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Author Topic: NBEMS, This should be the next EMCOMM digital operating system  (Read 18745 times)
HURRICAINE
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« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2013, 09:27:16 AM »

I'm a little confused.  Maybe it is just the dyslexic way that KF7VXA presents it, or his lack of experience with it.

What we are talking about here is FLDigi, not necessarily NBEMS - which is what it supports.

These digital modes are conducted on mainly 80 meters, since 80 meters is the only place where you can talk both near and far.

It's principal mode is Olivia 8-500 and it encompasses the use of different programs such as FlDigi, Flamp, Flarq, Flmsg, FlWrap, FLWkey.

Yes you do need a sound card.  At the very least you need a sound card in your computer to interpret what is being transmitted.  In a noisy environment such as a emergency shelter or a EOC - you would need to have a sound card or a Signalink direct connection between the radio and the computer.

FlDigi allows you to send complicated messages and to receive complicated messages, using error correction - if the message does not send properly, it can be resent multiple times until it is received - error correction......

Olivia will work at or near the noise floor, some signals are almost inperceiveable yet very copyable.  You do not use a lot of power when working digital modes since it is 100% modulation.

30 or 40 watts is all that you use.
Most crappy radios will quickly burn out their transmitters running a full 100% duty cycle for more then a couple of minutes.

The problem was that most people do not know how to send and receive a message in official ARRL format.  Most people do not participate in the phone and traffic nets.  Most people only has a Technician Class License, which does not allow them to work phone or digital modes on the HF other then 10 meters.

I would suggest that people visits the web site and reads a little more before they pass judgement on any of this because although KF7VXA seems to know a little about this, he is not an expert by any means.  Some of the analogy he gives is incorrect and this confusion will cause a lot of  unknowledgeable people to turn away from this kind of bad exposure.
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KB1QBZ
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« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2014, 08:19:00 AM »

One problem with NBEMS (and with a variety of other ham oriented EMCOMM things) is that they only solve part of the problem and have terrible integration with the rest of the incident handling system.

[snip]

Consider, a couple of practical examples: use cases, if you will.  Someone in one place needs to send a list of needed supplies to another place.  Typically, that list is on someone's laptop at a base of operations, and it needs to wind up on someone else's laptop or server somewhere else.   The other use case that hams like to talk about is "sending images".

Is the official going to hand the ham a printed out copy of the list, which the ham will then send via whatever means (read it aloud using FM or SSB, pounding brass with CW, typing via PSK31, sending via WinMor) to another ham.  That ham will then print it out, write it down, or otherwise get it into tangible form, and hand it to the receiving official, who will then type it, scan it, or otherwise get it into their computer system.

In the image sending case, we have the same problem: Ham image comm uses different architectures, image formats, and over the air modulation than everyone else.  Is the ham going to set up their image computer at the Incident Command Post and show the incident staff the screen? or print it out?   Compare this to the first responder taking a picture and sending it via MMS or email: it's going to wind up in the ICP network in a format that everyone knows about, seamlessly. 

The official folks aren't going to let the ham connect their laptop to their network: network security, viruses, etc. require an "air gap" between official systems and everything else. You're not going to able to put it on a USB thumb drive either (for the same security reasons).

[snip]


With NBEMS (or Winlink), that list is going to go computer-to-computer without being printed out and without being touched by human hands.

In the EOC I work with, it's true that they don't want us connecting our laptops to their network.  But they have no problem installing and maintaining Fldigi on their network computers - especially the computer that's been assigned to us in the EOC (connected to our rig via a Signalink).  If someone in the EOC wants to send a list, they drop the list as a text or CSV file into a shared folder on the network and then yell across the room "hey ham guy" (they think that's hysterically funny).  We just use the standard Fldigi/NBEMS functionality for inserting a file into an Fldigi/NBEMS transmission and out it goes.  When we receive a file over the air, we extract the received file from Fldigi and drop it into the shared folder -- and then walk across the room and quietly tell the intended recipient. 

The messages we handle are mostly in either ICS format or in formats specific to the NGOs we are serving (our primary mission is backup local communications between the EOC and various NGOs like Red Cross and Salvation Army, and also as backup local communications within and among those NGOs).

During Hurricane Irene and again during Hurricane Sandy, we handled regular status reporting between the EOC and the shelters during periods of internet outages.  They could have used cell/landline phones and voice, but the EOC likes the fact that we can seamlessly send/receive computer files to/from their software.  We also handled regular reporting from Red Cross shelter personnel to their local and regional management when internet was down.  Again, the comms could have been handled by cell/landline phone and voice, but again they liked the fact that we could seamlessly send/receive computer files in their standard formats.

