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Emergency operations are typically reliant on voice traffic today. Are digital data modes used at all in emergency operations, and why/ why not? Couldn't data modes be used to pass information more efficiently than voice?

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    $\begingroup$ Depending on what you're trying to ask, you might want to specify digital data modes - as digital voice such as DMR is becoming more common in amateur emergency operations and other types are already very common in public safety systems. $\endgroup$ – Dan KD2EE Nov 20 '13 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ @DanKD2EE I've made this question specific to data, thanks for the suggestion $\endgroup$ – JC Hulce Nov 20 '13 at 18:53
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In the US, disaster declarations need to be approved and that declaration with approval must be transmitted to a state EOC before state aid can be approved. Therefore, early in the game, packet has become popular to get that declaration to the state capital.

Although HIPPA does not apply to amateur radio (as operators are not healthcare providers), there's still a great desire not to reveal names and other details of aid recipients. Packet and other modes provide 'security through obscurity' and are more popular in sending long lists of data.

Some places need to survey vulnerable infrastructure, and a ham with digital camera capability can deliver pictures back to where the Internet works so engineers can look at, say, a dam face, or a bridge support. Just had an exercise last month where hams on mountain bikes were asked to offroad and do that.

http://static.danplanet.com/preserve/KK7DS_QST_D-RATS.pdf explains how D-STAR was used in 2007 to improve comms in severe flooding in Western Oregon, about 30 klicks from where I sit.

There are more examples, but those are the three big ones which come to mind based on my experience with ARES and ARC in disaster.

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Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software (NBEMS) uses error-correcting modes like MT63-2000 over VHF and HF. It doesn't need much hardware: it can be operated successfully by holding the HT near the computer speaker and holding down PTT, though there are more reliable ways of doing it.

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Anther example is sending requests for resources from a local/county EOC to a State EOC when normal methods are down. The amount of detailed information is too much for sending effectively/efficiently by voice. Narrow Band Emergency Messaging/FLDIGI and WINLINK RMS have templates for Resource Request messages.

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