Preliminary ARES Digital Emergency Communications Plan
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This document is designed to promote the development of a comprehensive plan for providing digital communications support for served agencies using a variety of methodologies. This is a rough draft and is being produced as a collaborative document in the interest of furthering dialogue. Input into the plan is encouraged but sacred cows may be summarily slaughtered.
Currently the situation at the local level in Georgia is not conducive to reliable communications on a statewide basis using amateur radio digital modes. The key problems are threefold.
One other problem bears mentioning early in this discussion and that is the role that the Internet should play in emergency communications. There are two primary schools of thought on this issue.
Current Status of Digital Communications in Georgia:
On the VHF/UHF front there basically two systems worth looking at and one with future potential. These three systems are:
APRS is a more viable network in the northern part of the state but is inadequate below the Fall Line. Since APRS uses UI (Unconnected Information frames) there is no guarantee of delivery. While data is sent in a broadcast manner to all monitoring stations there is no mechanism for reporting failure in the delivery of data to a specific station. Therefore APRS is totally unsuited for long haul or NTS style message traffic. However, APRS is a viable means for the dissemination of information in a one to many model such as the issuing of weather bulletins. APRS is also useful in the tracking of assets in a SAR type environment or during the deployment of damage assessment teams.
While there are some SEDAN nodes that are still operational the overall system is seldom reliable enough to provide a viable state wide communications tool. There also exists a serious problem with the lack of user friendly software for accessing packet networks. ( This may be partially alleviated by Stan Edwards WA4DYD's Emergency Service Packet Client) However, there is still a need for VHF packet radio to be made more relevant and accessible for general ham use.
PSK31 and other weak signal HF modes may offer some potential for use in poor band conditions but with the lack of error correction may be little better than SSB or CW.
One other potentially useful tool is the classic packet BBS. With its capability to centralize message handling it can function as a hub for traffic between shelters and EOC's. If long haul forwarding is disabled a local Packet BBS can be very functional even at 1200 baud. The BBS could also function as a repository for emergency operations planning documents that can be fetched as needed by end users. It can also stretch limited resources by allowing messages to be stored for stations that are out of range or off the air. These stations can then fetch their messages at a later time. This could be an important asset in a long duration event when operators are in need of sleep time.
As noted earlier this document is designed to stimulate a dialog. Use the contact page on the toolbar at the left to send me your commnets.