Our served agencies are accustomed to utilizing direct (i.e. person-to-person) and virtually instantaneous communications to conduct their operations. These means of communication (e.g. the telephone, email with attachments, and instant messaging through a wide variety of platforms) depend upon extensive, and often fragile, infrastructure which can be disrupted during incidents ranging in scale from a localized fiber-optic cable cut to regional severe weather events.
As past FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, said in Ham Radio Now Emcomm Extra #8, when an incident occurs “they just want their email to work.”
Traditional public service (aka Emcomm) messaging often does not meet the expectations of today’s served agencies (our customers). Amateur Radio operators typically utilize indirect communication paths with paper forms for origination / delivery and transcription style transfer methods (e.g. voice or CW); this is not the direct style of communication preferred by our customers.
Some improvements in public service messaging have been realized through the development of the Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software (NBEMS) Open Source software suite which allows Amateur Radio Operators to transfer data such as small files, text-only emails, and ICS Forms over RF without requiring networking infrastructure. Although NBEMS can eliminate the requirement for manual transcription during message transfer, because data and messages may be delivered to radio operators on common interchangable digital media such as USB drives it suffers from the limitation of being an indirect form of communication and may still fall short of our customers’ expectations.
AREDN (the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network), which has been on the agenda at recent club meetings, provides a way for way for Amateur Radio to meet our customers’ needs for direct communications through a high-speed IP data network. AREDN uses a redundant, and resilient, radio mesh to provide a TCP/IP medium when other network infrastructure has failed.Anyone interested in wireless networking may find Wireless Networking In The Developing World, a free book about designing, implementing, and maintaining low-cost wireless networks, to be a useful reference. This book was written by subject matter experts with vast experience in deploying wireless networks in the field and connecting communities to the global Internet. It may be downloaded as a free PDF, or purchased from Amazon to help support the WNDW project.