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Author Topic: FLDIGI/NBEMS to NTS  (Read 13126 times)
AB0WR
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Posts: 77




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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2011, 07:25:05 AM »

"Do YOU like putting words in other people's mouths."

Please, I directly addressed what *YOU* said -- "If I may paraphrase your response in a more succinct manner:
"NTS can't handle a real emergency - find another way."

Your reply listing Item 3 came *AFTER* you said this and *AFTER* I started formulating my reply.

It is good that you have formulated a plan. It is good that you have Item 3 in your list. It is NOT good that you assign tertiary status to messages without email addresses. Victims that do not know email addresses do not deserve lower status for notifying loved ones than those that do have email addresses.

If they *do* have a phone number there is no reason why someone with a cell phone having unlimited minutes and nationwide calling cannot attempt to deliver those messages *immediately*. There is no reason to give these messages lower priority than any other H&W message. Perhaps access to a cell phone with unlimited minutes and nationwide calling should be in your requirements list for an OTS.

If the messages do not have a telephone number the NTS operates at least two cycles that can accept voice traffic and at least one that can accept CW traffic in every region, especially emergency traffic.  These messages do not deserve a lower priority just because the delivery mechanism is different. That puts them at the bottom of the stack even when operators *are* available to handle them. That just isn't fair to the people trying to notify loved ones.

What is required is to have operators available that can work within the NTS system to pass this kind of traffic. The availability of operators should not determine the priority of the messages. H&W traffic should all be given the same priority. If it gets delayed because of a lack of operators then so be it, that only involves the delivery time and not the priority.

I would also note that restricting the passage of radiograms to voice only is VERY limiting to overall capacity. CW has a much higher overall capacity and will work under adverse conditions where voice will absolutely not work. While it can be difficult to find someone to operate in the CW nets, CW should not be eliminated from emergency plans for that reason alone. Doing so means that CW will never be considered during operator recruitment and you will have an automatic limit on traffic capacity. Perhaps you want to differentiate CW/Voice OTS stations from just Voice OTS stations. CW/Voice OTS stations would be first priority for recruitment.

I've been where you are so I am offering these comments as constructive criticism. Unless you have been intimately involved in the NTS it is difficult to assess its capabilities and develop plans to use it. It *is* there, however, and it *does* work.

I would add one last comment. What *really* needs to be determined when you write your plan is just how much of a commitment your organization is willing to make in handling *ALL* H&W traffic in a large scale disaster. If your real commitment is to just handle that which is convenient then you are going to make more enemies for ham radio than friends when you fail to deliver some messages in a timely manner. Sooner or later those people will find out that their radiograms were never delivered or were delivered long after they had made contact using other methods. If you do not have a TOTAL commitment to delivering all messages with no email or phone number in a timely manner but rather mark them low priority and just stick them at the bottom of the pile with an attitude of "we'll put what we can on the voice nets" then you would be better off not accepting them at all. Just tell the victim that you can only deliver messages with an email address or a phone number and totally forget about using the NTS at all for the rest. If, when the emergency ends, you have unsent H&W messages at your OTS locations that are more than 24 hours old you'll know you have a problem.

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AI8P
Member

Posts: 118




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« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2011, 07:28:42 PM »

Welcome to the world

I would like to deliver ALL H&W traffic as close to instantly as possible
I would like to feed all the hungry people in the world
I would like to make the lion and the antelope lie down together in piece
I would like to end all wars
I would like to plant flowers along all the highways of the world
I would like to make the lame to walk and the blind to see
I would like to force every living person on the face of the earth to develop and maintain excellent message handling skills

I guess if I can't do everything, then it's better to do nothing.   This is wrong thinking.

Quote:
"If you do not have a TOTAL commitment to delivering all messages with no email or phone number in a timely manner but rather mark them low priority and just stick them at the bottom of the pile with an attitude of "we'll put what we can on the voice nets" then you would be better off not accepting them at all"

My best efforts and the best efforts of my organization will have to do.
In an emergency, resources may be limited and we have to try anyway.
We will try to do our best.   I concentrate on the ARC website and the email messages because it allows me to put out a status for the largest amount of people with the smallest amount of available resource.  I am perfectly willing to leverage technology to serve that purpose.

