- Published: 09 September 2021
We've been covering various digital modes over the past few months, particularly PSK, APRS & Winlink.
While digital voice modes like D-Star, Fusion, and others offer some other EMCOMM related enhancements to our conventional analog modes, the real improvement in our ability to communicate comes from our ability to automate various functions and communicate complex data more efficiently, digital modes that allow us to harness the power of computers.
While operators tended to deploy more as "shadows" of key personnel like ambulance drivers, police, fire, or shelter employees in decades gone by, the growing ability of local, state, and federal agencies to interoperate has virtually eliminated the need for such services.
As a result, our mission required change, and are still changing. Communities with active Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) often embed amateur radio operators as members, serving as a CERT member, enhancing their team with additional communication capabilities. Amateur Radio operators have been included in Search and Rescue (SAR) and Damage Assessment teams during disasters as well.
Deployments with teams are perfect environments to utilize APRS as a supplement to voice communications. APRS allows for real-time tracking of location, as well as short tactical messages. Simple APRS clients can provide real-time visual representation of team deployments even when internet is completely unavailable.
Beyond team deployments, there will also be deployments to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Hospital(s), and emergency shelters. In each of these locations there will often be the need to communicate more complex data such as shelter occupant lists, supply requests, and even person-to-person emails with tactical and strategic communications as well as "Health and Welfare" messages to & from shelter occupants and family outside the disaster area.
In these more complex environments Winlink, PSK, and other digital modes provide the ability to more easily communicate larger and more complex information without the need for transcription or handwriting interpretation. This results in a more robust and timely response to needs during a disaster.
In conclusion, digital communication is more than just some neat "gee-whiz" technology to play with, it offers a way for amateur radio to redefine our mission to better meet the changing needs of our served agencies during emergencies.
- Published: 15 July 2021
Tabletop exercises are a useful tool for developing the skills to operate in a real-world situation, with the opportunity to identify many challenges and pitfalls before ever going through the effort of staging an actual exercise or deploy to an actual disaster.
Why tabletop versus a Simulated Emergency Test type exercise? Well, they are easier to plan and execute, all you need is a meeting place, and even the table is optional! Trying to coordinate an actual drill may require coordination with served agencies and place demand on physical resources like repeaters, radio equipment, or even served agency locations; all of this takes time and often places demands on other organizations.
Tabletop exercises can often be executed in an hour or two, where actual drills typically run much longer, placing more demands on the time of volunteers.
Tabletop exercises provide an opportunity to develop a plan or just work the bugs out of existing plans by playing "What if" games and talking through option when dealing with mission critical information such as knowing primary and backup repeaters, what to do when repeaters are down, frequencies and timetables for simplex communication, etc.
- Published: 04 March 2021
Introduction To Winlink
Winlink is an global radio based email system (and more); used by amateur radio operators, government entities, NGOs, and mariners. Each of these groups utilizes radio bands appropriate to their licenses, but despite that, they can communicate with each other and any other email user, across these different environments and conventional internet.
WInlink consists of a network of UHF/VHF and HF stations that can send, receive, and relay email messages via radio and internet. HF and VHF stations are scattered all over the world, acting as gateways to Winlink email servers, allowing radio-based Winlink stations to send and receive email over this world-wide radio network.
- Published: 06 May 2021
APRS is packet-based digital tracking and communication system. It's best known for allowing operators to report their position or weather station data by internet or radio and be tracked using APRS clients and websites like aprs.fi, but APRS is useful for more than that. APRS also allows simple short messages between operators, sort of a radio-based text-messaging system. As a matter of fact, there is a text-message gateway available, allowing an operator to use their APRS setup to send text messages to cell phones and receive responses!
Since APRS allows for position reporting it has applications in search and rescue, damage assessment situations, and public service events like running and bike races. By embedding amateur radio operators into the field teams their progress can be monitored via APRS utilizing both online and offline mapping systems.
Although this makes APRS a potentially robust tool for public service, it's also useful for other activities, such as our summer balloon launches, where the balloon carries an APRS transmitter we then track to recover the balloon payload, which usually includes cameras and other electronics.
- Published: 04 February 2021
Various National Weather Service offices sponsor severe weather weeks, and the Peachtree City office usually hosts theirs during the first or second week of February.
Each day covers a different topic related to weather safety. As potential resources during severe weather as storm spotters, safety at home must always come first, and is a necessary prerequisite to being able to spot and participate in severe weather nets.
Family Preparedness - More Information.
- Make A Plan - Ensuring the family is all on the same page regarding where to go and what to do in different circumstances.
- Build A Kit - Have items you'll need during an emergency, such as flash lights, first-aid kits, water, food, games to entertain the kids, etc.
- Be Informed - Have at least one weather radio handy, and an amateur radio as well.