Communications between the EOC and shelters was on 2 meters using FM and Fldigi/NBEMS.  Communications to Red Cross regional management was also 2 meters FM using Fldigi/NBEMS (the repeater that services the Red Cross regional office was working, but we were prepared to switch to 80/40m NVIS comms if necessary).

We've tested sending image files via MFSK but the files have to be pretty small and thus aren't of much value to the EOC (lack of resolution).  Doctrine around here is to conserve bandwidth/time and not send images unless high-speed internet is available.  However, I don't understand your comment about image formats, image architecture, etc.  The public service/first responder stuff the EOC has had us test is standard JPG files. 

Personally, I think that Winlink (especially Winlink P2P) has technical advantages over NBEMS for EMCOMM (especially its ability to handle non-text files, its compression, and its implementation of ARQ).  We've focused on NBEMS because it's easy to build bench-strength for the kinds of communications we are being asked to provide (a lot of sites with relatively limited amounts of traffic).  Bench strength is not difficult when you're asking people to use software that they already know how to use (Fldigi) with gear that they already own/know how to use (Signalink/RIGBlaster).   It's a lot more difficult when you ask them to buy TNCs and Pactor modems.

Jon, WB2RYV
(formerly KB1QBZ, but who hasn't been able to figure out how to change his eHam userID)
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HURRICAINE
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2014, 07:32:27 AM »

Fine business Jon,

The key is for the county EC to deploy the people before the situation becomes critical.
If you wait until a situation is a disaster, the people willing to help is in no better of a situation to travel to the area where they are needed then the people that are in that area that are stranded.

I gave a talk to a local group two years ago about the importance of having real hams participate in these kinds of drills and I tried to get the police and firemen and the FEMA agent for the area licensed.

The response I got from each group was the same.
They felt that the county and the state provided them with radios and that the county could provide 100% reliable service - even in a disaster and that no outside help was needed.

The local municipality thought that in an emergency the FEMA agent and the firemen would man the emergency shelter FEMA set up for them in their community which was flood prone.

The FEMA agent was an ex marine and told them that he would check in on the shelter from time to time, but his main concern would be the people stranded on the back roads and that he would be out on the back roads looking for people that needed his help.

The firemen told the local mayor that in an emergency that they would be too busy helping the local people to be bothered to man the emergency shelter.

When I suggested that we buy a couple of antenna's and put them up and get a power supply for the radios and stick some coax though a hole in the wall so an operator could walk in the door, hook up his / her radio and operate, they are adamantly opposed to this.

About a month later when the county had their SET - Situational Emergency Test,  the police and fire did not participate.
When the group asked to use the Emergency Shelter to operate for the SET to see what kinds of problems they may have in a real emergency, the Mayor said that the hall was rented for that weekend for a wedding and that we needed to do it someplace else.

This is after the government invested $40,000 in improvements and a big Caterpillar Generator..

The very next storm was hurricane Sandy.  We were very fortunate that all it did was blow down a bunch of trees and all the telephone poles in the town.   They had no electric for about a week, which means they had no running water - because the towns water supply did not have an emergency generator.  They also did not have any sewage, because the sewage treatment plant relied on a emergency generator that ran for about a day and then ran out of fuel and there was no scheduled fuel delivery available and no way to get the truck to the site through the downed trees and power lines.

It taught those folks some important lesson.

Don't take money from the government unless you are willing to work with these people in a real emergency.

Don't think that when an emergency happens that the state, county, or local government or that it will only happen in only one place and that everyone will be available to run to your rescue.

 You might have to wait until they can get to you.

And, if you don't participate with the local groups when they practice for an emergency, don't expect things to work or work well when there is an actual emergency...
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KF7VXA
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« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2014, 01:34:54 PM »

To the one poster, I just used NBEMS as the overall description, there are of course many parts of it , NBEMS is not the program itself. If one looks NBEMS up, they will see all the parts of it and how it all works. My main reason for bringing it up was the ease of use, it will work with a computer with a sound card and a radio and of course, the programs being loaded into the computers ( a separate sound card is nice to have also). The programs can be kept on a memory stick and loaded into most computers when needed if people don't want the programs on their computers.
Putting out the info on an Emergency Communication site seems like a reasonable thing to do, this is where we discuss such things is it not ? If some get confused, then they can take the time to find out how it works, if it turns them off or away, maybe they are not all that interested to begin with. I know I sure like hearing about anything that makes it easier. NBEMS has been out for a while, but many are still not all that aware about how it works. What happens when they need to contact another group who uses it ?  To those with experience who have not been exposed to NBEMS, it just might spark their interest. Were it a bad system, I could see your point, but it's not. Do we just stay with all the old things or go to something that can be better in many cases?  Having NBEMS set up as well as a digital system that uses a TNC is a good idea.
We can't all be experts and know it all, but even you started somewhere.
 
