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NBEMS for Emergency Communications

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Presentation on theme: "NBEMS for Emergency Communications"— Presentation transcript:

1 NBEMS for Emergency Communications
Dan N0PI, Scott ARES Asst. EC Bob W0NFE, Scott ARES Asst EC Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System

2 Accurate, Rapid Communications We all recognize these disasters
Ice storms, tornadoes and flooding are common disasters around here The bridge collapse, devastating as it was, demonstrated the failings of cell phone service Ham radio emergency communications get activated almost every year in the Fargo area during the flooding season A few years back during major flooding in the Rochester area ham radio operators from the Twin Cities area were called upon to go down and help out with emergency communications Accurate, Rapid Communications

3 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to set up a NBEMS system How to use NBEMS Practice time Here is an outline of what we’re going to try to cover this morning. Keep in mind that once you get started with fldigi or any digital communications package it will become an ongoing learning process Practice, Practice, Practice

4 Why Digital ECOMS Think back to your last public service event, drill, or deployment. You probably passed a lot of traffic best suited for voice communications but... What if you had been asked to pass Roster of evacuees Required prescription medications Directions to a disaster scene Voice communications are not going away We may be asked to pass sensitive information from disaster sites which may include victim names, address, medication, etc. Our transmissions cannot be encrypted and we know there are ambulance chasers or the media out there with scanners just trying to pick up tidbits of information Digital communications is not encrypted but to the listening public it only sounds like noise. Refer to “Sights and Sounds . . .” tab at

5 Why Digital ECOMS The needs of our Served Agencies have changed.
They still need voice communications but... There's an increasing need for data communications. We need to be able to provide more than just voice communications from a ham with an HT. Be sure to include digital capability with appropriate interfaces in your “Go Kit”

6 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to set up a NBEMS system How to use NBEMS Practice time

7 What is NBEMS Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System
Consists of four programs: Fldigi – Fast Light Digital modem application Flmsg – easily send ICS forms and Radiogram Flwrap – Wrap a file with a checksum Flarq – Fast Light Automatic Repeat Request Can download from Runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac. Released under GNU Public License, so it is completely FREE. Fldigi is the basic digital modem software As a minimum you should plan on downloading fldigi , flmsg and flwrap Flarg will be downloaded as part of the fldigi download. You probably won’t use it but should have it available Flwrap, once installed, does not need to be opened because it works in the background There are other pieces to this software suite that you might find useful once you become comfortable with the basic program Some of the other pieces include rig control, net operations and logging software even though there is some logging capability built into the fldigi basic program There is also other supporting calibration software out on the web that works with the fldigi program. We will discuss a sound card calibration procedure in a later foil.

8 NBEMS Homepage This is the homepage for
It will give you the status of the different pieces of the fldigi suite of software At the top of the page is the link to the actual download page Probably the most important item on this page is the “Sights and Sounds of Digital Signals” You can follow this link to a list of the operating modes you will find in fldigi. Clicking on each operating mode you will be able to see what that signal looks like in the waterfall pane of fldigi. You can also listen to what the signal will sound like in your speaker for that operating mode

9 NBEMS Download Page This is what the download pages looks like
The software is listed down the left side of the page and the operating system is listed across the top of the page There are other pieces of this software suite that are also listed on this download page such as logging, net control and rig control but I don’t recommend that you play with them until you become familiar with the fldigi and flmsg basics Note the “Help” column. These are great references to find out more details about the fldigi program

10 NBEMS philosophy Keep it cheap. Keep it simple.
Use Open Source software. Don't depend upon infrastructure. Make it fun to use between drills and disasters. Any computer, any radio. It’s free Available for some of the different operating systems Once installed, the fldigi software is very easy to use with many resources available to help you work with this mode of communications There are more local groups adding fldigi capability to their nets Scott County ARES Sibley/LeSueur ARES Rochester area ARES The Southern Minnesota Phone-Digital Net SEMARC Radio Club Net There is more activity out East on both HF and VHF/UHF – Dave WB0KGN Will work with any computer, radio and/or repeater system, unlike Dstar which is equipment specific

11 Using NBEMS in your net. Auxiliary method to handle formal traffic.
Voice used for basic check-in’s etc Traffic passed by digital – Same or different channel Much faster than Voice. Number / letter sequences are 100% accurate. All message are save to hard drive. Bulletins broadcast to all station All Digital net Mix of keyboard to keyboard and formal traffic sent via forms. Voice and digital can be used in conjunction with each other Can be a more efficient and accurate way of moving formal traffic No repetition required No need for use of ITU phonetics for clarity See more use of all digital mode on HF nets Can use a mix of keyboard to keyboard communications with the use of standard ICS, HICS, MARS, IARU, ARRL Radiogram and Red Cross forms