I'm not here to praise or to bury the NTS.  I'm here to try to find a way to maximize the impact of my limited organization.  If the NTS was more efficient than these other 2 ways, it would be at the top of my list.  If smoke signals or semaphore flags were more efficient for my people, that is what we would use.  I am method or organization neutral.  My allegiance is to the victims in the shelters.  I am just trying to do the best with what I've got.  The assigned priority in my plan is indexed by efficiency (status transmitted/manhour).  And passing traffic by CW seems odd.  It isn't error-checking or error-correcting, as many digital methods are, and it is still slower than them.   And the only way most of my people could pass CW is using a PC - when they have a PC and a radio, NBEMS is much much more efficient than CW.  If they can run a program and hold their HT up to the PC speaker, they can pass the message. 

My people are not first responders.  They are not TOTALLY committed (emphasis yours) to EmComm.  I am very fortunate and grateful to get what service they can give me.  I don't have a lot of wannabee Cops or Hero complex guys in my group.  They are not going to become great voice traffic handlers (you have to develop and maintain this skill).  Frankly, if they agreed to invest the time and effort it would take to become proficient traffic handlers, I could better use that time and effort instead to teach them many other things that would be more important in an emergency.  In return for their service I am committed to finding a way that they can maximize their contributions to the victims.

I like your idea of having a cell phone for the OTS.   A couple things I need to consider are:
 1.  Are those minutes forever or do they expire?   Do I invest in a perishable asset?
 2.  Web sites and emails are neat, tidy and efficient - you don't have to extricate yourself from a conversation with an excited relative,  you don't have to figure out how to notify 911 at the remote location when the person at the other end of the phone line passes out.  My teenage daughter has taught me how infinitely more efficient texting is versus actually calling someone, for example.  I'm not sure phone calls from the disaster area are efficient - NTS end delivery persons may face similar reactions but at least there are more of them, they are local to the recipient, and they can honestly say they don't know more details about the situation.   So I will need to think hard about the phone.  The Cost Benefit Analysis of this may not work out.  I think using that phone to send txt messages would be better, but we would still have a flood of incoming calls that would tie up the line and make it hard to get full use of the phone.   The emails have the advantage of being able to send independently of incoming email, and allowing the disclaimer, which is wordy, to be included easily.

I started this thread months ago because I was investigating whether there is a way to use the NTS that would be efficient for my group.  The answer I get over and over again, is "Do it our way, you adapt to the NTS, the NTS doesn't change".  That was a pretty common attitude in the 1950's - look at a calendar.  I think my reaction is reasonable - I have found more efficient ways to pass H&W status to friends and relatives outside the disaster area.  I would be happy to use the NTS if my people could pass messages as efficiently through it as they can thru these other methods.   That isn't true today.   I don't see it becoming true anytime soon.   I think it is perfectly reasonable and fair to pass messages based on efficiency.   If I can put 60 status updates on the ARC website with 1 manhour, versus passing a few messages via an inexperienced traffic handler and NTS,  it would be irresponsible of me to favor the latter.   And if I put up 200 status on the website before I pass a dozen messages thru NTS that don't have an email, then I say that would be a tremendous efficiency - that's exactly the sort of thing that gets you promoted at work.
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AB0WR
Member

Posts: 77




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« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2011, 09:33:43 AM »

"I guess if I can't do everything, then it's better to do nothing.   This is wrong thinking."

Again, I did NOT say that. Stop putting words in my mouth.


"My best efforts and the best efforts of my organization will have to do.
In an emergency, resources may be limited and we have to try anyway."

I'll repeat -- *I HAVE BEEN THERE!*. I have also had my backside reamed out royally by victims that found out that I didn't attempt to deliver their messages because I didn't have the time.