And yes, I am dyslexic since you mentioned it.

The problem is getting other agencies on the same page, but it can still be used internally and with other agencies who use it. Having a TNC(s) and other digital systems is a must also.
The ease of operation and training make it a viable program.

I very much agree with the last post. Getting the paid emergency responders on board is the hard part. They are so sure their trunked system will work without any hitches, but that's why we should do our best to be trained, have the equipment and be available in the case of an emergency so when their system become overloaded or fails, we can be there to get things done.
Our little county is slowly but surely getting the idea and we are lucky to have a good Emergency Coordinator who realizes the importance of Amateur radio. The hard part is getting good people who will be there and hold drills. One very good thing is that we have a large LDS church population in the area and they are taking it seriously. They have some very good people and some who don't know much. They have broken their nets into smaller areas for check in and then are doing training for all areas after the smaller nets are done every week. Not perfect, but they are working hard to make their EMCOMMS as good as possible and will work with and have been with other EMCOMM groups, many do duel duty. This is something that other areas who have similar groups could do.
I'm not LDS, but have been asked to help in my area, which I have been doing. I think there would be very good cooperation in a real emergency.
They are even getting as many church members who really show interest trained and licensed as possible and holding testing sessions, they are serious. They realize that it's far better to have less in numbers, but well trained people than a lot of people with HT's and an extra battery. This is why they are doing weekly training on their main net. The one's who don't care to get a license but want a way to communicate are using GMRS in their local areas. They are pretty much just letting them do their thing, but I do give them some credit as they have a well run net every week. Our EC and my shack have equipment so we can communicate with them. We even have CB even though I hate it, it's there if needed.
I only wish the public in general had as many serious people as the LDS Church do.

I don't claim to know it all, but do all I can to learn and work with our EC every week to help get our county system the best it can be as well as getting my home station to be the best it can be with the money I have to work with.

We had an exercise a few months ago with Fire Depts from counties from the area and they found out that some of them still could not talk with each other. Makes me wonder what they did with all the money Homeland Security handed out to all the counties. They were darn impressed with our EMCOMM van and the one piece of equipment that we have that can take a HT from each agency, plug them all in and have them be able to all communicate, none of the other counties had anything like that. Our money was well spent on equipment for the Public agencies and amateur equipment. Our EC is great at finding and getting grants also.

The only thing we can do is to each do our best and try to find good people and keep them interested with good training and have some fun in the process.

73's John KF7VXA

The problem is and always will be having enough well trained people. That's up to us to do our best to find those people and keep them interested. When a program starts off strong and pretty soon peeters out, people quickly lose interest, it has to be on going and interesting, otherwise it falls apart.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 01:55:08 PM by KF7VXA » Logged
LA9XSA
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« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2014, 04:52:56 PM »

Thanks, KF7VXA and WB2RYV, very interesting posts.

-Following changes over the years, Part 97 presently has five points justifying Amateur radio.  Non-commercial communications is only one point, 20%, of those five items, and emergency communications is only part of that, i.e. less than 20% of our reason for existence.
My first response in this tread pointed out that emcomm isn't the sole purpose of amateur radio, but while most of your post is insightful your percentage calculation is off target: Those five reasons for the existence of amateur radio are actually overlapping points. For example, having a reservoir of trained operators and experts is both in support of emcomm and in support of advancing the technical progress of the radio art. Providing emergency communications for disasters in foreign countries helps promote international goodwill, as does DX and contests. Advancing skills supports all the other four principles.

If you want a percentage weighting of the benefits of amateur radio, be it benefits to science education, domestic tech industry, emcomm or international good will, it would be better to base that on surveys of voters or Congress. I'm sure the ARRL's lobby people have such data, but they might be confidential.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2014, 04:55:51 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
KF7VXA
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« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2014, 08:33:11 AM »

One problem with NBEMS (and with a variety of other ham oriented EMCOMM things) is that they only solve part of the problem and have terrible integration with the rest of the incident handling system.

