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EMCOMM - Emergency Communication
In times of crisis and natural disasters, amateur radio is often used as a means of emergency communication when wireline, cell phones and other conventional means of communications fail. Unlike commercial systems, Amateur radio is not as dependent on terrestrial facilities that can fail. It is dispersed throughout a community without "choke points" such as cellular telephone sites that can be overloaded, and connections to the internet can be no longer available. In these situations licensed amateur radio operators can offer an email service via Winlink 2000. Winlink 2000 (WL2K) is a worldwide system of volunteer resources supporting e-mail by radio. Winlink 2000 is an all-volunteer, non-profit project of the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc.
The Winlink 2000 system is a "star" based network containing 5 mirror image, redundant COMMON MESSAGE SERVERS (CMS); located in San Diego (USA), Washington DC (USA), Wien (Austria), Halifax (Canada), and Perth (Australia). These ensure that the system will remain in operation should any chunk of the Internet become inoperative. Each RADIO MESSAGE SERVER node (RMS) with a public mail box facility (PMBO) is tied together as would be the ends of a spoke on a wheel with the hubbing being done by the Common Message Servers. Traffic goes in and out between the CMS and the Internet email recipient, and between the end users and the Radio Message Server gateways. Multiple Radio-to-Radio addresses may be mixed with radio-to-internet e-mail addresses, allowing complete flexibility.
The primarily purpose of the Winlink 2000 network system is to assist the mobile or remotely located user, and to provide emergency email capabilities to community agencies. Because of this, WL2K supports a clean simple interface to the Internet SMTP e-mail system. Any message sent or received may include multiple recipients and multiple binary attachments. The radio user's email address, however, must be known to the system as a radio user or the message will be rejected. This simple Internet interface protocol has an added benefit in case of an emergency where local services are interrupted and the system must be used by non-Amateur groups as an alternative to normal SMTP email. Connecting to any one of the WL2K publicly used PMBOs via HF (radio), or the specialized non-public ARES PMBOs, can immediately and automatically connect a local amateur station to the Internet for emergency traffic. Using MS Outlook or MS Outlook Express, the PACLink mini-email server can replace a network of computers (behind a router) as a transparent substitute for normal SMTP mail. WL2K uses no external source for sending or receiving Internet email. It is a stand-alone function which interacts directly with the Internet rather than through any external Internet service provider.
The software needed (beside a radio) to start an emmergency communication station (PACLink client and RMS server) can be downloaded here. Since this software is based on the packet radio mode, you will also have to install AGW Packet Engine. See my APRS page for more info on this software and downloads. For HF communications a new soundcard based protocol called "WINMOR" has just been developped. RMS WINMOR (server) and RMS EXpress (client) are just out of beta testing. See the WINMOR group at yahoo. The client software RMS Express can be downloaded here.
I run a WINMOR RMS PI8APE-10 on 14.110,70 USB (dial) and a BBS (PI8APE-3) and a NetROM node (PI8APE-12). The BBS and node can also be connected via VHF (144.850 FM). For further information on packet radio and winmor, and for downloading software visit my PI8APE packet radio site at pd4u.zapto.org
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