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Author Topic: The ongoing push of Ham Radio to EMCOMM  (Read 98221 times)
KB8VUL
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Posts: 136




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« Reply #135 on: April 11, 2013, 08:13:35 PM »

Gee so much to reply to.

First off, trying to make the case based on solar storms bringing down systems, while plausible, is not valid at least in my case.  The systems I am talking about are 800Mhz.  Anything that is going to affect communications in that high a frequency will tear the hell out of any frequency below it.  So while I agree that it could indeed happen, good luck communicating on 2 meters.

Second, we are not talking about one system in my case.  We are talking about 3 separate systems, with different sites, different controllers, different linking.  And as I was standing at one site, dealing with a power outage at it (it was on batteries, I realized it's not 3 systems, it's actually 4 systems that could provide coverage.  So it would be VERY hard for a bug to affect all 4 systems at the same time, in the same manner.  Next issue is that, again, we are not talking about some hammie repeater system that has a controller that is based on Windows 98 that is directly connected to the internet.  These are all closed systems.  They operate independently of each other, and NONE are connected to the Internet for obvious reasons.  While the newest systems are run off custom software that resides on a Windows box, the Windows box can completely fail and the system will keep running.  There are some obvious short comings to operation, but the communications will continue. 
Since the system is not connected to the Internet, neither are the subscribers, so again, no path for attack.  Radios again are not running Windows of some such nonsense, they are firmware driven.  Firmware that can't be modified over the air in any way.  So back to the 40000 radios.  That's forty thousand, would all need to be modified with this failure prone bug.  To do so means you would need to have physical access to the radios, the software, and the time to plant the bug in that many radios.  So while I see your argument, it doesn't hold water.  And if this super bug were to even exist, and could modify the firmware of a radio over the air, with the fact that there are radios that operate in both the public safety and ham bands, how does it affect just the public safety radios and have zero impact on the hammie stuff?
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KB8VUL
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Posts: 136




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« Reply #136 on: April 11, 2013, 08:54:26 PM »

As I am sitting here thinking on this, I have come to a conclusion.  And I suppose it's not really coming to a conclusion, because I figured it out years ago and it still holds true.  Every so often it rears its head in ham radio showing that it's still in full effect.  That being that hams seem to not only stick to but only understand old ways of doing things.  The dropping of the code requirement was my first experience with it as I have only been licensed for 19 years.  All the old farts screamed that ham radio would fail because the no code people would ruin it.  Ham had always had a code requirement and damn it, it should remain.  Well, had it not gone away, ham radio would be taking it's last breath by now.  99.9% of the time, I can pick up either my cell phone or my home phone and make a call.  No code knowledge needed.  All I know of code is it's beeps.  Short ones and long ones, but beeps... and it's not the beat all end all that it was either.  Sure it will talk farther than AM, FM of SSB, but some of the digital modes are proven to work when the signal level is IN the noise floor, not above it.  Can CW be copied in the noise floor, sure, if both ends of the communication are talking place with seasoned operators that can hear the changes in the noise floor and copy the code.  If not, it's a one way affair.  Digital modes require more hardware, but they are more reliable period.  

So, we get to the next argument for emcomm.  And it's based loosely on the idea that hams can change frequency and operate simplex.  News flash, 2 meters is just below the VHF public safety band, 440 - 450 butts up to the 450-470 public safety band.  900 is above 800, 6 meters is 20 up from VHF low band.  Now, back in the day, prior to the idea of interoperability being important, you would have department A on VHF, neighboring department B on UHF and the other close dept on an 800 trunked system.  Then 9-11 happened, and interoperability became the key work for tons of government funds.  Dept A, B, and C got together with their local LEOS and got money to install trunked radio systems that cover all 3 counties, in building, and all surrounding areas with mobile coverage as well.  The radios were all setup with not only repeater access, and common talk groups, but common simplex channels as well for any and all sorts of things.  Fire TAC's Police TAC's and even Fire-Police TACs in suring that no matter what, if you could put your hands on a radio, you could talk to everyone you needed to.  If they weren't answering it meant they were dead.  So, what do we bring to that table?  A VFO, so what, just like at the local ARES meetings, the professionals, nd highly paid consultants sat down and devised a channel plan taking every possible situation into account.  They planned and trained and tested their solutions, and came to template to program radios so that they wouldn't need VFO's becasue they didn't  have them to begin with.  The ARES guys do the same thing.  Calling is on freq X for VHF and Freq Y for UHF.  Site ops are done on this or that freq, and it's all planned out.  They all ran home and programmed their go bag radios frantically waiting for their activation call that never comes.  

