5 water points, 12 sweep vehicles and 4 busses. Operators will install their radios in all the sweeps and busses, and be APRS visible to the JOC. Two JOC operators will make use of 4 repeaters, and will use scribes to relay messages to other JOC organisations. Six ambulances on the route will also be APRS visible. We applaud the 36 Hamnet members involved in this race.


On the 21st, the "Carnival City Mac Steel" cycle race takes place. Hamnet will man the JOC and the water refreshment tables, and 8 operators will supervise the crossings at the four-way stop at the R550/R23 intersection. It seems there are riders coming and going in all directions at this stop!


The main aim of participating in these events is for members to ascertain their preparedness for a real emergency.  As always, we find ourselves wanting in some areas and constantly strive to improve ourselves and our equipment for that emergency or disaster we all hope will never come.


Thank you for the insert, Glynn.


Trying not to be outdone, Hamnet Western Cape will also be marshalling a cycle race today, the 14th, the Lion's "Journey for Sight and Service", from Fishoek, out and about, via Kommetjie, past the Cape Point Nature Reserve turn off, on to Smitswinkel Bay, and then up the coast through Simons Town, and back to Fishoek. This is a shorter race of some 56 km, and 8 operators in total will be deployed, all visible on the APRS screen via a temporary iGate on to the internet and back on to RF for the benefit of the JOC.


Hopefully, we'll be able to report on these races next week.


As always, we appeal to Hamnet members to remain "Radio-Active", and to be available to help by relaying messages as deemed necessary.


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












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