6M, APRS, and disasters - Re: [aprssig] PropNET Lessons Learned [was: 6m MS network (aprssig: to exclusive) PerformanceMonitoring!]

Joel Maslak jmaslak-aprs at antelope.net
Fri Jan 4 14:05:12 EST 2008

On Jan 4, 2008, at 9:13 AM, Bob Poortinga wrote:

> One last question: if the main purpose of this 6m APRS
> network is to gate email from disaster areas, why isn't HF
> the preferred option?  Do we need another HF frequency,
> maybe on 40m, dedicated to APRS?

I'm not sure that gating email from disaster areas is particularly  
useful, not when there is probably no acknowledgment that it got sent  
(I'd even want to know a "I'm safe" message got through, personally),  
and when HF seems like a much better and more reliable mode for this  
- simply use any of the HF digital modes to send a list of email  
addresses and name to send "I'm safe" messages to.

In addition, I think of technology I own, not as a first responder,  
but simply a citizen - I have a hard time fathoming a disaster short  
of war that would impact my ability to send email...with a portable  
satellite internet setup, consumer level technology nowadays, priced  
competitively with HF rigs, if I need to send messages out of my  
local area in a disaster, that's what I'm going to try to use first -  
it's going to be far more efficient and easy.  That said, I don't  
have any problem with the 6M stuff Bob's talking about, especially  
since disasters by definition don't always follow the rules and "when  
all else fails" it's still good to have options.

When I was stuck in Oklahoma a few weeks ago in those ice storms, I  
did set up my HF antenna on my truck, just in case.  But I never used  
it - I stuck to monitoring 2m repeaters and using my satellite  
internet connectivity.  Fortunately between that and my cell phone  
continuing to work, I actually was able to work a few days from the  
middle of an ice storm, inside my camper, relatively self- 
sufficiently.  If someone needed urgent help, I would have dialed 911  
on the cell phone, failing that used the 2m repeater systems in the  
area, and only failing that would I have used HF or packet or  
internet.  If we lost cell phones, I would have offered to send email  
for the people in the immediate area, if they wanted to send "I'm  
well" types of messages.  But I don't think I would have ever used 6m  
for any of this.  Even if my internet connection was down, I think I  
would have used HF on a voice net to communicate my traffic.

That said, what may have been useful would have been able to place  
"resources" on the APRS map that I would be willing to allow others  
to use during the disaster - for instance, I had a generator with me  
that I would have been glad to loan out to neighborhood association  
that needed to run a well or something like that, and if APRS was  
fully used, I could easily have placed a "generator" on the map with  
my call and the frequency I was monitoring.  And I could see the  
usefulness of marking shelters, locations without power, locations  
without cell phone coverage, places where water was available,  
working gas stations, etc.  I doubt any of that was used though - if  
it was, I didn't see it.  I think the bulletins could have been used  
too - things like contact numbers for getting lists of shelters and  
such could be put there, announcements for needs to get ham operators  
at shelters or something, etc.

What I didn't have ready to work, and should have, was a way of  
gating traffic from the local 2m APRS net into/out of the internet.   
I don't know how IGate coverage was working in the area, but I  
suspect there would be times where a portable IGate could be quite  
useful to the area.

I think things that would be more useful than disaster emails on 6m  
would be things like automated weather and water level reporting  
systems, the bouy tracking (if the antenna can be done reasonably)  
stuff people talked about before, perhaps long-range vehicle tracking  
(once again, if the antenna would work) through empty stretches of  
the world, etc.  Oh, and don't forget, for fun - plain ordinary QSOs.

More information about the aprssig mailing list