Those victims are DEPENDING on you. If they believe you will put their messages in the pipeline they walk away not worried about making other arrangements. If you do not then handle the messages that you have accepted then you have *failed* the victim in the worst possible way. You would be far better off telling them you can't handle their traffic so they can attempt to make other arrangements.

The wrong thinking is thinking that you can accept everything and then only handle part of it. And that applies to any task, any time, any where.

If you have limited resources then the time to asses what you can handle is at the beginning of an operation not during an operation or after an operation is over.



"My allegiance is to the victims in the shelters"

Tben don't tell them you can do something you might not be able to do. A realistic assesment of your resources at the start of the operation is vital. It's no different than a cop telling someone he can rescue their grandma while knowing full well he may not be able to because of limited resources. All you do is prevent that person from making other arrangements by engendering a false perception.


"And passing traffic by CW seems odd.  It isn't error-checking or error-correcting, as many digital methods are, and it is still slower than them."

Really? And you think passing H&W messages into the NTS via voice has error-checking or error-correction associated with it? You beleive that it has a higher volume/manhour rate than CW? There were months where I sent, by hand, over 900 radiograms into the NTS that I received over the DNTS. There were nights where I sent over 75 messages into 9RN and 10RN nets. There is no way possible to do this by voice -- none. CW was the only viable method to handle such volumes.


" I'm not sure phone calls from the disaster area are efficient - NTS end delivery persons may face similar reactions but at least there are more of them, they are local to the recipient, and they can honestly say they don't know more details about the situation."

I must not have been clear. Phone messages can be delivered by the OTS immediately. There is no reason to wait for an NTS relay. If cost-effectiveness is an issue then use pre-paid phones. When the money runs out you simply stop taking messages that you no longer have the resources to relay.


"I think my reaction is reasonable - I have found more efficient ways to pass H&W status to friends and relatives outside the disaster area."

Stay on target, you are drifing. The issue was what you do with messages that do not have an email address. Your document said to give them a low priority. If that low priority means, "we'll do what we can but no guarantees" then you are better off not taking them in the first place. Doing so merely short-ciruits the victims other attempts at communication.

There is *NO* more efficient way to pass messages that have no email address or phone number than the NTS -- unless you have the resources for someone to sit at a computer for extended periods trying to match up addresses and telephone numbers using something like whitepages.com on the internet.

Have you actually worked a disaster yet? The local flooding we had here about 4 years ago saw AT&T bring in a bank of phones for people to use in calling their relatives. Those that had phone numbers had no use for radiograms at all. You may see more of this than you expect in a widespread disaster. Only the ones that didn't have phone numbers were actually looking for help in communicating. Even at the cost of 411 charges I actually helped two victims get phone numbers using 411. For large numbers of victims this wouldn't have been feasible  -- but using the NTS would have been.


"And if I put up 200 status on the website before I pass a dozen messages thru NTS that don't have an email, then I say that would be a tremendous efficiency - that's exactly the sort of thing that gets you promoted at work."

The issue isn't "before" it is "whether". If you commit to passing those NTS messages then your efficiency suffers regardless, you can't hide that by picking and choosing when you make your measurement. If you do NOT commit to passing those message in order to raise your efficiency then you are better off not accepting them for delivery at all.

Your own words: "My allegiance is to the victims in the shelters"

That allegiance includes doing what you say you will do for a victim.
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WG8Z
Member

Posts: 216




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« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2011, 03:26:09 PM »

ARES/NTS Recommended procedure for outgoing HW traffic is Common text (sometimes called book traffic)
using ARRL numbered Radiograms with a check count of 10 or less.
For Example:  Check ARL 8
Text would be something like
 RED CROSS SHELTER XYZ ARL
 ONE ARL SIX
So you only TX the preamble and text once...
Then you TX message number and Addy,break Signature
for each person.
You buy some pizzas get the guys together some Saturday or Evening for 2 or three hours and practice.
You will be surprized... after about 10 messages and a little coaching the guys will be able to average
around 30 seconds a message...........

Remember if you claim to be an ARES member your saying "Yes I understand Formal Message Traffic and have some experience"

Anything less and you should probably stay home.

