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[aprssig] APRS USE IN EMERGENCIES

David Dobbins ddobbins at gmail.com
Sat Mar 12 18:30:10 UTC 2011


I've been helping the Hawaii State RACES/EOC at Diamond Head with their APRS
station. It was working fine last month, then they began a console revision
and re-installation, including display of the APRS maps from
UI-View/Precision Maps onto two 42" displays. Having a similar 42" display
here at the house, I know it's GREAT when it's BIG. We managed the firewall
passthrough after some lengthy discussion and had the station back up, on
TCPIP, just a day before the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami that
impacted the Hawaiian Islands (and eventually most of west coast of North
America). They are still working on the RF portion of the station, and will
have the radio remoted to a nearby mountain top, with control via
Ethernet-to-serial adapters. When completed, it should serve the people of
Hawaii with a pretty good APRS system for tracking and communicating
important information (club meetings, nets, IRLP and ECHOLINK nodes, etc).

My thoughts, as I helped develop the NWAPRS that covers WA, ID, MT, OR, AB,
BC, and NWT was to take APRS past the usual "hams tracking hams" and start
using more of the communications capabilities (as mentioned above) with an
APRS presence in each state, province, county, regional or municipal
district EOC, and then help make sure there are several trained operators to
use the equipment when called upon to do so. We haven't made very good
progress with the organization installations or trained operators by my
account, but perhaps that's because we haven't been challenged with the need
to do so. I think we may all agree that eventually we will have that
challenge. I'm hoping that APRS will be part of the solution when handling
the emergency situation.

In the case of the Hawaii tsunami's yesterday, the one person most familiar
with the APRS UI-View installation was very busy, but mostly with other
"stuff" as the EOC manned up and commenced their tsunami protocols. Since
I've been helping them, I have one station dedicated to the Hawaii TCPIP
picture on this laptop. There are typically 15-20 stations on the air at any
one time in the Islands, with a concentration on Oahu obviously, a few on
Maui, and just 1-2 on Kauai and the Big Island. Knowing the EOC was busy, I
took the news reports I was getting from national news and Hawaii news web
sites and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and started entering them into
APRS, with the objects showing on the map at the EOC and wherever else a
station with a feed to/from the APRS-IS. I also connected via IRLP to
Reflector 9254 in Hawaii to listen for local reports of wave action or other
activity suitable for plotting onto APRS. I plotted several wave arrivals on
the islands, and also the announcement that Maui Intl Airport (OGG) had been
closed. Whether this info was of use to anyone I don't know, but hope it
was. I later deleted the objects from APRS as the situation changed, and
eventually calmed down.

My revelation for this "exercise" that with IRLP, Echolink, internet news,
local reporting, one or more persons OUTSIDE the affected area can impact
emergency operations within the affected area, and help them with a
"picture" of where and what is happening. This reinforced some thoughts I
had years ago when I helped with a SET on Oahu, injecting the script the EOC
had developed, into APRS. When the EOC Director made his rounds and ended up
at my APRS station, he remained there because the display "painted" him a
picture he could easily digest, rather than looking through a pile of paper
notes.

So, APRS folks, remember you can still help in an emergency even if you are
far removed from it, from within some safety zone, and I encourage everyone
to know how to place objects on the map using whatever source of information
you can get your hands on.

Of course I would have preferred to be in Hawaii yesterday, or any day, and
prepared to respond to the EOC to help out in whatever role I could, and
that's still on my priority list of things to do. In the meantime, I'm here
in Spokane and doing what I can to help my friends thousands of miles away.

Regards,

David K7GPS
http://www.nwaprs.info
IRLP-7844
k7gps.dave at gmail.com
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