Last evening (May 5th) we were introduced to digital mode software that is used for emergency communications during the ATV Digital Modes Net . While digital emergency communications use essentially the same types of software and protocols as popular digital modes, additional software is used in emergencies when it is necessary to send specially formatted information and when accuracy is vitally important. The official name for this is NBEMS, or Narrow Band Emergency Communications Software. Many amateur radio operators involved in everyday digital HF communications are also proficient with NBEMS as well. It is a good skill to have, and it is not just limited to HF. Many times 6m, 2m and 440 FM are used for NBEMS as well.
Last night we focused on the most familiar of these formats, the ARRL Radiogram. If you took your technician test in recent years, you were probably introduced to the radiogram and how it is used. If you don’t remember it, that’s okay, because hardly anyone actually knows how to send or receive one. You send it from one station to other stations monitoring the frequency. What they receive actually looks like a regular telegram! It can be printed and delivered, or the recipient can follow the instructions requested by the sender.
So how is a radiogram used? Let’s say there was a major earthquake and Santa Barbara was cut off from normal landline and cellular communications. How would you let friends or relatives know you were okay? Well, you could get on HF if you have that capability and try and contact another ham somewhere and ask him to relay the information to someone for you. Hopefully the other operator will get the information right the first time, because it entirely possible you won’t be able to contact that same operator again. But what if you could send the equivalent of a telegram? Then you would be assured that phone numbers, addresses, whatever information you need to pass would be sent with 100% accuracy and the message relayed to your friends or family. This is the purpose of a radiogram.
Emergency communications are important. At least a few people in Santa Barbara should know how to send radiograms and use the other emergency message protocols. In an emergency there may be a need to send accurate data to a distant location and have confidence that it will arrive where it is intended. If this interests you, check out the ARRL website for more information, and tune in to future ATV Digital Modes Nets on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 pm and listen in on our discussion. Or better yet, check in and learn how to participate!