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Author Topic: Does anyone use packet as part of Emergency Communications?  (Read 20129 times)
W4KYR
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« on: January 04, 2013, 12:01:24 PM »

Does anyone use packet as part of Emergency Communications? If so, what equipment do you use?
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NA4IT
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2013, 05:35:25 AM »

Entire packet systems including digipeaters, nodes, mailboxes, and Winlink RMS available on 145.550 in McMinn and Bradley counties in TN.
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WB6BYU
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2013, 12:55:35 PM »

The State of Oregon provides a complete packet RMS station (HF and VHF) for
each County EOC (subject to agreements with the local ARES or other organization
to operate and maintain it.)  Digital message traffic is a common part of all statewide
drills and exercises.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2013, 04:12:18 AM »

Packet is useful for reports and other things that don't require quick transmission and a timely response.  The extra equipment needed for a packet station usually precludes its use in situations where quick calling and response is necessary or for reporting from mobile stations on conditions.  Of course, the advantage of packet is a hard copy of reports and requests.

It really depends on what the local authorities would like.  I would say that although it IS used, it isn't used very widely.
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N9AOP
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2013, 08:15:16 AM »

Did you mean just packet or do you mean pactor/winlink and winmor.

At one time I was an avid packet operator but today the digital sound card modes give you the same or better thruput with less equipment.  Sure, packet is true ARQ but over VHF and UHF the path is usually such that the S/N is adequate for flawless transmission and this has been tested throughout the county I live in.

If you mean pactor/winlink, this has a lot of usefulness in a wide area complete comms outage.  A good pactor setup is usually pricy.
Art, N9AOP
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W4KYR
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2013, 03:55:04 PM »

Did you mean just packet or do you mean pactor/winlink and winmor.

At one time I was an avid packet operator but today the digital sound card modes give you the same or better thruput with less equipment.  Sure, packet is true ARQ but over VHF and UHF the path is usually such that the S/N is adequate for flawless transmission and this has been tested throughout the county I live in.

If you mean pactor/winlink, this has a lot of usefulness in a wide area complete comms outage.  A good pactor setup is usually pricy.
Art, N9AOP

A traditional packet set up using current packet equipment and computers. (With possibilities of using 'old school' equipment like obsolete computers and old MFJ 1278 and Baypac modems in a pinch.) Using older re-purposed equipment for packet would cost little or nothing and could make a good secondary backup or two in an emergency and could be deployed for little or no cost since basic packet is simple.

I read about Pactor and how after Pactor I it became proprietary with SCS. I see those modems costing $1300 and up. I understand that it is used a lot for getting email at sea through 'Sail Mail' which is different from Winlink.

But I guess one could use Pactor II and up for Winlink as well?

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W5LZ
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 06:11:24 AM »

-Can- it be used?  Sure.  Is it?  Not much, if at all.  Why?  'Cuz it isn't readily available and isn't too cost effective for most agencies, there are other ways of doing it.  It's a 'specialized' mode requiring special knowledge for use.  Not something that just anyone can do.
 - Paul
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2013, 05:15:24 PM »

I very strictly use digital communications for all my emergency communications.  The equipment I have is cutting edge technology.  Similar units are even carried by most every police officer and most fire men.  It has both data and voice transmit and receive ability, can send pictures of a crash scene and is backed up with a rather robust network of towers and radios.  It has GPS tracking ability and will send my location to the public safety personnel upon contacting them.
 
It's called a cell phone.  I simply dial 911 and the professional public safety dispatcher takes down the information I pass to them and then passes it along to the police and fire departments to respond to the scene.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2013, 08:12:35 AM »

It's a 'specialized' mode requiring special knowledge for use.  Not something that just anyone can do.

You should probably qualify "anyone" as those being is too stupid or lazy to figure it out.  Judging by the popularity of packet in the '90's clearly the learning curve is not insurmountable.

Packet *could* be a very dependable and readily deployed data transfer solution.  It uses free software (or none at all) and hardware most hams already have (a transceiver and a laptop).  It does require the user to learn some basic function commands but for some reason learning seems to have fallen out of favor.  The last time I saw packet being used in an ARES exercise it was a dismal failure because no one knew how to work it.

Instead, in the interest of specious requirements we now have systems that use proprietary modem hardware, complex and proprietary client and server software (winlink) and a lot of it requires the internet to work.  So now the only ones that will play are the true nerds and emcomm acolytes that enjoy being mired in the minutia of software configuration and networking.

No matter, mesh networking will likely supersede anything the hams have and could ever do, and it will use off the shelf Part 15 hardware that anyone can buy and deploy.   The masses will be able to set up their own high bandwidth ad-hoc networks and schlep their data using smartphones over wifi.  So while basic packet may have had a niche for emcomm until now, the nails are in the coffin for it for sure.  Maybe the League will come up with an "app for that".


