For those of you that have emailed over the last few days I started to put this together as quasi form letter response to many of you. Appreciate the discussions up to this point, but the hobby inbox became a 2nd job over the weekend. Thus I’m just going to put things in a blog post. I started to just add it as another FAQ within an existing draft “update” posting I’ve been putting together this Spring but that is turning into a novel of its own and the questions here have piled up.
Outsiders (non locals, semi-locals) reading this may feel a little “I’m missing something” in a few places. Don’t worry about that.
Recently FEMA held the Shaken Fury exercise. An exercise built around a major earthquake striking the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ). This is one of those frankly “when, not if” type of disaster threats looming over emergency management folks in Western KY and the surrounding region. May 30th was the ham radio side of things and while apparently few details of it were clearly published (more on that later) to the Kentucky ham community I knew some details from the FEMA/SHARES side of it.
That morning I had an hour or two to spare so I decided to work out of the hamshack. As I began listening several eyebrow raising things were observed in play and I began taking notes in chrono format into my “day job” log document. The exercise officially began and within a minute or two the the ham radio side of it was, at best, on shaky ground credibility wise.
From afar only the HF voice net stuck me as credible given the scenario involved. I took notes amidst other distractions and inserted my usual brand of humor/sarcasm to things. I pointed out that some of the digital voice nets (requiring the internet for coverage) were inappropriate for this kind of incident where wide spread power, internet, and cellular infrastructure outages would be expected.
I later cut-n-pasted those notes into a new document, converted the times to UTC, stripped out some work related items and posted it to the main KY mailing list clearly noted as just some limited observations from afar. I posted it with an intro in the email trying to be gentle about things and took care to give credit to where credit was do.
The first list response was in agreement and some later direct messages were along the same lines while others were surprised an exercise was even going on. The later was indicative of another problem I had not noticed.
Unfortunately things on the mailing list would later turn into childishness. Ultimately one individual never even mentioned or eluded to in the document decided his favorite mode was under attack and took it way too personally. What followed was a conflicted message devolving into a personal attack complete with name calling. I gave a brief response noting the hypocrisy at play, that most folks seemed to be able to take the opinions as just that, and wished him a good day.
I took a review of what I posted and told myself yeah I could of been gentler in places, but those upset were just trying to avoid addressing the core criticisms by going after the messenger versus a constructive conversation. I was never very good in debate class but I do remember one of the rules was the moment you get mad and turn to personal attacks is the moment you’ve lost the argument.
Some in my inbox seem to feel these personal attacks were more of a bully tactic trying to squelch anyone else from chiming in. I’m not so sure that it was the case, but one has to wonder when you factor in some other tactics on display.
If that document got someone that emotionally unwound then they are unlikely to fair well at a real world disaster command post or EOC where stress is high, tempers are short, and words are often snippy. PS – I’ve worked a few disasters, spent too many hours in EOCs, and handled hundreds if not thousands of real emergencies in my former career. Don’t claim to be an expert and still learning new things, but I can apply experience and logic to determine what is and is not appropriate communication platforms for such an exercise.
Later one of this guy’s buddies tried coming to his defense with an even more appalling message full of ignorance about someone he didn’t know, a fatally flawed argument trying to compare the tornado strikes in Ohio to this exercise scenario, repeating concessions I had previously made from the get go, and then into the gutter for more personal attacks.
The tornado strikes mentioned haven’t created any significant communications emergency other than folks struggling to find ways to keep their cell phones charged up. That is not to make light of the damage, injuries, loss of life, and the recovery struggles of those impacted there. Still it is ridiculous to compare that situation to the impact of this scenario hitting.
I would get a call that evening with interesting background on both of these individuals that explained a lot. I was also asked to not reply to the second attack as due to the personality involved it would only inflame things. I told him I wasn’t going to bother with a reply there on the list but may cover it some in a later blog posting. When asked what I was going to blog about I said he’d just have to wait and see, but I promised keep it as gentle as possible. A brief but productive conversation followed.
FAQ: Did Steve sign off on this exercise?
ANSWER: I don’t know, but I do know him well enough that it was likely with “reservations” if he did. Steve and myself go back a ways on some packet radio stuff and he’s a good man trying to pull the mess of KY ARES back together. Unfortunately he seems constantly neck deep in alligators with the personalities and agendas involved. I suspect he’s fighting a losing battle, but respect his efforts to try and resurrect KY ARES.
I last talked with Steve a few months back after I questioned an odd leadership stance that no one can be critical of things unless they have a fix. You may of saw that on the mailing list as my “don’t get on the horse unless you’re ready to ride it” comments. He called me that afternoon and we had a good long conversation. We ultimately agreed on some things and to just agree to disagree on other things.
I know it seems to be completely out of style lately, but believe it or not good people can vigorously disagree on policy and still be friends.
FAQ: Was exercise traffic passed over PSK31 without any integrity mechanisms in place?
ANSWER: I get conflicting reports on that. I wasn’t around to monitor that portion as I had work/family obligations to take care of. Definitely troubling if it was as that would be another major no no and training issue.
FAQ: Are you anti-FUSION?
ANSWER: I have FTM-400’s in both shacks and several Yaesu FT-70’s. Not exactly an investment that an anti-FUSION guy would make LOL. Also been considering converting our 440 analog system over to dual-mode. Again, not something an anti-FUSION guy would do LOL. I’ve often said if we could have the D-Star feature set with the FUSION codec then we hams would have something very useful.
Just because one takes exception to misapplication of a particular system to an exercise scenario doesn’t mean one is anti that mode or the like.
