CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI ARES
Amateur Radio Emergency Services


ABOUT -------- TRAINING -------- DIGITAL-------.- SET ......... REPORTS


Central Mississippi ARES
Digital Standards and Operating Procedures


( A WORK IN PROGRESS )


Many years ago, Mississippi ARES recognized that the digital modes were the future of Amateur Radio emergency communications.

Due to the vital nature of emergency communications, standardization is required in order to deliver a unified, cohesive service to the agencies we serve.

After years of consultation with other ARES teams in the United States and extensive testing of equipment, software, and operating procedures to determine best practices for use in emcomm settings, we have established these standards and procedures for use by Mississippi ARES teams.

Each year, through on-going testing and new information obtained from actual emcomm experiences, we reevaluate these best practices to make sure our standards and procedures are up-to-date and enabling us to deliver the best service possible to the agencies we serve..


I. Why every ARES Team needs Digital Capabilities

II. Why Digital Standards:

III. Mississippi Digital Standards

1. Winlink Email
2. NBEMS
3. Packet Radio
4. Broadband Hamnet

IV. Digital Nets in Mississippi

V. Monthly Digital News Bulletin

VI. Digital Equipment Standards

A. MS ARES Digital Interface Standard

VII. What About the Internet?


WHY EVERY ARES TEAM NEEDS DIGITAL CAPABILITIES

The Amateur radio voice mode is useful for tactical communications and will never go away.

However, since email, texting, instant messages, live chat, and the transfer of images, files, and standard forms are used daily by the agencies we serve, we who provide them with emergency backup communications are increasingly expected to be able to conform to these ubiquitous modes of communication.

Fortunately, we have digital amateur radio modes which handle each of these types of communication very effectively when their normal infrastructure fails. By providing digital modes, in addition to voice, we are able to cover all of our severed agencies most pressing needs during an emergency.

Far from becoming obsolete, Mississippi ARES amateur radio operators have stayed on the cutting edge of technology and emcomm usefulness, by adopting the digital modes.

 

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WHY STANDARDS?

The best statement we have seen on the need for Standards was written by Harry Bloomberg W3YJ, the Assistant SEC for Western Pennsylvania ARES:

"An incident or disaster is no time for experimenting. Time and effort must not be wasted in getting on the air and sending traffic. We must minimize the amount of time needed to refamiliarize ourselves with techniques and methods that we may not use often in our everyday amateur radio activities. We must also be sure that all ARES groups within the Section can easily communicate with each other and help each other.

One of the keys to digital emcomm success is the adoption of standards. Once standard software packages and digital modes have been agreed upon, we can train on these methods, have documentation prepared in advance and available in EOCs and go-kits for use during an incident, and train a large pool of operators who are knowledgeable in these common practices who can be easily “plugged into” a deployment team.

Standards can sometimes be controversial. It’s been said that between two hams there are three opinions. Discussions about techniques and modes can sometime reach a religious fervor. But decisions must be made, otherwise we won’t be ready when called upon to serve and we will run the risk of not being able to communicate with each other.

These standards have been adopted based upon experience in drills and actual events. But these standards are not carved into stone tablets. Should there be a difference of opinion, we are willing to listen to constructive criticism. But there must be standards, otherwise we will run the risk of chaos during an incident.”

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MISSISSIPPI STANDARDS

To be useful for ARES purposes, digital stations must be capable of establishing reliable, NVIS, point-to-point, repeater independent, Internet independent, digital Amateur Radio operation on VHF frequencies for local emcomm and on HF frequencies for state-wide emcomm.

After years of extensive testing, Mississippi ARES has adopted the following digital modes for emergency communications: Winlink Email, NBEMS, Packet Radio, and Broadband Hamnet.

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1. Winlink Email:

The Winlink Global Radio Email System is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur radio frequencies to send, receive, relay, store and forward email (including attachments), position reports, and weather bulletins. It is well known for its central role in amateur radio emergency communications messaging.

Mississippi ARES has adopted Winlink for local, statewide, and nationwide emergency email communications.

One of the major goals for Central Mississippi ARES in 2021 is for all our team members to become skilled in sending digital messages via 100% RF.