Here's the point.  As hams, we have no trunking, we have no encryption, our repeaters a large majority of the time are either housed in the same building as the public safety stuff, or are less reliable than the public safety counterpart missing key things like generators, coverage area, and a host of other things.  We didn't narrow band with public safety to make better use of our allotted spectrum.  We buy junk radios because they are cheap, adding to the overall lack of reliability to our communications. When we attempt to do something in line with the public safety types like digital modulation or DMR (MOTOTRBO, NXTEDGE and similar) we scream that it's some sort of encryption because it can't be heard by our old ass crystal scanners.  Part of ham radio is the futherment of communications technology, but as people do anything similar to that, they get driven back by do gooder hams that stick to ancient technology because it isn't compatible with their old tube rigs.


So we effectively bring NOTHING to the table that public safety doesn't already have. 
« Last Edit: April 11, 2013, 08:58:26 PM by KB8VUL » Logged
W7ASA
Member

Posts: 268




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« Reply #137 on: April 11, 2013, 10:21:19 PM »

This is a global forum.  Your blanket statements from your very narrow slice of Ohio (or wherever) where you pontificate about how ham is not useful for EMCOMM for the rest of the real world is short-sighted at best.  

Opinions are common, thoughts from a reasonable person are food for thought.   However, actual events clearly demonstrate that your most recent all-or-nothing / blanket statement that ham radio and ham radio operators can bring nothing to pubic service which is not already there is not really supportable.  You clearly know that hams around the globe routinely serve when the standard communications service sector employees and their appliances (good or bad) are overwhelmed and/or prove to be insufficient for the needs & etc.  This happens regularly in hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and more around the world for both governments and major NGOs. Hams assist and oftimes are the ONLY information source into and out of ravaged regions until government and NGO resources can be mobilized, inserted and activated in the troubled areas. Their (govt & NGO) deployments are often initially coordinated with ham radio operators in the region of the disturbance. As you know, the more widespread the damage, the longer that any governmental asistance will require to help anyone. // Thus reinforcing my experience that politicians are generally slow to serve, but quick to steal.  ;^)  //

Those of us who do help are growing weary of hearing those who won't even try, telling us that we can't.


73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._


« Last Edit: April 11, 2013, 10:41:14 PM by W7ASA » Logged
K1CJS
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Posts: 6061




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« Reply #138 on: April 12, 2013, 04:32:15 AM »

This may be a global forum, Ray, but better than 90 percent of the posts are by hams in the US.  Ham radio can indeed bring something to the table in area that are not over-served by modern communications systems, and that DOES include some areas in the good 'ol US of A.

I agree that, no matter where there is always something that can be 'brought to the table' by hams, whether it be because of a comm blackout (as happened in NYC on 9-11) or not.  For example, there is always--ALWAYS--health and welfare messages to be passed in most emergency situations.  I know that I'm just agreeing with you so far, but.....

I believe that the REAL reason that there is so much squabbling about ham radio being included is that some hams want to be included in the official chain of communications whether or not there is a need for them to be so included!  Most of the time when ham radio is the only means of comms, the involvement of hams is to get the equipment into place where it is needed to get the official communications lines open again and to substitute for it until the official lines are once again going.  Most of the longer time hams who have done public service realize this, and are saying that that is where ham radio involvement for official traffic should end--and they are right!  The squabbling comes into play when those who believe what I've just related start butting heads with those who believe that ham involvement should continue until the emergency is declared over and done with.  It's too bad that the reworked regs (that include interoperability) seem to agree with them.

