DIGITAL (e-mail over Radio) on VASHON ISLAND
Amateur Radio Emergency Services
Vashon-Maury Island Radio Club
February 26, 2009

Vashon hams wanted to be able to provide backup e-mail over ham radio in a disaster when the Internet is unavailable.

We used county emergency communications funds (obtained with the help of VashonBePrepared) and a grant from Rotary to buy gear for a digital station at the main fire station EOC (emergency operations center), the club communications trailer (backup EOC) and for a remote mailbox station (W7VMI-10).

We also used county funds to equip the four outlying fire stations at Burton, Talequah, Dockton, and the North End (LACCs, or Local Area Communication Centers) with VHF (local) e-mail over radio.

We have two battery powered portable e-mail ham stations that we put together from gear donated by Vashon hams. They are available for any club member to take home to practice with. All of these stations require a licensed amateur radio operator with significant practice to use them effectively. Contact K7NHV for a quick "how to" and to pick up the gear.

Summary of capabilities:
• EOC: HF and VHF Winlink
• LACCs: VHF Winlink
• Trailer: HF and VHF Winlink
• Portable #1: VHF Winlink
• Portable #2: VHF Winlink

Here is a drawing that illustrates the Vashon digital disaster communications framework.



The club mailbox station (W7VMI-10) has local hubbing, both for our own use in disasters and drills, and for any other ham who needs it to relay e-mail when the Internet is unavailable.

“RMS Packet” is the software used at our VHF mailbox station. “RMS Relay” is the software that gives us local hubbing - when the Internet is unavailable two stations who can each connect to our mailbox station can use it to relay e-mail from one to the other.

We can relay messages to or from any local station to a station outside the disaster area that does have Internet connectivity.

As an example, we might put our trailer or one of our portable e-mail stations at the island clinic during a disaster. Prescriptions and other important communications could be sent through the relay software to a station outside the disaster area and from there over regular e-mail channels to anywhere in the world.

TERMS:

Airmail is an e-mail client (similar to Outlook) for use with e-mail transmitted over ham radio

ARES: Amateur Radio Emergency Services

EOC: Emergency Operations Center at the main fire station in Vashon center

HF: High Frequency ham radio frequencies – long distance

LACCs: Local Area Communication Centers
(Burton, Talequah, Dockton, North End fire stations on the island)

RMS Packet: Radio Message Server – Packet

RMS Relay: Winlink software that stores e-mail in a local database for later delivery when no Internet connection is available. It can forward those messages to a distant station that does have the Internet if installed at a station with HF (long distance) radio capabilities.

VHF: Very High Frequency ham radio frequencies – local communications

Winlink: E-mail over ham radio system supported by donations to the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation.



Specific instructions to send e-mail over ham radio:

To send e-mail from an LACC to another Vashon/Maury Island location.

To relay e-mail from Vashon over long distance HF radio to a mailbox station who has Internet connectivity.

To set up and use Airmail software.

Questions to