Emergency Communications

AREC at the ready following New Zealand earthquake

So far AREC (Amateur Radio Emergency Communications) volunteers have not been required in any major way to assist, following the earthquake that hit Christchurch in New Zealand. The magnitude 7.1 earthquake occurred at 4.36am local time Saturday 4 September, while most people were asleep in their homes.

The result was extensive building damage in New Zealand's second largest city, Christchurch, with only two people seriously hurt and no one reported trapped or missing. AREC Deputy Director, Geoff Chapman ZL3PX who lives in Christchurch, said that while AREC was at the Civil Defence Headquarters, there has been no requirement for it to pass any emergency traffic. That is due to restoration of telephone and power to the majority of the affected areas. While water and sewerage sys tems have been affected there has been no reported major loss of roads or bridges. However AREC is ready, as the situation could worsen with the weather bureau issuing a warning of very strong winds with gusts up to 130km/h and heavy rain posing new threats to already damaged buildings.

Adding to the danger are numerous aftershocks with authorities advising that these will continue for many days or weeks.  The 'quake is New Zealand's most damaging since the one which hit Napier (Hawke's Bay) in February 1931, that saw radio amateurs extensively provide emergency communications. That led to the formation by the IARU national radio society, the New Zealand Amateur Radio Transmitters (NZART) of what is today known as AREC.

Pakistan flood disaster update

The Pakistan Amateur Radio Society (PARS) reports that emergency communications support for ham radio amateurs have been extended in the past week to three more villages. PARS emergency communications organiser Asad Marwat AP2AUM said food and non-food items have been provided to around 1,000 families in the Charsadda and Nowshera areas. He said that a medical camp was also established which treated almost 700 patients mainly suffering from Skin and Gastro diseases.

The United Nations estimates 20 million have been affected across Pakistan by the flood disaster and 1600 lives lost. Asad AP2AUM said that the area is not covered under the 2-metre repeater footprint so communications have been restriction to simplex operation within the group. He said that about 30 hams are providing help to those who have fled the flooded areas. Additionally hand-held radios and cross band repeaters and antennas have been offered from Turkey. Once they arrive, said Asad AP2AUM, the relief operation can be successfully expanded into Inner Punjab Province. PARS continues working in collaboration with Islamabad Jeep Club members with their 4WD sport utility vehicles delivering essential relief supplies, with medical help being provided by the Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians.

Hams play role in welfare and recovery efforts after Pakistan's floods

The medical and food support being provided to the many people affected by the flood disaster in Pakistan affecting six million people is being assisted by the combined efforts of radio amateurs, a group of four wheel drive enthusiasts and the Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP). Around a quarter of the country has been affected by the floods over the last three weeks that were triggered by intense summer monsoon rainfall swelling the Indus River into Pakistan's worst ever flood. The United Nations estimates 20 million have been affected in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces and 1600 lives lost.

Dutch Emergency Communicators successful in major exercise.

In collaboration with the Dutch Army, DARES took part in exercise 'Civil Challenge' from June 22 to June 24, 2010. DARES' task was to establish an email link between the locations of the Army in Vught and Budel with an additional LAN-network provided at Budel for the number of users there. Six tactical email accounts, 1 in Vught and 5 in Budel were created to support the exercise.

To realise this email link, the Winlink system  with existing, new or temporary RMS Packet Gateway stations
was used for this exercise. DARES also took the opportunity to organise 3 Master Classes, in which the operation and use of the VHF / UHF Winlink system was explained and demonstrated to the participants (20 in total). For DARES it was also a training exercise with an opportunity to test all their new TNC-X modems.

Successful end to the World Cup for Region 1

Aside from the obvious success on the pitch for the Region\'s Football teams, the World Cup final also marked the end of a one month standby period for HAMNET, the Emergency Communications Group of South Africa.

For the duration of the tournament , HAMNET members have been on standby ready to provide communications links from the Joint Communications Centre to anywhere where communications have been needed should there have been an incident at the event. This was no easy task with ten venues spread across the country along with many more training grounds, fan parks or other places where the thousands of tourists or fans may have gathered.

The event has been an excellent exercise in preparedness. With much gained and nothing lost. HAMNET now has two emergency units at their disposal now with one designed into a flight case in such a way that it contains just about everything one needs in a field or ops room situation. Everything is neatly contained in the case and all the plugs are ready to be connected the antennas, power supply etc that may be needed for the occasion.

Congratulations to HAMNET and South Africa for an excellent tournament. For further information on HAMNET activities contact Francois ZS6BUU