The way I see it, THAT is the crux of the matter and the only point of contention between the two groups.  The way that the reworked communications regulations with ham radio being included (the interoperability ideas) is being interpreted is the one and only cause of the squabbling.  The regs were purposefully left vague because the people who wrote them did not really know what they were trying to say or do.  Those people have probably never picked up a mike or passed a message in any form in their lives.  I believe that if those regs were to be tightened up and the exact role of ham radio were to be specified, the arguments and the infighting would gradually disappear, since then we would then know exactly what was expected of us, and the regs would plainly state where we should not try to stick our noses in.  73!

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W7ASA
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Posts: 268




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« Reply #139 on: April 12, 2013, 09:16:08 AM »

CJS - That was well stated.

I'll keep this brief (rather than my USUAL manner - ha ha)

As you pointed out, the matter of whether or not what hams can do is needful, is absolutely the key point.  If we are not needed, then let's keep out of the way. 

If we are needed, but the bureaucrats will not admit or simply don't know it, that's a bit more difficult, but we hams cannot win a political decision like that. We'd better get used to that fact and either work through an NGO's or local neighbors . We have no 'throw weight' in political decisions.

I am fortunate to live in an area that is not badge heavy; the county and NGO's are pleased to have communications volunteers in place BEFORE needed. 

I appreciated your thoughtful post.


73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._
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KB8VUL
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Posts: 136




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« Reply #140 on: April 19, 2013, 05:02:11 PM »

Well, you bring up something that isn't been addressed, and is probably the most complex part of EmComm for hams.  That being the served agencies actually asking for assistance.  That is something that is going to be difficult if not impossible to address for one reason, Unions.  I have seen this first hand while involved in CERT.  The CERT director was an ex-firefighter.  She clearly stated that at no time would the CERT group preform ANY function that would cut into a union members duties.  Meaning that the served agencies would need to have all their staff involved in an incident before we would become involved to not cut into their overtime pay.  Now that being said, you can believe that as the safety planners and communications directors sit around the table creating disaster preparedness plans they are fully aware that the union will come down hard if they bring in ANY non-union, let alone non-paid personnel cutting public employee union members out of their overtime.  They will pay overtime to an employee to drive from fire station to fire station to pass messages and information before  they allow ham operators to man the fire stations to pass traffic on non-public safety channels and do so without being paid.  Of course we can't as hams EVER be paid, compensated or even given a free lunch legally.

 Disaster plans are public knowledge for the most part, for the minute that volunteer radio operator gets into any of them, where less qualified public employee could be paid overtime to fill that spot, it will hit the fan.  And as union employees, they have every right to demand those assignments.  Sure, the Red Cross needs the hams from time to time.  But if anyone ever bothered to look at the national FCC licenses for the Red Cross, and other public safety interoperability assignments, you would find that it's all covered at a national level and the only thing they need to do is program their radios and they will have communications during a system blackout.  Red Cross has about as  many licensed frequencies as the military.  And they literally have warehouses full of radios to operate on those frequencies.  You have to remember that a FCC commercial license is different in that who ever the license holder is has the right to authorize any person to operate on those frequencies.  We can't do that.  So the Red Cross could establish a shelter, ask for a volunteer to operate the radios, set them down, and have them talk.  It's just that simple.  No need to set there and for them to be babysit by a control operator that is the license holder as with ham radio. 

My take is that we need to redefine ARES.  I will say that the local ARES groups do some public service stuff, and do a bang up job.  Bike races, large venue events, Sporting events and more.  I would personally like to see more of that and less of the light bar crowd with the go bags.  It's a more reasonable set of expectations.  It's easier to prepare for.  And it shines a better light on the amateur radio community than Joe Wacker with his lettered up Crown Vic and light show. 
 
