Emergency Communications

Amateur Radio involved in major exercise in Malta

Radio Amateurs of the Malta Amateur Radio League (MARL) have completed their involvement in a European Union supported Earthquake simulation exercise in their country.

Around 300 participants simulated the scenario in which Malta was hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in the central Mediterranean area 120km South West of the island. Because of the size of the simulated event the Malta Civil Protection Department were assisted by the Presidenza della Regione Siciliana-Departimento della Protezione Civile in Italy.

The Exercise started at 1700 Local time on 3rd September and continued on until 5th September. As part of the support provided by amateur radio to the exercise, around 220 messages were passed on behalf of the emergency services. They also provided mobile radio backup in areas not served by PMR repeaters and an ATV stream from the exercise site to the base of operation. To demonstrate all the tools available to Amateur Radio they also used digital modes to pass text files, photos etc. between locations and also assisted with setting up of networks and other IT and technical support.

This exercise provided a great opportunity for Radio Amateurs to show what they can do in a disaster in Europe, raising awareness with the authorities and highlighting that disasters can occur anywhere in our region.

Tropical Storm Erika in Carribean

Radio Amateurs have been active in responding to the consequences of Tropical Storm Erika as it progressed through the Carribean.

The Radio Club of Dominica were active on 7.065MHz, 3.780MHz and local repeaters working with their Nation's Emergency Operations Centre, Civil Defence and the Dominican Red Cross collecting reports from their members around the country. The storm killed 20 people in the Dominican Republic as 200-300mm of rain fell in 12 hours causing flooding and mudslides. Damage assessments are ongoing in the country which was reported to have had widespread power failures.

Although the storm is officially classed as dissipated, fears over the remnants of the storm as it passes over Cuba and then nears Florida on Sunday mean that local emergency groups remain alert and other countries in the Carribean are also ready to respond if needed.

Although band conditions have been poor for the last two days, Radio Amateurs are requested to listen carefully when operating around the pubished Atlantic Hurricane frequencies to ensure that there is no interference to any emergency traffic.

Sources: César Pio Santos HR2P, Rafael Martinez HI8KW

Atlantic Hurricane Season 2015

Tropical Storm Danny moving over Puerto Rico and towards Cuba marks the first notable storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season this year. So it is time to remind the wider Amateur Radio community that the following frequencies may be in use by nets in North and Central America to track and deal with the consequences of these severe weather events. Radio Amateurs in Region 2 play their part in gathering and distributing information for the weather and emergency services as they do every year.

Radio Amateurs in Region 1 are reminded it is possible to cause unintentional QRM to these nets so please listen carefully if operating near these frequencies:

Caribbean Emergency & Weather Nets: 7.162 & 3.815 MHz
Eastern Caribbean Narrow Band Emergency System Net: 7.036 MHz USB (Olivia & MT63)
Caribbean Emergency: 14.185 MHz
Republica Dominicana: 7.065 & 3.780 MHz
Cuba: 7.045, 7.080, 7.110, and 3.740 MHz
Central America: 7.090 & 3.750 MHz
Nicaragua: 7.098 MHz
Guatemala: 7.075 MHz
Panama: 7.085 MHz
Mexico: 7.060 & 3.690 MHz

USA:
Maritime Mobile Service Net: 14.300 MHz
Hurricane Watch Net: 14.325 MHz
Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN): 14.265 MHz

Other local emergency communications groups may also activate if a hurricane approaches their area and those frequencies would be announced at the time.

Nepal Earthquake - Update 3 May 2015

An announcement is expected today ( Sunday ) of the official end of the international Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) phase with the expectation that USAR teams will start leaving the area shortly. It is however still the case that in rural areas it is taking 5-6 days to reach those areas to try and provide assistance.

Two Amateur Radio stations have started operating from some of those rural places. 9N3AA Jose operating from Damauli, District Gorakha and 9N1SD Akarshan installed at Sindhupalchowk. Both the areas are highly devastated and affected.

VU2JAU reported that all amateurs in India are coordinating well, he also makes special mention of A41LD Walid bhai who has supported them right from the first day.