All of our ARES members are encouraged to obtain Winlink email accounts, purchase a Signalink USB interface, download the latest WinLink Express software and practice using it P2P, and to connect to RMS Gateway Stations in ARDOP and VARA modes.

Those of us who use winlink regularly know that it takes a little while to get everything together to establish a digital station. It also takes a while to learn how to use the software and test it.

The first step is downloading the free program (https://www.winlink.org/), getting a winlink email address, and learning how to send and receive emails with it.

For individual LEARNING PURPOSES ONLY this can be done using telnet mode, which makes use of your internet connection. This allows you to start learning how to use the program before your SignaLink USB arrives in the mail or before you get your digital NVIS antenna built.

However, during TRAINING, DRILLS, AND TESTS, all ARES teams and members need to practice sending messages through 100% RF, to keep their digital skills sharp and their equipment freshly tested in preparation for emergency activations.

For email during an Internet Down emergency, Central Mississippi ARES has adopted the use of VARA P2P mode, for Peer-to-Peer Email between two Amateur Radio Stations.For email which needs to be sent out of an Internet Down Area (emergency effected area) to a regular email address located in an Internet Up Area (non-effected area), Central Mississippi ARES has adopted the use of Winlink Express in VARA HF mode, for placing email into the WinLink Global Radio Email System.

For email during a regional or wide scale internet outage, MS-ARES has adopted the use of Winlink Express in Winmor Radio Only mode, which forwards email through the Winlink Global network of Radio Only (non-internet) linked stations.

Mississippi Winlink Net

Winlink Information: http://www.winlink.org/

Winlink Instructional Videos:

1. Winlink Introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGhUfW8pjY8
2. Setting up SignaLink USB Sound Levels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G1DBs-04MM
3. Winlink Express Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3IHZofQrPI
4. Winlink Express Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahE2YWoSgpc
5. Wilink Express Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58e3uH6x0DI

MS ARES Winlink Resource Page: (Under Construction)

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2. NBEMS

The Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System, commonly referred to as NBEMS, is a keyboard-to-keyboard digital sound card mode system, which uses the free Fldigi software suite composed of Fldigi, Flmsg and Flamp, to host text-based (chat-room-like) nets and to send and receive error free messages, forms, and bulletins in real time, as well as through scheduled and unattended automation.

The NBEMS can be used over HF with a SignaLink USB interface between the radio and computer and over VHF/UHF FM with or without a SignaLink USB interface.

The NBEMS has easy to fill out forms built into Flmsg for all of the major agencies amateur radio operators serve: Radiograms, ICS forms, Hospital forms, Red Cross forms, National Weather Service SKYWARN Storm Spotter Report form, Hurricane net form, MARS forms, and Civil Air Patrol forms. It has templates for creating your own specialized forms and is also capable of sending spreadsheets and small photographs (such as photos of storm damage). These forms can be set to automatically pop open on the receiving station in your choice of Flmsg and/or in a web browser as a nicely formatted and easily viewed, printed, or emailed HTML file. This ability to easily forward a form/message/report, or print it out and hand it to an agency official, is a feature many served agencies desire during emergency communications.

MS NBEMS Nets

Fldigi Wiki: http://www.w1hkj.com/doku/doku.php?id=start
Fldigi User’s Manual: http://www.w1hkj.com/FldigiHelp/index.html

NBEMS Instructional Videos:

1. Getting Started with Flidigi/NBEMS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNBJnDHCw_M
2. Fldigi Set up and Configuration for New Users: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKZapCXJdAw
3. Fldigi UI and Basic Operations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HM9vk_zuz0
4. Using Fldigi Macros and using Flwrap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNy9vWfxkr0
5. Flmsg Configuration and Operations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_hP_Nddu2A
6. Flamp Configuration and Operations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMFx7h-hTt0

USING NBEMS ON 2 METER FM (Simplex and Repeaters):

7. Basic NBEMS FLDIGI set up for use with MT63-2KL mode on FM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWZ2vKWSilE
8. Accoustic Coupling with FLDIGI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRNQ7sPSmWQ

Setting up SignaLink USB Sound Levels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G1DBs-04MM

MS ARES NBEMS Resource Page: (Under Construction)

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3. Packet Radio:

Prior to the ubiquity of the internet, the digital modes were well used by amateur radio operators for pleasure and for emergency communications. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Packet networks provided long distance communications on VHF frequencies. Most states, including Mississippi had a statewide Packet network

Unfortunately, widespread growth in the use of the Internet for email and file transfer during the mid-1990s, led to reduced usage of digital amateur radio modes, in general and the death of Packet, in particular.