The problem that hams seem to be solving is communication, but modern incident management systems (exemplified by the National Incident Management System - NIMS, which pretty much everybody in the disaster response biz is following in one way or another) rely on integrated communications, and the ham solutions are not integrated: they provide comms between ham end points.   So there's a gap between "official" system and "ham" system that has to be overcome, typically by manual means.

An official system is going to follow standards like P25, MIL-STD-188, use ALE, etc.  Heck, most of them will just plug their laptop into a satmodem of some sort.

Consider, a couple of practical examples: use cases, if you will.  Someone in one place needs to send a list of needed supplies to another place.  Typically, that list is on someone's laptop at a base of operations, and it needs to wind up on someone else's laptop or server somewhere else.   The other use case that hams like to talk about is "sending images".

Is the official going to hand the ham a printed out copy of the list, which the ham will then send via whatever means (read it aloud using FM or SSB, pounding brass with CW, typing via PSK31, sending via WinMor) to another ham.  That ham will then print it out, write it down, or otherwise get it into tangible form, and hand it to the receiving official, who will then type it, scan it, or otherwise get it into their computer system.

In the image sending case, we have the same problem: Ham image comm uses different architectures, image formats, and over the air modulation than everyone else.  Is the ham going to set up their image computer at the Incident Command Post and show the incident staff the screen? or print it out?   Compare this to the first responder taking a picture and sending it via MMS or email: it's going to wind up in the ICP network in a format that everyone knows about, seamlessly. 

The official folks aren't going to let the ham connect their laptop to their network: network security, viruses, etc. require an "air gap" between official systems and everything else. You're not going to able to put it on a USB thumb drive either (for the same security reasons).

The officials probably aren't going to be sitting down at the ham's computer or rig directly, either: they don't have the training, nor expertise to operate a ham rig, and they've got their own equipment to train on.

So it's not clear what "communications" capability hams bring to the party that isn't already there.  In the "pre-cellphone" days, hams would work public service events, carrying their HTs and shadowing event officials to provide a message passing capability.  Today, all those officials just use their cellphones and text or call.  Look at the example of the Rose Parade: the cellphone providers came in and said: hey we'll give you hundreds of free phones with walkie-talkie like capabilities for the parade, and the ToR folks said, you bet, that sounds grand: TORRA (Tournament of Roses Radio Amateurs), thanks for your long service, but you're unneeded now.

My own opinion is that what hams bring to the party is technical expertise and skill with improvisation, not so much actual operating skills and method.  Hams are the ones who will climb the tree with the 20dBi gain WiFi antenna to try and point it to the other command post, and who actually know enough about RF to try to make it work on a "bounce" path to get around an obstacle. Hams are the ones who know what coax looks like, and can be trusted to route it intelligently.  Hams usually know which end of the soldering iron gets hot, and can figure out how to chop off the connectors on two cables and make an adapter.


You bring up many good points. Much does depend on the nature of an emergency as well as location and the size of the incident.
I'm in rural Idaho. If something happens, I really don't expect to see Uncle in my area for a while and even then, being spread out as we are, not as many resources in any one place. Much different that living in or near New York or any other big city.
There is quite a difference in what is used and how it's used depending on where you live in the USA.
Rural America is much more on it's own. This is where a bunch of counties that work with each other in an emergency could be well served to all use the same method of communication.
I may not have made it clear enough about being rural. That aside, the collection of operating modes included in NBEMS can be used anywhere.
I'm just very pleased with how well all the parts work so well with each other when set up right and the ease of use is the iceing on the cake.
It's far easier to train a small group of Hams in a local Hospital (think small) as we have to use the different parts of the NBEMS system than some of the other digital operating methods.

With all the technology the Government has, it's not the same as 20 years ago or even less when Amateur radio would have been used far more than it might be today. There still is a place for Amateur radio and will be for many years to come, it's just the scale of what we may be asked to do may be less.
Of course all of this depends on how much or if any military assets and 3 or 4 letter agency's are anywhere near you at the time of an emergency.

Government grants have done a lot to help equip rural emergency centers, but between the government and a rural county, it still is for the most part a modified Ham radio, able to transmit on a couple frequency's that regular Hams cannot use. We still have to deal with all the things any HF ham operator has to deal with to get a message through.

This is why I want a system that a group of nearby counties can agree on that work well in an emergency, with no grid power, phones or cell phones. We are going to have to be there for each other until we get Federal help. Looking at some other major disasters, we may be on our own for a while, even after they arrive.
I tend to trust my local Emergency Responders more than any non local government employee. Locals have much more invested than outsiders do.  A Country Boy Will Survive.

