February 2018

February 2018
EC Bulletin

When I talk to people about the Winlink 2000 (WL2K) system I keep getting the same comments “Winlink 2000 uses the Internet, and in a disaster, you are going to lose the Internet.” Well…I’m not going to dispute the fact that in a disaster situation in some parts of the county there may be a period when we could experience Internet outages or sporadic outages for short periods of time. If that were true and it was county wide that would not be a problem for WL2K. It’s designed and deployed to bridge the communities last mile. The last mile is defined as the path across an area where conventional communications have been disrupted or overloaded by an incident. WL2K was tried and tested under fire during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Tsunamis of 2004, 2007, as well Haiti to mention a just a few disasters. It performed to its specifications admirably.

Let’s go with the worst-case scenario and say that the Internet outage was county wide. Winlink Express, Packink and now ARDOP (Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol) stations (UHF/VHF) can be strategically deployed with a served agency. Their job is to bridge the last mile and communicate with a Radio Message Server (RMS) running the supplemental program RMS Relay. RMS Relay will let the local stations continue to pass messages back and forth within the county where there are no Internet services and globally via HF. The HF stations operating Pactor I, II or III, or WINMOR can connect to another WL2K RMS that does have an Internet connection or can connect to a Common Message Server (CMS). The CMS site resides in the cloud. It provides a portal into the WL2K system for exchanging Internet email with WL2K users, hold all messages to and from all users, interface with RMS channel programs, telnet services, and provide message management services.

The whole idea is to keep the users and network entirely connected even though an area becomes isolated due to an Internet failure. The WL2K addressing would remain functional and anyone that can reach any functional HF or VHF/UHF port can exchange messages with anyone else anywhere in the system without thought about how it is routed.

An all HF system, no matter how it is implemented, will have bandwidth and latency limitations that constrain its value. Served agencies need (and expect) a communications service that will be able to handle a reasonable volume of complex traffic with good speed. The WL2K system will provide a service that will give them the best and fastest means available at any given time.

The mission of WL2K is to provide effective last resort communications in civil emergencies and personal communications in non-emergency conditions, through a volunteer network.

El Paso County ARES® has a full complement of WL2K with two RMS sites running RMS Relay 24/7 for the past 11 years. We have WINMOR HF and Winlink Express/Paclink/ARDOP UHF/VHF capabilities. We have just added two PiGate stations for providing shelter occupants an opportunity to send emergency email to family and friends after a disaster has occurred. They will connect the PiGates using the WiFi capabilities of the Raspberry Pi. We have added a PiGate RMS that can be deployed to a location where Internet connectivity can be made in a situation where the PiGates cannot reach either of the other two RMS station.

Other News

Latest changes coming out from the ARRL with the announcement of “Changes coming out for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service” are starting to happen. Refer to my article in last months EC Bulletin for the announcement.

One change pertaining to the West Texas Section directed by the Section Manager and the Section Emergency Coordinator was that District 5 of the West Texas Section be divided in to two districts. District 6 has been added to the section and covers El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson counties. It is designated as “District 6 - Far West Texas” I will be serving as the District Emergency Coordinator. I will also retain my El Paso County Emergency Coordinator credentials.

The first change from ARRL that has been implemented is the unique identifier number. This number will identify our district over any other District 6 in the country. I have filed the registration form and we are currently waiting on our number to be returned.

Questions and comments pertaining to this article are welcome and encouraged. Send an email to the address shown below.

Lew Maxwell, KB5HPT
DEC Region 6
Email: kb5hpt@arrl.net