This Summer and Winter has been extremely busy for nearly all of the TBARG/Munson Communications team members that I have talked to. I would like to set up a meeting for November 15th to plan for the coming months. On the agenda is the following topics – please feel free to email me if you would like to add additional items.
HAM RADIO COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN 911 CENTERS – Two years ago, we had a severe wind storm in which the Grand Traverse and Leelanau 911 centers briefly lost communications. I would like to set up a “small scale” exercise in which the Leelanau and Benzie 911 operators can communicate with each other using VHF/UHF radios. We have received initial authorization from each of the county’s Emergency Managers for this exercise. The FCC allows for third party communications; that is, ham operators establish the proper station identifiers and turn over the mic to trained 911 operators. This is likely to be a very brief exercise but will establish a policies and procedures. Once we have “debugged” this exercise, will look at a larger exercise using other counties.
SETTING UP HAM RADIO DIGITAL NETWORKS – After the Munson exercise and the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test, it became extremely clear that sending lengthy or complex text information by voice was too slow and prone to error. In addition, operator fatigue and staffing a prolonged disaster event will be a significant problem. While sending voice information is still the best for group communication (i.e., Strike Teams, etc.), we need an additional approach to send/print/document complex information (can you imagine sending a request for 50 needed medications by voice?) We have had discussions on using Packet Radio using VHF/UHF frequencies. While there are several packet stations still up and running in Northern Michigan, we do not have link to the State Emergency Operations Center in Lansing. To solve this problem; I would recommend the following:
1) Create a mobile packet station for use at Munson Medical Center. Using a rolling computer station, we need to attach a laptop, mobile radio, TNC, and printer that can be used anywhere at Munson that would make a short range connection to the Packet station at the top of Munson. This packet station can then pass information to other stations in Northern Michigan. If this “mobile” approach works, we can repeat this in a number of situations and facilities.
2) Establish a “connecting” Packet station in order to make a connecting link to Lansing.
3) Send digital information using HF radios. TBARG has 4 Yaesu HF radios. I would like to establish 3 mobile HF stations that could pass information using FLDIGI. Two of the radios will need NVIS antennas. Brad Melberg has a portable 40/20 meter antenna that will be perfect for this approach; it can be set up by one person has a working range of 600 miles. I have ordered two of them. We still need to set up the software and audio connectors.
UPDATE RACES AND ARES ID CARDS – We have delayed updating RACES cards as we were told that the forms we were using were out of date. As of two weeks ago, I received the ARES ID cards. At the next meeting, I will need everyone to re-do their applications.
UNIFIED MEMORY CHANNELS FOR HAND-HELD/MOBILE RADIOS – Each county has a limited number of ham operators with training in emergency communications. It makes great sense that we work with neighboring counties to share resources and staff. Programming hand held/mobile radios to have the same repeater frequencies across the region makes responding to an event much easier. I am still waiting to get the “OK” from all the District 7 counties and will be working with Mike Dell on this. The current plan is to offer free programming of radios at the Cherryland Swap Meet in February (this has the highest attendance of hams for the region). You can find the current list of repeaters, FRS/GMRS, Coast Guard, and NOAA frequencies at the CHERRYLANDARC.COM site under repeaters. You can use the free CHIRP software to load them or bring your radio to the TBARG meeting and I can update your radio.
WORKING ACROSS DIGITAL HAM RADIO MODES – Using Internet based radio systems, digital hand-held and mobile radios can make calls nearly anywhere in the world. The problem is that Ham radio has three major digital systems: DMR, D-Star, and System Fusion. In Traverse City and Benzie, we use the System Fusion system and the Charlevoix/Petoskey group uses D-Star. I would like to see us work on inter-operability. It would be great to get D-Star running in the Traverse City area. During the recent Simulated Emergency Testing, radio’s at my office (near Munson) could not reach the DMR and D-Star repeaters. I am also looking at creating an Internet based “hot spot” that can run DMR, D-Star and Fusion from any location that has WiFi (Shark RF Openspot).
PLANNING FOR THE NEXT MUNSON EXERCISE – I just talked with Joe Dechow from Munson. He will let us know of the next exercise. As soon as I get this information, I will pass this on to team members.
Please email me if you have additional items to add to the agenda. I look forward to seeing everyone.
Glen Johnson – TBARG / Munson Emergency Communications