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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W3JKS
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2013, 02:44:35 PM »

Until commercial power goes out in a widespread area. Watch your mesh evaporate and when the batteries in the cell sites go out (or they lose their backhaul network!), your cell goes down too. 

We seem to "learn" this after every major storm (Sandy is a great example).  We learn it over and over ...

Backup generators AND a means to refuel them.  And mobile units if the backup gens fail (don't forget lubrication -- something else we "learn").

After-action reports are only useful if there is some action after!

(35 years at a power utility and still learning <gr>)
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K5LXP
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 07:53:11 AM »

Mesh networks have nothing to do with cell sites or the cell network.  These are autonomous inexpensive wifi routers bought off the shelf and loaded with open source software.  They draw about the same power as an HT and can be deployed by anyone just about anywhere.   Hams call it "HSMM" but if deployed as a ham network you technically can't use it for commercial purposes (most internet content) nor have encrypted content.  Deploy it as a generic wifi network and anyone can use it for anything.  Open it up for the masses to access, or lock it down for specific agency use.  By the time your average ham sets up his 1200 baud winlink node and gets his ICS forms all ready, a mesh network could be serving up 100Mb TCP/IP to anyone with a smartphone or laptop.

Stick a fork in it, it's over.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM


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W3JKS
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 09:30:33 AM »

Mesh and cell have something in common -- dependency to some degree on commercial power.  How many happy hams have reliable backup power on their mesh network?  We already know from ABUNDANT experience how well the cell providers hold up;  not very well.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 02:10:52 PM »

How many happy hams have reliable backup power on their mesh network?

Valid question, and I would even expand that to include all hams.  Realistically, not many.  But if you expand the available resource pool from hams only (HF/VHF packet or winlink) to anyone (CERT, public agencies, private concerns, what have you) which use boxes that are both inexpensive and low power, your potential is much greater both in terms of numbers and ease of power backup.  A 2M FM rig can run a day on a marine battery.  A wifi hub can probably run a week and it doesn't need an operator present.  A wifi hub can schlep a whole lot more data than a ham with a 2M rig irrespective of mode.

I'm not saying it's there yet and if things go the way they usually do, it may never.  But my money's on the team of nerds that can whip this stuff up using off the shelf hardware that can run for a week off of a car battery over a team of geriatrics using limited bandwidth, point to point high power equipment with built in data content restrictions.

Might not be a bad idea for the League to establish some basic operating standards for this kind of thing and make it part of the emcomm toolbox.   Doesn't fit their business model of selling emcomm courses and green vests though, so never mind.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1583




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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2013, 05:01:02 AM »

Mesh and cell have something in common -- dependency to some degree on commercial power.  How many happy hams have reliable backup power on their mesh network?  We already know from ABUNDANT experience how well the cell providers hold up;  not very well.

It sounds like with your experience in the power industry that you too have had some exposure to mesh. I am a consulting engineer in the same industry (utilities and power) and have worked with mesh systems in those applications. While it all sounds great in theory (high speeds, etc...) the reality is that mesh networks are "non-deterministic" and you can end up with fairly large latencies (seconds to minutes) on networks that are error prone or with constantly shifting network paths across the mesh. Ethernet may work as a physical interface but when you put in 50-100 nodes and mix manufacturers then everything has to fall back to the lowest common denominator.

I am not speaking theoretical (either as ideal or as F.U.D.) but from years of actual experience with mesh networks and data protocols like DNP-3 or MODBUS where out-of-order data just messes things up something terrible.

A well running mesh takes forethought and planning. Not just a bunch of ad-hoc nodes thrown up at the spur of the moment. I deal with them all the time for smart-grid (AMI) systems and even the most current designs can take quite a bit of time for the mesh to form and stabilize (902-928 MHz direct sequence systems or electric and water meters with take-out-points) (one company suggests that we allow the system to stabilize for a day so we could get four successful data packets from each node).

I like packet from the standpoint that it can be fairly straightforward to implement with a soundcard type interface. Textual data is not ambiguous like the wanderings of someone on a microphone. You can use forms and standard reporting formats. It can be fast (milliseconds), verified delivery and benefits from security through obscurity. While not encrypted it is less likely to be monitored by the scanner crowd unless they are willing to use their own soundcard app to demodulate the digital data. Even terminal to terminal FSK at 1200 baud is a great way to send data and can be set up really fast.
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
KD4LLA
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Posts: 463




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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2013, 11:38:43 PM »

We already know from ABUNDANT experience how well the cell providers hold up;  not very well.

I have never had a cell phonr failure here in the midwest.  Of course we only get tornado's and blizzards.  By the time hams get a packet network going here in an emergency, Verizon Wireless will have a cell site up and running.

Mike
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