Hello and welcome back to my blog. In my last post I wrote about a WiFi networking system that uses the ham radio portion of the 2.4ghz band. Before I go into my ideas about using this system in a disaster situation, let me tell you a little back story about me and the club that I’m vice president of, Texas Adventist Emergency Communications(TAEC). In 1994, there was a massive flood in Houston, Tx. As part of the disaster relief response, Adventist Community Services(ACS) responded to do their part, clothing distribution. ACS is part of the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster(VOAD). As a partner in VOAD, ACS is in charge of clothing distribution and receiving during a disaster. In the flood of 1994, the cell phone bill for the first month of the flood was over $4,000! The TX ACS director at the time, wanted something better than a sometimes working cell phone and something that would be cheaper and more reliable; his answer was amateur radio. He approached our current president, Gerald KC5PWQ, about getting his ham license and starting a club that could respond with ACS to help with communications in the disaster area. In 1995, TAEC was born for that reason and I was one of the founding members.
One of the things that we were trying to figure out at the time was how to accurately get information back on what was needed back to our distribution center. Packet radio was a big thing back then so that is what we decided to use. As the technically director at the time, it was my responsibility to locate packet routes to all the major areas of the state. Luckily the state was covered pretty well at the time and I was able to get to pretty much anywhere in the state using texnet. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, we never had to use the systems that we put in place before packet went to the wayside. Now we are having to find something else to take its place. I think the broadband-hamnet, might be just what we are looking for.
So here is my thinking, a majority of all disasters are not wide spread, a lot of them are within a 5-10 mile radius, which according to the hamnet website it says that you can get up to 10 miles with factory power and a good antenna. We have three semi’s that roll out shortly after a disaster and are our first response units until a distribution center can be set up if it is needed. If we could put a mesh node and an access point on each truck, we could somewhat easily have a pier-to-pier network with each location that we are setup at. If one of those locations were to have a 4g internet connection we could have access to internet with the whole system. If we had another mesh node back at our distribution center we could connect it to it via the internet and we would have a connection between our field units and our center that we could use for ordering supplies to be sent, do video conferencing with the center, have VoIP calls between the two locations, etc.
This could even be done on a wider spectrum if the disaster was going to have an extended response time. You could put a node at each of the major organizations headquarters centers and have them all on one network to share information and communications. It seems to me that the information shared on this type of network would be more secure than over an unsecured internet connection. However, during the first dew days or weeks of a major disaster, internet connections is probably going to be on the low end of priorities, but something like this could be a major asset, in my opinion. I may be totally wrong about all this and it would be a waste of time to get this set up only to take it down a week or two later when internet is restored. It is an option that I plan on exploring.
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73 de K5CLM