12 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to set up you NBEMS system How to Use NBEMS Practice time

13 What NBEMS can do for you
Fast accurate method to provide Keyboard to Keyboard communications Send, save, and print standard ARRL, ICS, Red Cross, and generic forms (new forms added regularly) Typical ARRL radiogram takes ~40 seconds to send Data is verified via checksum Can broadcast messages, one to many Supports unattended reception of messages Not encrypted, but general scanning public will hear noise. Will work when voice is marginal. We have covered some of this information in previous foils Some key items from this foil are Data verified via checksum Supports unattended reception of messages but operator must make a point of reviewing the received messages folder once returning to station Probably the most important feature is that digital communications may get through when voice communications are marginal at best

14 What NBEMS will not do for you
It is not a store and forward system like Each station in the system must have an operator Receive message will be stored on local hard drive. No built in connection to the internet It will not move large amounts of data 2 K bytes, or 1 type written page is a practical limit. Over this size and likelihood of an error increases, causing a checksum failure. Have to resend message. Flarq could handle larger files, up to 8K or more, but requires practice and more training to use. Incoming messages will be automatically saved but an operator must forward the message on to another station Larger messages are not recommended If working through a repeater the time-out limits of the repeater must be kept in mind Because of the forward error correction within flarg it is able to handle larger files but flarq requires quite a bit more in overhead time for passing messages and more training

15 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to set up you NBEMS system How to Use NBEMS Practice time

16 Components of NBEMS system
Flwrap Flmsg Flarq Software on Computer Fldigi Sound Card Interface Hardware connection Computer to Radio This diagram shows the basic fldigi operating system Once you become comfortable with this basic system you can expand it with some of the add-on feaatures we saw on the earlier download page foil We will get into the individual blocks in future foils Radio and Antenna

17 Components of NBEMS system Bottom Up - Radio
Any voice capable radio will work FM, SSB, even AM if you want. Fldigi will work with any voice capable radio FM, SSB, or even AM Also HF, UHF or VHF We will cover interfacing in the next foil but I wanted to point out that with HF and the base/mobile station rigs you can interface with the radio via microphone inputs and an external speaker output or via the data port on the back of the radios The handheld radio can be interfaced via the external microphone/speaker connector or via acoustic coupling (“cave man”) approach

18 Components of NBEMS system Bottom Up – Radio Interface
Signal Link USB – Just needs USB Port Rig Blaster – USB and audio ports March 2011 QST, Page 34 - Audio Ports Only Anything hardwired is better, but Audio coupling (Caveman) does work, and can be used. The SignaLink USB by Tigertronics is probably the easiest interface to work with You just need to either purchase the interface cable unique to your radio or build your own interface cables I am using the SignaLink USB interface for this demonstration but I also have a West Mountain Rigblaster Plus interface For the acoustic coupling your laptop will either need a built-in microphone or you will need to add an inexpensive external microphone You will then need to manually perform the PTT function

19 Components of NBEMS system Bottom Up - Fldigi
I am not going to cover all the details of this software. The different features are well documented within the references available on the download page Lets touch on just a few of the main items of the fldigi screen The waterfall – Sights and Sounds The transmit window – this is where you will type your outgoing messages in the keyboard to keyboard operation. If you pre-type a message watch where you leave the cursor The receive window – Your incoming messages will show up in this screen. Because of the way I have my fldigi configured my transmit message is also shown in this screen T/R button – also control T and control R RxID and TxID boxes checked Incoming signal strength meter – make sure the squelch level is set low <5%. Adjust by watching noise in the receive window Op mode drop down tab Configure drop down tab Call, name, QTH, etc. are used for logging and with macro use Macro buttons to speed up keyboard to keyboard communications - programmable

20 Components of NBEMS system Bottom Up - Fldigi
Provides the basic digital communications for the NBEMS system Supports keyboard to keyboard communication like many sound card programs. Has special hooks to connect to the other components. Supports many modes of communications We will focus on two, MT63-2K and Olivia 16/500 We’ve discussed some of these features in the previous screen review From the download webpage you have seen some of the different programs you can tie into fldigi – flarq, logging and rig control to name a few As you will see in a later foil there are many different operating modes this software can utilize. We are going to focus on the MT63-2K and Olivia 16/500 modes

21 Components of NBEMS system Bottom Up - Flmsg
Rapidly and Accurately formats and transmits information. 8 Formats ICS Forms HICS MARS IARU Radiogram Red Cross Generic Blank This is the flmsg part of the fldigi suite If you saw our presentation a few years ago you can see all of the new forms that have been added to this program – from four to now eight formats Go through the acronyms We’ll go deeper into this program in a few foils under configuring flmsg For this presentation we will focus on the ICS213 form and the ARRL Radiogram form

22 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to set up a NBEMS system How to use NBEMS Practice time Next we will cover the BASIC settings that will get you on the air with NBEMS. Our goal is to configure the software to send and receive a message using MT63 – 2K using VHF. Let’s get started.