Nepal previously depended heavily on mobile phones for communications ( 64% according to Wikipedia ) and while restoring supplies to cellphone sites can be prioritised, power supplies for the citizens remain difficult. A requirement for 500 crank chargers was identified immediately which was passed on to all Indian Radio Amateurs who hope to be able to ship some crank chargers soon.

Many countries radio amateurs remain active in the area as the communications needs have not gone away. Teams certainly remain from India and China with some emergency traffic also heard in what was believed to be Russian on 14.300 on Friday.

Operations are taking place on a number of frequencies in the 40, 20 and 15m bands with 9N1SP specifically maintaining an international link on sked with the American MARS organisation.

All amateurs are reminded that emergency traffic may be heard on any frequency in the Amateur bands as it is not always possible for the Nepal stations to operate on the IARU Emergency Centre of Activity frequencies. If you hear the words ‘Emergency’ please give the stations room to work.

Sources: VU2JAU, GDACS, APAN, 9N1Emergency

Nepal Earthquake - Update 30 April 2015

As the time passes the situation in Nepal, hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake over the weekend, seems to be getting worse. Many people are still buried in collapsed buildings and caught in rubble from landslides and there are fears that the number of deaths may increase above the estimated 5,000.
Rescue teams are moving away from capital of Kathmandu, to reach devastated villages near the quake's epicenter.

National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India, Jayu S. Bhide VU2JAU, reports that authorities have issued 9N7-prefixed callsigns to some visiting HAMS. He said there was very limited or no power and mobile towers down and mobile recharging was impossible. "In spite of the appalling conditions, the HAM radio operation is in progress and the Nepalese Government has started issuing HAM licences to those visiting HAMs, with callsigns that have the 9N7 prefix. "The authorities have asked for radio stations to be set up at different places to cover most of devastated areas. We are also requesting them to operate on different frequencies to avoid QRM," said Jayu VU2JAU.

The whole of India has seemingly swung into action to aid the earthquake victims in neighboring Nepal, especially those HAMs who were rarely seen previously. Jayu VU2JAU, Suhas VU2SMN, Peddy VU2PEP Rakesh VU3PUA, Sarath VU2SCV along with some other HAMs have controlled the emergency communication, keeping the frequency busy with messages. They are also trying to get information on the missing people to inform their relatives. A list of 17 missing people from Maharashtra has been passed to 9N1AA, along with 67 others from various countries, with Nepalese authorities involved.

Lists should now be checked against the Red Cross or Google person finder services at;

http://google.org/personfinder/2015-nepal-earthquake/
http://familylinks.icrc.org/nepal-earthquake/en/pages/home.aspx

to ensure that use is made of the more complete casualty lists available from the Red Cross as they increase their relief activities.

The ARRL along with other groups around the world are trying to respond to the request for VHF handhelds and other equipment which has been passed over the 20m emergency nets. However the process to get even basic emergency supplies and Search and Rescue Teams into the area is hampered by restricted capacity at Kathmandu Airport and Customs procedures. The Nepal Government has signed a customs agreement for the facilitation of emergency relief consignments but even with this agreement in place ( which is solely for humanitarian shipments, not necessarily communications equipment ) the documents that must accompany any humanitarian shipment under the terms of the Agreement are:

1. Cover letter requesting customs clearance (with list of attached documents);
2. UN Certificate (see template in the Agreement’s Annex), duly completed by the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s (RC) Office;
3. Completed Custom Entry Form;
4. Bill of Lading/Airway bill (contract of transport), original copy;
5. Commercial Invoice or Deed of Donation;
6. Packing list;
7. Declaration of Origin

This is not an easy process to complete but the ARRL are continuing with their efforts to get the requested equipment through.

Amateur Radio HF nets have been one link between Nepal and the outside world, as Internet service continues to be intermittent and Nepalese hams also are active locally on VHF/UHF.

Radio Amateurs are again requested to keep the frequencies in use by Nepal clear and allow the Nepalese stations to control the flow of messages, in the same principle as any other distress message.

The current known frequencies are, 14.205, 14.215 and all the designated Region 3 Emergency Centre of Activity frequencies which may be found in the IARU Emergency Telecommunications Guide at http://www.iaru.org/emergency-telecommunications-guide.html .

Sources: GDACS, ARRL, IARU Region 3