Inexperience = Lack of effort and training

You can't teach what you don't know.
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AI8P
Member

Posts: 118




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« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2011, 05:11:37 AM »

Well, I go away for a few days and suddenly everyone has an opinion.  This is getting a little tedious, and not appreciably more useful, so I'm close to the point where I just stop responding, but I'm not quite there yet.

Tim,

It's funny that now you're accusing me of trying to put words in your mouth when I don't.   The good news is that just because you're paranoid doesn't PROVE that no one is out to get you.

I'm sorry that you were "reamed out royally by victims that found out that I didn't attempt to deliver their messages because I didn't have the time".  If you truly didn't have the time then you have to shrug that off as you did your best and move on.   I appreciate you are making me aware of that possibility.  I hope that my Shelter ops do inform the customers that the messages are not guaranteed to be delivered.   And even if all the messages are passed to the NTS, some still may not be delivered for various reasons, as you discussed earlier.  The good news is that all the people in the Shelter will be covered by #1, the Safe and Well website as long as they know their own address and/or phone number(s).   And the Red Cross has their own PR campaign for the website, and the Red Cross will back me up on the fact that the website is the best way to get the word out.   And you can't pretend that my #3 doesn't exist.   Just because it isn't priority #1 doesn't mean it won't get used.   And I repeat, there is no one who needs #3 who hasn't already been posted on  the website of method #1.

I'm not sure what the intended message is of "saw AT&T bring in a bank of phones for people to use in calling their relatives".  Certainly, I would welcome any help in getting messages out.  I go to every event hoping not to be needed.  If alternate communications are available, I would encourage everyone in the Shelter to use them.  Are you saying that you got reamed because you didn't attempt to deliver messages because you thought the phone bank covered everything?  I do understand how that could have happened.

About CW, yes it's faster than voice.   Riding a bike is faster than walking.  But I prefer riding a car, it's much faster and more efficient.   I'm saying NTS should start allowing use of a car instead of a bike, especially in emergencies.

Yes, you were clear that you meant the OTS could call directly using a phone - I thought I was clear that there are several reasons why that isn't a good idea.   Sometimes I get the impression that you are not actually following the conversation very well.

Tim, you are making a lot of assumptions about what my people are going to tell the Shelter people.  Maybe we will get that right, maybe we won't.   I certainly will consider that more carefully based on your experience and I thank you for that.  I hope that my group will not tell the Shelter residents that their messages are guaranteed to be delivered so they can stop trying other means.

Greg,

You are absolutely correct that book traffic is more efficient.  It is even more efficient if I send the whole list digitally.

I have to state the obvious by reminding everyone that Greg is very involved in NTS and is not an objective observer.   Your responses have been definitely more succinct, and generally more rational and helpful than most, but you are still selling the NTS.

For instance:

if you claim to be an ARES member your saying "Yes I understand Formal Message Traffic and have some experience"

is FALSE, however, with a minor edit:

if you claim to be an NTS member your saying "Yes I understand Formal Message Traffic and have some experience"

now it is TRUE.

From the ARRL website:

The Amateur Radio Emergency ServiceĀ® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.

So, people claiming to be ARES members are saying they are willing to help our organization to the extent that they are available and within their capabilities.  Although I have a long list of qualifications that would be useful for my ARES members to meet, I have very few who meet all of them.  My difficult task is to find a way to use what my membership has generously offered.  I do not spit in their face if they are not message handlers,  I do not scorn them if they do not have time or inclination to take all the training that I recommend, I try to find a way to use them.  I continue with that effort.   I started this thread to investigate whether I could find a way to interface with NTS using a mechanism that could maximize throughput with minimal operator proficiency.   It turns out the answer is No.   That's okay,  I have adapted a strategy that hopefully will provide the best support for the shelter residents using the resources I have.  I'm sure that I will change my procedures and adapt as I learn more and as I gain experience.  I wish that I believed that the NTS would do likewise.

