Global Skywatch

EMCOMM Big Picture View

Working with the pyramid on our white board, the Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services team discussed the base layer as it applies locally: Establish Survivable Network.

The upper layers are important, significant and worthy of our continued development efforts. When those topics came up they were placed in their appropriate layers, acknowledging their value without bogging down on non-foundational issues.

The base currently includes GMRS, 2-meter, and CB. Emergency radio power is by batteries with solar systems and generators recharging those. Our area has a large population of radios using these modes. We also have a number of nets practicing comms utilizing GMRS and 2-meter radios.

The next layer, System Flexibility, was where we placed our repeaters and NVIS (high-frequency near-vertical-incidence-skywave). Though NVIS is potentially useable at the base comms level, we have some work to do before that is applicable in The Bitterroot.

Circuit Capacity, handling greater message volume reliably and accurately are where our digital modes shine. As the after-action-report from the Puerto Rico experience described, these tools need to get to key locations as soon as possible and fan out from there in priority order, but are not part of The First Wave, establishing basic comms.

Where we fall short in our ability to Establish Survivable Network:

1) Most existing Bitterroot nets depend on repeaters that may not be available in disasters. Simplex is more reliable for disaster response and will require relaying of messages.

a) Existing nets do not practice passing message traffic. Experience proved that operators without traffic passing experience were far less useful than those who had even a little. Net control operator experience was similarly highly valued.

b) Repeaters should be disaster-resistant or repairable as much as possible.

2) NVIS is the best mode for radio comms in our mountain-valley area. We have almost no experience, operators or equipment utilizing this. Simple antenna designs, hardware, knowledge, deployment and use should be a high priority for Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services.

3) Connecting the networks needs attention:

a) While some may fear sharing private information, linkeages will be important when we really do need area radio communication. Someone in each net should be able to communicate with other nets.

b) Distributed multi-mode communication facilities will play key roles. Radio units with two or more modes can relay to/from local nets. We need to encourage establishment, mapping and practice utilization of these.