Amateur Radio Helps Fill ‘Donut Holes’ Earthquake Report

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02/25/2021

A item describing how radio amateurs can help fill the information “doughnut hole” by providing post-earthquake “did you feel it” (DYFI) reports via winlink HF radio mail appeared February 22 in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) magazine Eos. As the article points out, “Amateur radio networks prepare to provide real-time, on-the-ground information about earthquakes and damage when other communication routes are taken out of service.” The authors of the article are David J. Wald of the US Geological Survey (USGS), Vincent Quitoriano and Oliver Dully, K6OLI.

As the article explains, DYFI uses a questionnaire to collect individuals’ experiences and observations, and the USGS uses the information to assess the intensity of shaking at that person’s location. DYFI has been operational since 1999 in the United States and 15 years worldwide, during which time the USGS has collected over 5 million individual DYFI intensity reports.

The article notes that one potential problem is that “public access to it may be compromised following a strong earthquake”, with those affected experiencing power and communication outages or may be distracted by more immediate priorities.

“The USGS and other global seismic network operators have witnessed reports of ‘doughnut holes’ in areas of strong shaking due to loss of internet communication,” the article states, “most recently during the tremor earthquake of magnitude 5.7 that struck near Salt Lake City in March 2020.” The article suggested that “alternative routes” of communication are needed to “gather important field data with minimal delay.” And that’s where amateur radio groups come in.

“We now plan to taste the donut hole with the help of amateur radio groups around the world,” the authors of the article said. “These groups, which already provide emergency communications capabilities to government agencies, hospitals and other critical users during emergencies and disasters, can mobilize significant numbers of licensed radio operators after a strong earthquake. land, especially near large population centers, ensuring a baseline level of macroseismic intensity reporting even in heavily impacted areas.

As the article explains, the USGS has partnered with winlink, a radio messaging platform with over 28,000 users worldwide and with members of the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®). “In June 2020, Winlink experts adapted the USGS DYFI questionnaire to their software platform, and this version is now available to all licensed amateur radio operators.”

This means that during a major earthquake, Winlink users can radio their responses to remote receiving stations if they have lost Internet service. “These unassigned, out-of-area stations or gateways can then transmit data over the Internet to the USGS for immediate analysis,” the article states.

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