[aprssig] Multi control station situational awareness - How's this supposed to work?

Tyler Griffiths n7uwx at comcast.net
Mon Dec 2 20:04:41 EST 2019

Not to take away from APRS, I would be interested in others ideas with
APRS, but have you thought about using Winlink?

Tyler Griffiths

See where I am:

On Mon, Dec 2, 2019 at 4:24 PM Greg D <ko6th.greg at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Bob,
> The recent planned power outages here in California have several members
> of our club wondering what the right solution is for coordinating
> information from multiple Net Control stations.  I expect APRS is the
> right foundational tool for the job, but am unsure how to apply it.  Can
> you give us some guidance?  Especially, how should we handle information
> that is not tied to a location (map), and how do we search for answers
> to requests?
> Usually, Net Control is a centralized role.  Single operator at a single
> location, or if multiple operators working in shifts, there's still a
> single log or database for information.  Higher-end solutions exist with
> commercial software support, but that's overkill for our needs and
> situation.
> The challenge is that we have had several wide-spread power outages in
> the area.  Folks are without power for a day upwards to nearly a week,
> with some having no access to city utilities.  Many (now) have
> generators, but those need fuel.  Some run short of other essentials.
> My own power was restored after the first outage just as the ice I had
> set aside in the fridge was about done.  Others were not so lucky.
> Critically, Internet access was either totally out, or spotty at best.
> Cable-based Internet went out totally, cellular was spotty.  Evidence at
> my house was that the cell system only lasted about 2 hours before
> failing.  I did have a land-line analog phone that worked, but have no
> idea what I'd do with it other than make phone calls.  The modem and
> dial-up account are long gone.
> Our ham club decided to run an informal information-sharing net, taking
> check-ins reporting on where the outages were, what stores were open,
> shortages found, requests for supplies, and offers to provide the same.
> During the first outage, that was handled mostly by one person, using
> pencil and paper for record keeping.  I added my support during the
> second outage, and while the needs were fewer (folks were better
> prepared after the first one), it became clear that having a split data
> record between the various net control stations could be problematic.
> So, we're looking for a solution which will be effective across multiple
> Net Control stations, and ideally without the need for Internet access,
> even at the periphery.  Fortunately, there's no serious emergency, and
> no "served agencies" to include in the plan.
> If we could count on the Internet, a simple Google Sheets file would be
> perfect.  Multiple authors, real-time updates, shared access,
> persistence.  It provides the model of what we're trying to achieve with
> the radio links.  The "situational awareness" aspect of APRS suggests
> that it would make for a good foundation for a shared-view of the
> "situation".  Stores open and closed, locations of fuel available and
> unavailable, etc. in theory can be handled with Objects.  But three
> problems.  Some locations (especially stores) have multiple reports.  Do
> we create multiple objects at the same location?  That could get messy.
> Some reports are location-vague, for example, a report of power out for
> an entire part of town; do we "pin" it to the location of the person
> reporting and explain it in the object text?.  The "all clear" call, for
> example, was for the entire county.  Where to put them?  And finally,
> how to find the most recent information, given that there is no time
> context for the map view.  One would be forced to scan the map, clicking
> on objects looking for the information requested, and likely becoming
> frustrating and ineffective over time.  It's also a bit tedious to
> create and manage an object.
> During the last outage, I experimented a bit with the use of a Bulletin
> packet.  Some simple formatting could be used to indicate the category
> of information included, or one could use the bulletin number as a
> category indicator.  It was nice that the bulletin was received by a
> member's HT without any preparation, but the broadcast nature of
> bulletins would perhaps be a bit annoying for those who don't
> particularly care about this topic.
> One of the thoughts was that an APRS application that focused more on
> category-oriented text instead of map-based pins would be effective, but
> we are not aware of any that provide this sort of view.  Given the lack
> of Internet access, the app would need to be running 24x7 in order to
> provide data persistence, unless the text information is repeated
> periodically as it is with traditional objects.  For something like this
> to work, would any of the existing packet formats be appropriate, or
> would we need to create something new?
> What is the right solution for this sort of situation?
> Thanks,
> Greg  KO6TH
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