However, the digital modes, including packet, have been making a major comeback, particularly for emergency communications, as amateur radio operators are starting to realize that the internet is no longer the resilient infrastructure it was originally created to be.

Packet radio, also known as AX.25, provides reliable error-free data communication by splitting communications into discrete packets, performing error checking on these packets and automatically requesting retransmission of packets that arrive with errors. VHF Packet networks are used for keyboard-to-keyboard chat, store-and-forward messaging, and automatic GPS position reporting of mobile stations. Packet stations are also used to provide local VHF links into the Winlink Global EMail System, for stations which do not have HF capabilities.

GENERAL PACKET INFORMATION:

Introduction: https://www.tapr.org/pr_intro.html
Wiki:: http://wiki.complete.org/PacketRadio

PACKET RADIO SOFTWARE:

Winlink Express Packet Software Instructions:

Mississippi ARES recommends Winlink Express be used for VHF/UHF Packet.

1. Introduction to Using Winlink Over VHF or UHF: http://wongweb.net/Introduction_to_Using_Winlink_Over_VHF_or_UHF.pdf
2. Basic Packet using Winlink Express (formerly known as RMS Express): http://www.aresofkingcounty.org/pdf/AAECT%20Winlink.pdf
3. Using a Sound Modem TNC for VHF Packet in Wiblink Express - Video How-To: https://www.winlink.org/content/using_sound_modem_tnc_vhf_packet_winlink_express_video_how_to

Outpost Packet Software Instructions:


1.Outpost Intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUvS53ICoG4
2. Packet Radio Equipment Requirements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oei-gMx-IfU
3. Install Outpost PMM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kz4OMv5Bs
4. TNC Command Settings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkyCL2glGqo
5. Packet Bulletin Board Operation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4aZMDL2588
6. First Outpost PMM Operation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwshlMQhH7g
7. Nodes and Digipeaters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EODplmkJaA
8. NTS Traffic Messages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgKMMAlX0uk
9. Advanced Message Creation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rzoN1rTteA
10. Beacobns and UNP Commnds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZQsRrDXIbc
11. SYSOP Remote Log In: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSRwNhsXEks
12. SYSOP Remote BBS Management: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqUYRWxOfLo
13. SYSOP Authorized Stations COML cmd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDW0yB-_zX4
14. SYSOP Automatic Message Forwarding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwdLrK20HlI
15.Packet Radio Excercise Prep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfD5eU0d-EQ
16. Outpost Scripts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkX9JXZtGoo
17. VHF to HF Packet Radio gateway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB5uVWq9sCE

LOUISIANA-MISSISSIPPI PACKET BACKBONE

Mississippi ARES is working with the Louisiana-Mississippi Packet Backbone group to establish a statewide amateur radio packet network for emergency communications.

LMPB: https://sites.google.com/site/lmpacket/home

MS ARES Packet Resource Page: (Under Construction)

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4. Broadband Hamnet:

Broadband Hamnet is a “high-speed, self-discovering, self-configuring, fault-tolerant, wireless computer network" with very low power consumption and a focus on emergency communication.

ARES teams use BBHN for establishing permanent and ad hock computer networks over amateur radio frequencies, during emergencies and disasters. Computer’s connected to the network can choose to share the same types of files and services normally shared on computer networks: video chat, voice, instant messaging, email, the Web (HTTP), file transfer (FTP), and forums. High gain directional antennas and amplifiers are used to create reliable long-distance wireless links over many miles.
 
The Scott County ARES Team was the first to implement BBHN in the state of Mississippi and uses it primarily for transmitting live video and VOIP Phone service over amateur radio.

