March 07, 2015

NBEMS connects Hams in Emergencies

Software for emergencies
Emergencies breed chaos. Planning helps to minimize it. Let's face it, chaos and confusion will always be a part of emergencies, but knowing what tools to will use and being familiar with how they work can go along way to reducing the stress and urgency of responding to sudden situations. Recently, at a club meeting, I was giving a brief overview of how we might respond in an upcoming emergency drill. One of the hams in the room admitted, my overview when right over his head. I'm certain he wasn't alone. Now is the best time to learn.

So when an emergency happens, what tools will you use? Part of the joy of ham radio is the fact that it is such a varied and diverse hobby. There are dozens of modes, hundreds of radios, and an infinite number of frequencies to use. How will anyone ever communicate with anyone else?  That's where NBEMS steps in.

The Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (or NBEMS) is a suite of software that connects hams in emergency situations. It provides a single set of programs and operating concepts that can unify a group of hams. NBEMS is based upon the idea of keeping the things cheap, using simple,

March 02, 2015

Winlink Packet Gateway Up at OEM

A new packet station is up and running at the Rusk County Office of Emergency Management, providing a Winlink gateway for local amateurs. The station is designated as W5CWT-10 and can be reached on 145.07 MHz.

The station is using the OEM's Icom V8000 radio at about 70 watts, connected to a large onmi-directional antenna above the building. KN5G was able to work the station from a little less than six miles away. Additional reports would be helpful in determining actual coverage area.

Although the station can be used as a digipeater, its primary function is to provide a local packet gateway to the Winlink system. Winlink is a volunteer-supported network of email servers located around the world. Access to the servers is provided by thousands of VHF and HF "gateway" stations.

HF gateways typically use the "Pactor" protocol or a similar open-source protocol called "Winmor." VHF station generally use packet the protocol. Radio amateurs can log into the system via a gateway and send or receive email messages, including ones to or from regular, non-amateur radio internet users.

To use the system, an amateur needs a radio, a computer and an interface to connect the two. In the past, a physical "TNC" or radio modem was required to act as an interface between the user's radio