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K1CJS
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« Reply #141 on: April 20, 2013, 11:01:03 AM »

You may well have a point, Keith.  In a non-disaster situation, you may well be right.  But when a disaster situation unfolds, the thought of unions standing in the way of expedited communications is somewhat absurd.  Expedited communication may well save the lives--or the livelihoods--of those same union members.  The union official who may raise such a point would be taken care of in short order--by the union members.  After all, what is more important, collecting a little more pay--or being able to collect pay at all?
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KB8VUL
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Posts: 136




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« Reply #142 on: April 20, 2013, 09:11:27 PM »

What I am getting at is ham radio even showing up in a disaster plan.  I realize that a disaster plan is more of a guideline than a carved in stone set of rules of how things are to go. With differing situations come differing needs.  But if ham radio can meet those needs, yet the planners haven't created the inclusion of ham radio in the plan, there will be no radio in the plan. 

More than that, while a plan is a guideline in an actual disaster, training is something different.  Training goes specifically by the plan, to the letter.  If the plan is broken, they realize it during the training and fix the plan.  Does ham radio enter into the plan at that point.  It really depends.  If they brought in hams to assist and the planners find the assistance helpful and it fills a need, then yes.  If the lightbar crowd shows up strapped down like Poncho Via with HT radios demanding they take over all communications of some other silliness, then they ain't gonna end up in the plan.  The planners will address the training shortcomings in other ways.  It may require money, it might be as simple as the radio service person does some programming.

We all are aware of the tragic events in West, Texas.  A friend of mine who is a fire chief out there had experience with the different responding department using the FEMA VHF and UHF dedicated TAC channels.  Interoperability was achieved and things went well because all the departments had their radios programmed to those simplex channels and operations were directed to those channels. 

So, while I see what you are saying about the union thing vs the actual disaster situation. You are right in your point that in a real situation, the union thing does go by the wayside.  But, if Incident Command has no idea that he can even enlist the assistance of ham operators, or how to get them to assist, then they will still be left out.
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KD8GTP
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« Reply #143 on: April 21, 2013, 08:10:23 AM »

I have said it before.  Ham radio is just a hobby, nothing more.  And those of you who try to make more of it with your whacker mentality pull the rest of us legit hobbyists down. ARES/Skywarn or whatever name you give yourselves can easily be replaced by a Boy Scout group with WalMart walkie talkies.
Zero tolerance for you whackers in my neck of the woods Smiley

GOD Bless
Bart
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K1CJS
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Posts: 6061




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« Reply #144 on: April 21, 2013, 11:45:04 AM »

It's too bad, 'GTP, that more people can't remember that ham radio IS a hobby.  But I have to disagree with your other premise.  Weather spotters do do some good, and usually they are only out and reporting during severe weather.  If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have--in some cases--advance warning of potentially destructive weather in some areas.  Of course, orange vests, flashing lights and vehicles that look like porcupines lend NO credibility at all to our activities, and I agree with you there about the 'whacker' mentality.
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W7ASA
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« Reply #145 on: April 21, 2013, 12:26:43 PM »

This is a great discussion. I've learned much from K8VUL's postings as well as K1CJS and the others.  Because the ideas here are often different & the concerns  which some hams / pros have had direct contact with in their regions seem almost 'foreign' here in my rural location, that makes it very good food for thought. While we in this discussion may disagree with each other's conclusions, the discussion itself is very good. Our volunteer communications team here enjoys a very close relationship with county emergency services, so VUL's posting about the union angle / volunteers -v- union wage never (and I mean NEVER) entered my mind. I am SO glad that we don't have that problem. That must be a very tough impediment to planning.

OTOH - I'm grateful that I've never seen those wanna-be guys with light bars and tactical vests, spare batteries in magazine pouches and maybe some face paint.   Grin   ( I take that back - I once saw a 19 year old in Colorado during Y2K, who had "ARES" magnetic signs and orange lights on his mother's car... :^)  but that was only one young zealot in 13 years.