Paper on Mississippi Usage: http://k4fmh.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Paper-for-June-15-2015-SERA-Journal.pdf
Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_multimedia_radio
More Info: http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/

Broadband Hamnet Instructional Videos:

1. Introduction to Broadband Hamnet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUeW2ju-RZk
2. Setting up a MESH Node on Amateur Radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pryc8jIl6Xo
3. How to Update Firmware on a Remote Node: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvFjK-Ihk9c
4. Adding a Webserver to your Broadband Hamnet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr5EiK4W994
5. Adding an Analog Telephone to you Broadband Hamnet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeSKlyrofbo


MS ARES Brroadband Hamnet Resource Page: (Under Construction)

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DIGITAL NETS IN MISSISSIPPI

In order to be prepared for emergencies and disasters, ARES members must keep their digital skills sharply honed and their equipment freshly tested. The best way to do that is to participate in a digital net every week.

NET SCHEDULE:

Mondays:

6:00 pm: Digital VHF Net (VHF NBEMS 145.390 77 Hz)

7:00 pm: VHF Net (VHF Phone/Voice: 145.390 77 Hz)

Available 24/7:

Central Mississippi ARES Winlink Net


NET DETAILS

1. Central Mississippi ARES Digital VHF Net (CMA-DVHF)

Who: ARES, RACES, SKYWARN members, and all persons interested in digital modes, you do not have to have digital to check in
What
: A mixed mode format net (voice & digital) with check-ins, instructions, and assistance being handled using voice mode, and digital practice in digital mode
Purpose: Introductory training in using NBEMS & Winlink
Time: Monday, 6:00 pm
Frequency: Pelahathcie Repeater: 145.390 77Hz, 1500 Hz on the waterfall
Software Needed: NBEMS (Fldigi, Flmsg, Flamp), Winlink Express
Net Manager: KI5JCL
Contact: kyle@msubulldog.com

2. Central Mississippi ARES VHF Net (CMA-VHF)

Who: ARES, RACES, SKYWARN members, and all persons interested in emergency communications
What
: A phone/voice net on VHF
Purpose: To provide practice in ARES and SKYWARN Net procedures, traffic handling, and storm spotter reporting, to prepare our members for emergency activations.
Time: Monday, 7:00 pm
Frequency: Pelahathcie Repeater: 145.390 77Hz
Net Manager: KG5SQZ
Contact: mmullins4a97@yahoo.com


3. Central Mississippi ARES Winlink Net (CMA-W)

Who:
ARES, RACES, SKYWARN members, and all persons interested in sending email over HF Amateur Radio frequencies
What
: Winlink allows you to send email through amateur radio frequencies to RMS Gateway stations around the country and world, which automatically place your email into the normal internet email system, where it travels to its intended recipient. Winlink is very useful for sending emails out of an Internet Down Area to non-Ham friends, relatives, and emergency personnel who are in an Internet Up Area. It also allows non-Ham friends, relatives, and emergency personnel in Internet Up Areas to use their normal email programs to send emails to Hams who are in Internet Down Areas.
Purpose: To provide practice in sending email, radiograms, ICS-213 forms, and SKYWARN Storm Spotter Reports to prepare our members for emergency activations.
Time: Available 24/7. To keep your Winlink skills sharp, your list of RMS Gateway Stations up to date, and your equipment freshly tested, plan to check in "at least" once every week, on a schedule that works best for you.
Software Needed: Winlink Express: https://www.winlink.org/WinlinkExpress
and VARA 4.01https://www.winlink.org/tags/vara
Mode:
ARDOP, VARA, VARA FM, Packet, Robust Packet, Pactor. Note: Telnet (internet) may be used temporarily by those who plan to, but have not yet, finished establishing their amateur radio digital station.
Frequency:
Any RMS Gateway Station you can connect to on HF (160, 80, 60, 40, 20, 17, 15, 10 meters), or VHF/UHF (2 meters, 70 centimeters )
Send Check In Email To: K1REZ, KI5JCL, KG5SQZ
Net Manager:
KI5JCL / K1REZ
Contact:
kyle@msubulldog.com

VHF DIGITAL NET PROCEDURES IN DETAIL AND ADVANTAGES OVER H DIGITAL NETS:

Digital nets on VHF may not blanket the entire state like NVIS HF digital nets, but they do have one very big advantage over HF digital nets when it comes to training and instruction. By FCC regulations, most HF digital bands don’t allow voice mode. This means all communication on them must be done via digital mode, which means all participating stations must have their digital station fully set up and their software tweaked and ready to go or they won’t be able to receive the signal and participate in an HF digital net.