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WG8Z
Member

Posts: 216




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« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2011, 07:05:53 AM »

Dennis
I'm a big advocate of the use of digital in ARES/NTS.
Any tools that can be used to increase the efficiency and accuracy I'm in favor of.
My  problem is you can give someone a shiny gold plated hammer but if he doesn't know
which end to pick up or hasn't swung it a little he will most likely have trouble with even the
simplest task such as driving a nail straight or even hitting it. Rough way to start a project.
PLSE reread Chapter ONE in the PSCM particularly 1.8
Am I really that far off base in my opinion?
Having worn both hats ARES and NTS I can assure the weakness in the system lies not in the NTS being
inflexable but the unwillingness of some ARES members to learn some very basic skills.
You have a challenge in front of you but you have an advantage. The OHIO section has one of the best NTS
organizations in the Nation. Many EC's and DEC's have and are using this and have built a strong ARES/NTS liason.
Good Luck on your endeavor.
73
Greg
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AI8P
Member

Posts: 118




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« Reply #21 on: September 04, 2011, 11:42:06 AM »

Greg,

Thanks for your encouragement,  I will try my best.

I re-read section 1.8 of the PSCM and it spends a lot of time talking about using alternate forms other than the Radiogram, which I presume means communicating with other agencies than NTS.  I don't see a real edict there that NTS is the only or best way to handle H&W traffic.   It does say to communicate with your served agencies and find out how best to serve them.   My Red Cross thinks that means putting H&W on their website, and I intend to do that.

A detail that is kind of irrelevant to the original discussion but may be insightful is that the Emergency Management Agency has mandated a modified ICS-213 for all Incident communications.  So I am working hard to get my people to stay familiar with that.   Although I always cover both, the 213 is more straightforward and requires less special knowledge than the Radiogram to get everything right (handling instructions, priority, ARL messages, etc).  And, BTW, as I stated earlier in this thread, I always recommend flmsg software as it has both the 213 and Radiogram in it, and it really helps novices set up a Radiogram correctly.   It also allows the Radiogram or 213 to be saved to disk in a format that can actually be read later.  On the few occasions that I pass formal messages, I use this to compose and save the messages.  I personally can type several times faster than I can write, and my writing may not be decipherable later, so this is a great advantage that I am always pushing with my people.  I have too many logs from events that are hand-written and are not readable.

I don't think the hammer analogy is very good; I would counter that I hope we are not requiring people to know how to groom a horse before they're allowed to drive a car.

I am definitely not advocating that my plan should be adopted by everyone.  Local circumstances, agencies and policies vary in every county in Ohio, so everyone must adapt to their situation.  I'm sure there are many counties where a close tie-in with NTS is the best solution.  One size definitely does not fit all.   I would maintain that a digital mode for the NTS would only enhance those relationships, as well as make my tertiary priority easier. 

Enjoy the holiday with your family.   We have buried a 25 year old this weekend, and life seems particularly precious.

Dennis
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KG4RUL
Member

Posts: 2752


WWW

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« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2011, 03:42:25 PM »

My Red Cross thinks that means putting H&W on their website, and I intend to do that.....

A while back, I proposed to ARRL that they come up with a form to specifically fit the Red Cross Safe and Well information format (even sent them an example).  That suggestion was summarily rejected.  ARRL and NTS really do not want change.
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AI8P
Member

Posts: 118




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« Reply #23 on: September 04, 2011, 04:45:16 PM »

Dennis Z,

Wow, I really like the idea of the form that fits the ARC website.

Can you send me that example so I can see if we can use it here.

mycall@arrl.net

Thanks!

Dennis C
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KG4RUL
Member

Posts: 2752


WWW

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« Reply #24 on: September 04, 2011, 07:32:43 PM »

Dennis Z,

Wow, I really like the idea of the form that fits the ARC website.

Can you send me that example so I can see if we can use it here.

mycall@arrl.net

Thanks!

Dennis C

I posted the files to my website:

http://www.kg4rul.info/SafeandWell.pdf
http://www.kg4rul.info/SafeandWellInstructions.pdf
http://www.kg4rul.info/SafeandWellFormStateNumbers.pdf
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