FAQ: Are you anti-DMR?
ANSWER: Some of my income comes from installing DMR gear and I own a pile of it. Again not something an anti-DMR person would do.
I do have some issues with some of what hams have done to DMR, but that would take another novel of a blog posting to cover in detail. Let’s just say my ham DMR experiences actually makes me appreciate FUSION and D-Star LOL. Most of what I run across is a mess that is both too fragile and unreliable to be taken seriously for EmComm.
In fairness there are a few MESH/non-internet networked ham DMR systems out there that are c-bridge based, well managed, and frankly a joy to use in terms of network consistency and reliability.
FAQ: Was Winlink appropriate for this exercise?
ANSWER: Yes with some caveats. Let’s face it the odds of the local VHF gateways in the impact area all being up after this struck is low. P2P Winlink over VHF/UHF links would remain doable over simplex ranges.
HF access to gateways outside of the impacted region would see heavy use but also run into capacity challenges. Well planned out HF P2P Winlink would also seem to be a good fit for certain regional shots, especially if the other end doesn’t have functional email. Remember the ability to send an email doesn’t do much good if the other end can’t receive it. Sadly very few in EmComm using Winlink even plan, train, and are prepared to use P2P Winlink.
FAQ: Are you anti-internet?
ANSWER: Ah, no….the internet helps me do most of my work from wherever I’m at. The internet is a key component of how I make my living. I also use the internet to supplement my ham radio activities within reasonable limits.
That said, there are SOME places where myself and many others feel that the mixing of the internet and ham radio either is inappropriate or is breeding laziness/apathy towards the use of radio for communication links. NBD normally, but it becomes way too risky when this stuff gets moved into emergency communications. That cute slogan out there of “More Ham Radio, less Ham Internet” has merit to it.
As someone mentioned in my inbox when you look at some of this stuff being done it can only be best described as an odd way to get around just using Zello or Skype….and often those would work better LOL. I would add that if we’re not careful we may start finding served agencies realizing they can just use Zello/FireChat/etc and do essentially the same thing with far less restrictions. For those paying attention during the past few hurricanes Zello very effectively replaced the need for ham radio in many places.
IP radios and IP to Radio interfaces are easily found even on Amazon today. I’ve had one at my 7-land QTH patched into our biz channel radio via Zello for a couple years now and it works great.
FAQ: Why do you care?
ANSWER: Well given that my time in 4-land is numbered I could easily (and probably should) adopt an attitude of “let ’em figure it out the hard way, not my problem.” That said the day job has let me see a growing shift in EM from high respect to having either a bad or indifferent attitude towards ARES. The reasons for this are many and material for another lengthy blog posting. The growth of them looking to utilize hams in more of a CERT/AuxComm role is showing up every time I turn around.
Ultimately for me it boils down to I like looking up at that 11×7″ band chart on my wall and seeing all that spectrum we have available. I’d prefer it not fit on a 4×6 post card with lots of asterisks on it.
Before long we are going to see a new wave of threats against our spectrum….yes even HF. There are commercial interests out there that are currently doing their homework on us and how we are using (or not) our spectrum. They are preparing to argue that the public interest would be better served with them having primary access to sizeable chunks of our spectrum. For those in AR EmComm worried about FirstNet? Don’t worry about FirstNet, at least the first generation of it. Do worry about the spectrum sucking monster that will follow in the next decade or two.
Ham radio can not afford another Katrina. In KY ham radio can not afford another failure (big picture wise) like the 2009 Ice Storm was. Another lackluster response from ham radio to the next major stateside disaster will only expedite the above threats to our spectrum.
Thus this is why I often “preach” about training for the worst case scenarios and hoping for the best versus the opposite approach. If you’re going to sell yourselves as the folks to call when “all else has failed” then you best be trained, prepared and practiced at functioning in that environment. Anything else is unlikely to end well when it hits the fan.
Some final points to be covered….
I saw this odd new diversion tactic of “you didn’t participate so you can’t be critical” being attempted. Sorry I don’t need anyone’s permission to comment on things done in public view. Such attitudes and comments are absurd and part of the problem at play here. PS – I don’t participate in genocide nor do I need anyone’s permission to be critical of it LOL.
When you do something as the public face of ham radio then your fellow hams have every right to compliment or criticize what you do. Opinions and criticisms are just that and fair game till things turn into personal attacks. I call roses roses and bull$%$% bull$%$%. Always have, always will. If that bothers someone then may I suggest the application of the delete key.
As far as not making meetings or the like equaling one should not comment at all? Again never mind the irrelevancy of that (see above two paragraphs), but the obvious question here is what meetings? Where were these meetings announced as I don’t recall seeing them being announced any place one would expect them to be.
Judging by my inbox a lot of folks only recently knew something was coming up but had no specifics. This actually got me to looking back through my hobby inbox emails and yeah unless you read a monthly newsletter there wasn’t much out there regarding specifics. I suspect things were covered on a prior statewide net, but let’s remember that net maybe gets a few dozen check-ins across a state with 120 counties and nearly 10,000 licensed hams. Yeah that’s indicative of several other problems on both sides of things, but I’ll save that for another novel LOL.
Okay time to wrap this posting up.
None of this should be construed as an “attack” on the Shaken Fury exercise as it was a good scenario to try out. Especially good given the probabilities of it actually happening. There were actually some pretty solid things done on the FEMA/SHARES/State EM side of things and the AAR should be a good read. Hopefully many folks were left thinking “wow, that was intense and we have some work ahead of us to improve.”