However, VHF has no such restrictions, which means you can use both voice and digital modes on the same net. This makes VHF digital nets perfect for assisting stations who are still setting up their stations and tweaking their software. Often stations having trouble transmitting or receiving digital transmissions on the net can by voice mode be “talked-through” common set-up and control panel configuration errors and get their digital stations transmitting and receiving properly. VHF digital nets are perfect for complete newbies and many stations with no prior experience and no sound card interface can still receive and see digital text transmissions come across their fldigi screen on their computer.

The Central MS Digital Training Net takes advantage of the VHF benefits by having check-ins, instructions, queries, and assistance all given by voice mode so that everyone who checks into the net can hear and understand what is going on. Then at various times during the net the Net Control Station will present opportunities for participating stations to test their digital station’s ability to receive a digital transmission sent by net control.

After the initial check in and net information given by voice mode, Net Control Control will ask digital stations to standby to receive a digital welcome message by screen text on fldigi. Then one by one, he will query each station which stated during check-in that their digital stations were on frequency, asking what percent of his text they copied.

Anyone whose digital station was not able to receive this transmission is offered suggestions in voice mode, usually consisting of a brief talk through several set-up configurations in the fldigi set-up panel. Afterwards, the transmission is resent so that stations can see if the changes they made corrected their reception problem.

This process is repeated with Net Control sending a Radiogram, ICS form, or Storm Spotter Report using the built-in forms in flmsg. As before, he will query the digital stations and offer assistance in voice mode to stations having trouble.

Of particular importance for emcomm stations, is making sure their fldigi settings are tweaked so that all flmsg forms they receive automatically pop open in an HTML printable format on their screen. This allows amateur radio operators working at served agencies to leave their station’s unattended for periods of time and not miss any messages. Their messages will be open in browser windows and waiting on their screen when they return to the station. Additionally, the html printable format allows the form to be printed out and hand delivered to its intended recipient at the agency. Since this feature is very important for emcomm use, we will assist all stations with the simple configuration during the net.

Next digital stations will be given the opportunity to test their station’s ability to transmit fldigi text and flmsg forms. As before, all stations having trouble will be talked through (by voice mode) common sending configuration errors and given the opportunity to retransmit their text and/or flmsg form, to determine if tweaking their settings corrected their transmission problem.

After all stations have been given the opportunity to test and practice sending flmsg forms and all assistance has been rendered, the net will close for the evening.


MISSISSIPPI PACKET NODES: (Under Construction)

MS CITY

TYPE

FREQ

CALL

ALIAS

GULFPORT 

RMS GATEWAY 

145.010 

W5ILR-10 

 

HATTIESBURG 

NODE 

145.010 

AB6Z-8 

PTL 

HATTIESBURG 

RMS GATEWAY 

145.030

KB5VE-10 

 

MCHENRY 

NODE 

145.010 

N5UDK-7 

MCH 

MERIDAN 

NODE 

145.010 

 

 

MILLARD 

NODE 

145.010 

K5PRC-7 

MIL 

NICHOLSON 

NODE 

145.010 

AB6Z-7 

PIC 

POPLARVILLE 

NODE 

145.010 

K5PRC-7 

MIL 

POPLARVILLE 

RMS GATEWAY 

145.010 

K5PRC-10 

 

If you know the location of any other Packet Nodes, Digipeaters, and Gateways please contact K-1-R-E-Z-AT-A-R-R-L-DOT-N-E-T


BROADBAND HAMNETS: (Under Construction)

If you know of any other Broadband Hamnets in Mississippi please contact K-1-R-E-Z-AT-A-R-R-L-DOT-N-E-T

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VI. DIGITAL EQUIPMENT STANDARDS:

It is easy to understand the need for having standard operating procedures, but having standard operating equipment is also important. By standardizing on specific equipment, our ARES members can be deployed to any agency and instantly know how to use their equipment. Equally important, our ARES members will be able to bring their team equipment and/or their own personal equipment and be assured that it is completely compatible with any other equipment already at the agency or deployed by any other ARES Team on site.