23 Basic Fldigi Set-up Operating Mode MT63 – 2000 Olivia 16/500
If you have a decent FM voice channel start with MT When MT fails, switch to Olivia 16/500 When Olivia fails, no communications. Let’s get this software setup and start playing with digital communications With a clean install of the newest revision most of the configuration is already taken care of but over the years we have gone through a learning process in getting this software configured properly Let’s go through the configuration just as a reminder of some of the critical configurations. If you run into some configuration problems down the road this power point presentation will be available on our Scott webpage under Member Resources The Op Mode drop down tab is where you will set your operating mode to start your digital communications. This operating mode may change with an incoming signal if they are using a different mode and you have the RxID and TxID buttons turned on With Scott ARES digital communications we spend most of our time on MT63-2K Dave, WB0KGN, uses Olivia most of the time on HF

24 Configuration Options
Basic Set-up Operator Waterfall Modems Rig Control Sound Card IDs Here are the different configuration steps we are going to cover

25 Operator Callsign Tactical Callsign Location
As determined by the situation. First we need to identify who you are You can provide as much or as little information as you want This is a good area to use a tactical call sign if you are operating under that mode. You could put your name/FCC call sign under the Name block such as Bob/W0NFE The QTH block could be used for your emergency site location such as EOC or Staging, Etc. Once you change anything in this drop down window be sure to save your settings before exiting Always SAVE!

26 Waterfall Check the three ‘cursor’ options
Check “Always show audio frequencies” The three cursor options should be checked. Bandwidth, Centerline and Signal tracks We recommend that you check the “Always show audio frequencies.” This will show up just above the waterfall with audio frequencies vs operating frequency numbers I personally have the “Monitor transmitted signal” block checked. That way I see in the receive window what is being transmitted Again, always save your settings before leaving this window Always SAVE!

27 Modems - MT63 Check interleave and tone
All stations in the net need to have the top two button the same for this mode to work. These buttons need to be checked If both the transmitting station and the receiving station do not have these boxes checked you will not copy the transmitted MT63 signal Again, always save before leaving this window Always SAVE!

28 Sound Card Select the correct audio port for your computer.
Volume control on computer, recording controls Select Mic option Adjust for a ‘speckled’ waterfall Speaker – adjust for transmit signal This screen and the next screen are probably where you will run into the most difficulty configuring your fldigi software and computer interface Making sure your software, computer and radio are talking to each other Be sure the Port Audio is checked On the Audio/Devices tab, make sure you have the correct Audio Port Playback and Capture programs specified Using the SignaLink USB I need to select “USB Audio Codec.” (The external soundcard must be connected BEFORE fldigi is started.) You need to make sure the audio levels are adjusted to levels that show activity on the waterfall and provide transmit audio to your radio The process to set these levels will vary determined by your computer OS and interface. (On a Windows OS you might want to check the ‘Sounds and Audio Devices’ folder.) Generally, you want to select a mic input and set the volume of that input to provide a blue speckled waterfall with the squelch open. The transmit audio is generated by the speaker setting. Adjust the volume to transmit an undistorted signal. Less volume is generally better than more. Again, be sure to save your settings before leaving this window Always SAVE!

29 Initialize and Save after changing
Rig Control If using hardwire PTT Check Use Serial Port Select COM port Configure RTS or DTS Initialize to test operation Depending on what soundcard interface you use will determine what buttons you will need to check If you are using a hardwire PTT interface, check the Use separate serial port box, select the correct Com Port, and RTS or DTR as required by your particular interface Using the SignaLink USB interface I don’t need to check any of these buttons It was just a matter of finding out which Com Port the USB connection was using Hit the Initialize button and then Save before leaving this window After setting up this screen and the previous screen I recommend going to the fldigi screen and confirming that you see something in the waterfall and that when you activate the “T/R” button that your radio actually goes into the transmit mode, i.e., the software and computer are actually talking to your radio and vice versa Initialize and Save after changing

30 IDs Reed-Solomon ID DO NOT select “Reception disables detector”
Pre-Signal Tone may vary depending on specific delay time in your equipment Here is the ID configuration window you will need to check We are concerned with the Reed-Solomon ID areas. In the Receive ID section, check the two boxes in the upper section: Detector searches entire passband, and Mark previous frequency and mode. DO NOT check Reception Disables Detection You may need to play with the Pre-Signal Tone time depending on the delay time in your equipment. This may include adjusting the VOX delay time on your soundcard interface if it has a built-in VOX circuit and delay time is adjustable Again, save before leaving this window Always SAVE!