Seriously:  Are you fellows out there seeing many hams like this?  //Maybe a new topic can be generated "Whacker Sightings"  ??     Shocked



73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._

 

GTP DE ASA

BT

You're probably just a lonely guy looking for attention.  OK - you had it.
 
Words mean things.  Most people believe that if they can genuinely help someone in a disaster, that they should.  Evidently, so does the FCC, though they do not force us to do so.   They call it: Part 97 - The Amateur Radio Service .  Just because we enjoy it, does not mean that it's not a powerful tool when used properly.

BT
AR SK  
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 01:08:00 PM by W7ASA » Logged
KD8GTP
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« Reply #146 on: April 21, 2013, 04:34:15 PM »

There is a site for reporting whacker sightings, www.hamsexy.com.  These guys have dedicated their lives to the tracking and reporting of you whackers.  Check out their site, you might even see a pic of yourself or your emergency response vehicle parked at your local WalMart Smiley

GB
Bart
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W7ASA
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« Reply #147 on: April 21, 2013, 05:25:40 PM »

Oh man!  It sounds like an RF version of "The People of WalMart". Evidently, I'm just fortunate in not having to deal with that sort of thing.


73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #148 on: April 29, 2013, 08:24:08 PM »

Well, I probably should have posted my last comment in here but here's a link.

http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,88933.0.html

If people would back up and really look at the point of it, as far as volunteer fire depts using ham radio (which none are of course).  I think that you might see what I am getting at or at least the basis for my opinion on the whole thing.
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GILGSN
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« Reply #149 on: May 02, 2013, 10:43:56 AM »

Emergency communications is also not just about helping government agencies. It's about getting information on the situation and potentially helping others outside of the official channels. I can't go to a police officer and have him relay a message to my relatives telling them that tornado that just went through did not kill me. He has other things to do.. Do I trust the media to update me on a developing situation coming my way? I don't think so... My friends know I can get messages out no matter what, that's emergency radio.

A note about CW for emergencies: My whole HF station fits in one cargo pant pocket. That includes the radio, antenna, key, battery, earphones, notepad and pen. No digital or voice radio can do that, period. My 2m HT is actually heavier! Most emergencies, you'll be operating in a cozy temperature controlled environment.. Then you can have all your toys around and a big generator to power it all. The day you have to carry the stuff on foot, you'll be happy to have a small CW rig..

In some parts of the world, there are no local agencies to help or communicate with... Actually, even in the U.S. some remote areas are pretty isolated. The tools and methods then are different.

IMHO, the worst the emergency, the more Ham radio can help... In small events, it could even be a hindrance, or at least ineffective. As the seriousness of a situation increases, Ham radio becomes more useful, not only to officials, but more importantly, directly to the community. The main problem I see in emergency communications with Ham radio is that most of that fancy equipment will probably stop working before it would be direly needed, when the generators run out of gas or the batteries run out, or God forbid, if either need to relocated via human power. I am not sure enough emphasis is placed on portability and field operations. Field day? Yeah, nice effort, but, really..? A large number of Ham operators are not even in good enough shape to do little more than sit..

The last storm we had around here, the local 2m repeater was bustling with activity and regular weather reports, I mean, every five minutes! It made me chuckle.. I applaud the guys who spot tornadoes, that is a great service to the community (here a good example of when Ham radio is very useful), but unless there is a tornado, or a storm even worth mentioning, there is no need to get into emergency mode! Not to mention the local nets asking anyone if they have emergency traffic... As if they don't own a phone. And by the way, if I have an emergency, I'm not going to wait for the evening net to call it in on 2m!

Official relief agencies are now mostly well equipped. Except for rural areas, they don't need Ham radio for manageable situations. The Ham radio motto is "When Everything Else Fails." but it seems to me that's not what people are preparing for...

Gil.
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