It is easy to understand the need for having standard operating procedures, but having standard operating equipment is also important. By standardizing on specific equipment, our ARES members can be deployed to any agency and instantly know how to use their equipment. Equally important, our ARES members will be able to bring their team equipment and/or their own personal equipment and be assured that it is completely compatible with any other equipment already at the agency or deployed by any other ARES Team on site.

EXAMPLE:

One example of equipment standardization is the choice of power connector. Each brand of radio comes with its own power connector. Usually these connectors do not work with one another. Mississippi ARES has followed ARRL's recommendation to standardized on using Anderson Powerpole connectors on all of our radios and power supplies. That way any of our ARES Team members who deploy to work emcomm can bring their personal radios to an agency and not have to worry about if it is compatible with the power supply already in use at the agency.

Deploying with equipment not meeting the state's accepted standard will cause an interruption in the emergency operation. We hams are resourceful and can resolve most interruptions, even if it means cutting the power connector off of our personal radio and wiring it directly to a power supply.

Interruptions are inconvenient and time consuming to correct during practice. However, during a life and death emergency, where timing is critical, interruptions can be disastrous. For that reason, Mississippi ARES requires all of its members to replace the connector on every radio and power supply they plan to use during an ARES activation with an Anderson Powerpole. Doing so well in advance of an emergency deployment will prevent a potentially disastrous operational interruption.


A. MS ARES Digital Interface Standard: SignaLink USB:

Mississippi ARES has standardized on using the SignaLink USB as the interface between the radio and the computer for all HF and VHF digital communications during deployments. For this reason, it is very important for all Mississippi ARES members to use the SignaLink USB interface during their digital training and practice sessions. This will insure that they are prepared for an ARES deployment. Additionally, ARES Teams and individual members who plan to deploy with their own personal digital stations need to make sure they purchase a SignaLink USB.

Any interface may be employed for contesting and casual operating. However, not just any interface will do for emcomm usage. Having the right interface between the radio and computer is vital for meeting the stricter operating parameters emergency communications require.  An interface with an isolated sound card must be used to keep spurious signals/interference out of the computer and radio.

After much research, consultation with the leading Digital ARES teams in the nation, and comparison with other available interfaces, the SignaLink USB was chosen by Mississippi ARES over all of the other interfaces for several good reasons:

1. Through years of testing by Mississippi ARES and other state's ARES teams which pioneered digital emcomm, the SignaLink USB has proven to be the best interface for digital emcomm usage. It has become the defacto standard digital interface of most ARES teams in the USA.

2. SignaLink USB is the interface which WinLink was designed to work with and is recommended by the WinLink Development.

3. SignaLink USB has its own LOW NOISE sound card isolated outside of the computer to prevent device interference. Unlike other interfaces, the SignaLink does not just isolate the sound card by space or a box, but uses sophisticated audio transformers and relay-based PTT keying circuit. This gives the SignaLink true and COMPLETE signal isolation between the radio, sound card and computer.

4. SignaLink USB does not require you to mess with your computer's volume settings, like the other popular interfaces do..

5. SignaLink USB is easier to set up and use than the other interfaces.

6. SignaLink USB does not have all of the cables to mess with like other interfaces do.

7. SignaLink USB runs off of your computer's power. No need for any other power supply.

8. SignaLink USB is by far much easier to adjust the transmit and receive signals on the fly during QSOs than the other interfaces. This is a very important feature for NBEMS usage with Olivia, MT63 and MFSK.

9. SignaLink USB allows you to connect to your radio's data-port or accessory port if you prefer not to connect to your radio's microphone jack. However, if you have an older radio which does not have a data-port or accessory port the SignaLink USB can connect to your microphone as well.

10. SignaLink USB, unlike virtually all of the others, has been tested and found to comply with the limits for a class B digital device, pursuant to Part 15 of the FCC rules.

For these reasons, Mississippi ARES has standardized on using the SignaLink USB as the interface between the radio and the computer for all HF and VHF digital communications during deployments.