31 Text Capture Under configuration , Misc, NBEMS.
Make sure “Enable,” “Open Message Folder” and “Open with flmsg” is selected. Verify flmsg file location The reason for showing this drop down window is to make certain you have checked the NBEMS data file interface buttons to “Open with flmsg” under Reception of flmsg messages We will demonstrate this in a few minutes Another action item in this window will be to correct the path statement for the flmsg.exe. If you had an older version of fldigi/flmsg installed on your computer this path statement has not been updated with newer installations. You should also make certain you have removed older versions of flmsg on your computer. Upgrading does not remove older versions on your computer Again, save before leaving this window Always SAVE!

32 Flmsg Rapidly and Accurately formats and transmits information.
ICS Forms HICS MARS Radiogram Red Cross Generic DnD Blank You have seen this screen before but we will also need to configure flmsg before proceeding

33 Flmsg set-up Personal Data Date/Time format Files format Radiogram
Words per line (5) Serial Number These four drop down screens appear under the “Config” tab on flmsg You will need to select the date and time format you want to use. It is important in an emergency operation to that everyone use the same format for Date, Time and message numbering You will also need to select how you want your “Saved” files named. Be consistent with the entire emergency team You will also need to identify yourself for the ARRL Radiogram form. Again, tactical call sign could be used and as much information you give is up to you You also have the option of selecting how many words per line to use in the Radiogram form

34 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to set up a NBEMS system How to use NBEMS Practice time

35 Fldigi Verify communications with keyboard to keyboard
Ctrl-T to Transmit Ctrl-R to Receive We have covered this screen earlier but will demonstrate it’s use in the demo portion of this presentation Or Use the T/R button

36 Flmsg Rapidly and Accurately formats and transmits information.
ICS Forms HICS MARS Radiogram Red Cross Generic ( ) DnD Blank We have covered this screen earlier but will demonstrate it’s use in the demo portion of this presentation Older versions of flmsg showed the different formats and form numbers as tabs and sub tabs With version of flmsg the different formats and respective form numbers show-up under the Form drop down window

37 ICS 213 Form Time Here is the ICS213 general communications form. The fields match up with the multi-part paper form you will see in an emergency. Preparing the message is a fill-in-the-blank exercise. The Date and Time blanks may be filled in using the buttons for the current values We will show you an ICS213 message in an upcoming foil Date

38 ARRL Radiogram Calculate Check Today Pick ARRL Message
Here is the ARRL Radiogram form You have a button on this form that will select the precedence for this piece of traffic A button for selecting handling instructions, if used A button that calculates the check sum for this piece of traffic after you have entered the message below Date and time buttons An ARL abbreviated code selector, if utilized Again, we will show you a completed ARRL Radiogram form in an upcoming foil

39 WRAP your message Sending your message is easy as selecting: File Wrap
AutoSend The message immediately moves to FLDIGI and is transmitted Once you have filled out a form you are ready to send the traffic Before sending the traffic check your fldigi screen for the correct operating mode When ready to send hit File/Wrap/Autosend A screen will pop up to ask you if you want a copy of the message saved before transmitting These files will be saved in your flmsgsend folder

40 Received Traffic Received messages are stored within the NBEMS.files folder WRAP files are associated with flmsg for viewing Messages sorted by date/time stamp

41 IC 213 HTML Delivery You can ‘VIEW’ a received message in Flmsg in html delivery format. When the page is printed from your browser the form looks like a standard paper IC 213 message or ARRL Radiogram form

42 ARRL Radiogram Delivery

43 Agenda Why Digital ECOMS What is NBEMS
What NBEMS can and cannot do for you Components of a NBEMS system How to use a NBEMS How to set up a NBEMS system Practice time

44 Things to Watch Tx & Rx IDs Op Mode Squelch - off
Here are a couple of areas that may trip you up from time to time. Check the upper right corner of the screen. Make sure the RX ID and TX ID are checked. This will utilize the Reed-Solomon ID You can check the Op Mode in the lower left corner of the screen. The squelch, set in the lower right corner of the screen must be set low enough to see the signal on the waterfall. If you set the squelch at the bottom, you may see some garbage print in the Receive Text area.

45 Sound Card Calibration
If you run the Sound Card Calibration program this is the fldigi window where you would plug in the correction factors gathered from the program The Sound Card Calibration program is available at under Member Resources/NBEMS Resources/SCCheck The procedure for this test is available as a Power Point presentation at the same location and listed as Sound Card Calibration

46 Additional Information
This presentation is available at from the Member Resources page. Questions?

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