73's John KF7VXA
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KF7VXA
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« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2014, 06:15:47 PM »

I just read a new Homeland Security book on emergency communications, printed in 2013 (http://www.publicsafetytools.info/auxfog/start_auxfog_info.php) and the only digital mode recommended were the modes used in the NBEMS group of digital programs FLdigi etc. No mention of TNC and the older modes.
The major players are all going NBEMS. This is why I recommend that emergency nets, groups, EOC's go with the NBEMS programs. When all are on the same page, it makes emergency communications much faster, stops confusion and training goes much faster.
All of that aside, it works and works well.
I still have a TNC and use it to communicate with a group of friends, but we all also have the NBEMS programs loaded and ready to use. I'm sure someday soon, we will put the TNC's away in the old equipment pile or find another use for them. Today would be just fine for me.


73's John

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N0WJH
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« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2014, 02:44:03 PM »

here is  tought take a page from the phone book lets call it  a list of people at a shelter
next list some rx and overthe counter meds say a page full bandaids gauges ect for fun a lot of numbers so many asprin so many tablets of ....so many ah tyneol in diffent doses so many you get the idea
one page goes to ssb /fm guy other to cw guy both go to nbems guy they need this info sent fast to the state headquaters ....
hmm,,, nbems guy scans pages chooses format red cross arrl ics form or a dozen others program fills in the  form files copy on computer basicly sends with forward error correction ...goes back to nap  basicly we have it is is free it is good no it is great
every mode  possiable.. but  sstv even  decodes morse ...logs and has a callsign lookup it is called  fldigi even works holding mike to speaker ....all this was sent by the nbems guy he just got done ..
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KF7VXA
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« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2014, 03:06:01 PM »

here is  tought take a page from the phone book lets call it  a list of people at a shelter
next list some rx and overthe counter meds say a page full bandaids gauges ect for fun a lot of numbers so many asprin so many tablets of ....so many ah tyneol in diffent doses so many you get the idea
one page goes to ssb /fm guy other to cw guy both go to nbems guy they need this info sent fast to the state headquaters ....
hmm,,, nbems guy scans pages chooses format red cross arrl ics form or a dozen others program fills in the  form files copy on computer basicly sends with forward error correction ...goes back to nap  basicly we have it is is free it is good no it is great
every mode  possiable.. but  sstv even  decodes morse ...logs and has a callsign lookup it is called  fldigi even works holding mike to speaker ....all this was sent by the nbems guy he just got done ..

WHAT HuhHuhHuhHuhHuhHuh
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W1JKA
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« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2014, 03:19:34 PM »

Re: KF7VXA

WHAT Huh,  I think you really mean WTF ?
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KF7VXA
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« Reply #25 on: March 19, 2014, 04:11:20 PM »

Yes, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I meant.

I could have worded my post better, The NBEMS system using FLdigi has really taken off and many new things are being added.
My post was made to make people think about it, learn about it and then start training and using it.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of Comms.
This method is easy to train and remember, especially for people who don't use it much. If one prints out the short training on the Western Pennsylvania Ares site, just about anyone who had prior training will remember how to use it.

The other reason to use it is that it works and requires a minimum of equipment. I pointed out that one did not even need a sound card just as a way to show how little was needed in a pinch. I really would much prefer to have a separate sound card.

People tend to want to pick apart a post sometimes and I'll take some responsibility for that, but don't let that keep you from checking into NBEMS. When everyone is on the same page, it makes things so much easier.
In an emergency, our job is to get the information where it needs to go as fast as possible and 100% accurate. This system makes this all very easy to do. The post was not to instruct one how it all works, many already know and if you don't, just maybe it will give you a reason to look into it. Any thinking person can easily see the advantages it offers. The politics in the EOC, that's something you have to handle.

Will it work 100% every time it is used and is it perfect for every situation Huh NO, but neither does or is any other method. Used correctly as designed, it should get the job done almost every time if people only take the time to learn how to use it and how and why it works.

I have some people in our small local hospital who have their Tech license trained on how to use NBEMS as well as the training book at the radio. I know all of them can make NBEMS work as they have all done it. I don't think I could say the same for a packet system, even with a book, it would still slow them down, they are not radio people. They do have two radios, one for phone, the other set up as to frequencies and power levels, computer with printer dedicated just to NBEMS.

73's John
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 04:21:38 PM by KF7VXA » Logged
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