More pluses and details can be found here: http://www.tigertronics.com/slusbmain.htm

NOTE ON PURCHASING A SIGNALINK USB:


It is important when purchasing a SignaLink USB that Mississippi ARES members purchase modules which have manually configurable jumpers. That way they can be configured to work with a wide variety of radios.  The "Plug and Play" modules have the jumper soldered in place and only work with one specific radio which greatly limits their usefulness by an ARES Team where several different radios might be brought into play.

INTERFACE USAGE EXCEPTION - VHF/UHF ACOUSTIC COUPLING:

The only exception Mississippi ARES makes to using an interface (the SignaLink USB) between the radio and computer is for times when Acoustic Coupling is required.

When is Acoustics Coupling "required?" When you want to operate digital on VHF or UHF and you do not yet have a SignaLink USB. Acoustic Coupling does not work well enough for usage on HF. However, it works very well on VHF and UHF when used with the MT63-2000L mode found in the NBEMS fldigi software.

Acoustic Coupling allows ARES Teams which have not yet purchased a SignaLink USB to send and receive digital messages and participate in digital nets on 2 meter and 70 cm repeaters (and also on 2 meter and 70 cm simplex frequencies). All they need is a radio, a computer (laptop), and the free NBEMS software (fldigi, flwrap, flmsg).

When using Acoustic Coupling the radio operator becomes the interface between the radio and the computer. To transmit a digital message, he holds his radio's microphone near his computer's speaker, keys the radio's microphone, then presses the transmit button on fldigi while holding the microphone's PTT button down. When fldigi finished transmitting, he releases the PTT button on his microphone. The receive, he must make sure that his radio's speaker is placed in close proximity to his computers microphone. It takes a little practice to get used to coordinating this. The mistake most people make is not pressing the radio microphone's PTT button before starting the fldigi transmission. Another mistake is not disabling a repeater's Time Out timer before sending long messages (or not breaking messages down into shorter parts which will not time out a repeater).

OPERATIONAL NOTE: Because of its size, be sure to center MT63-2000L on 1500Hz on the waterfall, not on the usual 1000Hz we center on when on HF.

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WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET?

Is it acceptable to use the Internet for passing digital messages on behalf of served agencies during training, drills, tests, and emergencies?

As we are taught in the ARRL Emergency Communications course, all emergencies are not the same. Therefore, Amateur Radio Operators must remain flexible and use whatever works BEST, while using the fewest weak links as possible. If phones are available, we use them. If FAX is available, we use it. If the internet is available, we use it. When all else fails, we use 100% RF.

The internet is no longer the resilient infrastructure it was originally created to be. Economic incentives for resource sharing and peering have led to the emergence of a limited number of super hubs (Tier 1 ISPs) which link the regional webs of the Internet together. The demise of any of these weak links could cut off internet traffic for whole regions of the country. Several important links have already been targeted by malicious individuals. It is just a matter of time before we start seeing longer and more widespread internet outages.

However, email, texting, instant messages, live chat, and the transfer of images, files, and standard forms are used daily by the agencies we serve. As a result, we who provide emergency back-up communications are increasingly expected to conform to these ubiquitous modes of communication.

Fortunately, we have digital RF modes which handle each of these types of communication very effectively when their normal infrastructure fails. By providing digital modes, in addition to voice, we are able to cover all of our severed agencies most pressing needs during a communications emergency.

Since the Internet is a weak link in the communications chain, and is getting weaker every year, it is vital that our ARES teams establish alternative back-up digital communications for the agencies they serve.

Winlink Global Email, Packet, and the Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (NBEMS) are the three most vetted and used systems by ARES teams in the United States, for handling digital emergency communications via amateur radio.

The internet may not be 100% reliable all of the time. But Mississippi ARES Teams found out during our 2016 SET, that our amateur radio frequencies are also not 100% reliable all of the time. Band closures during the SET made that very clear.

However, one thing which was proven during Mississippi’s 2016 SET is certain, digital modes via 100% RF continue to get messages through when nothing else does. Mississippi ARES teams with digital stations successfully tested and proved this using Winlink Express, Packet, and the NBEMS.


 

 MS ARES
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