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FRIDAY - AUGUST 18, 2006 - ISSUE NO. 225

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Wireless Messaging Newsletter
  • VoIP
  • Wi-Fi
  • Paging
  • Wi-MAX
  • Telemetry
  • Location Services
  • Wireless Messaging
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A Global Wireless Messaging Association

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On October 19, 2005, in Helsinki, Finland, a new paging association was formed. Successor to WMA (Wireless Messaging Association UK) and EMMA (European Mobile Messaging Association), the new association retained EMMA as its name. Derek Banner, former chairman of WMA was elected chairman of the new EMMA.

You can contact Mr. Banner by calling him on +44 1895 473 551 or e-mailing him at:  left arrow CLICK HERE

Please read the new EMMA whitepaper Radiopaging for Alerting First Responders and Informing the Public during Emergencies.



Advertiser Index

AAPC—American Association of Paging Carriers Minilec Service, Inc.
Advanced RF Communications  Nighthawk Systems, Inc.
Advantra—INILEX   Northeast Paging
Aquis Communications, Inc.   NotePage Inc.
Ayrewave Corporation
CONTEL Costa Rica  ParkMagic
CVC Paging   Preferred Wireless
Daniels Electronics   Prism Paging
Daviscomms USA   Product Support Services
EMMA—European Mobile Messaging Association   Ron Mercer
Global Fax Network Services   Texas Association of Paging Services
GTES LLC  TH Communications
Hark Systems   UCOM Paging
Heartland Communications   Unication USA
HMCE, Inc.  USA Mobility, Systems Application Division
InfoRad, Inc.  WiPath Communications
Ira Wiesenfeld   Zetron Inc.


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Zetron Simulcast System

High-speed simulcast Paging with protocols such as POCSAG and FLEX™ requires microsecond accuracy to synchronize the transmission of digital Paging signals.

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Zetron's Simulcast System uses GPS timing information to ensure that the broadcasted transmissions between the nodes of the Simulcast System and associated transmitters are synchronized to very tight tolerances.

This system is ideal for public or private Paging system operators that use multiple transmitters and wish to create new Paging systems or to build out existing systems into new regions. For more information about Zetron's High Speed Simulcast Paging System, the Model 600 and Model 620, go to: left arrow CLICK HERE

Zetron, Inc.
P.O. Box 97004
Redmond, WA 98073-9704 USA
Tel: 425-820-6363
Fax: 425-820-7031
E-mail:   left arrow CLICK HERE
Zetron Inc.


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Times Online August 13, 2006

Push button B to be rescued

By Emma Smith of The Sunday Times
A new hi-tech device can take the drama out of a roadside crisis

You break down in the middle of nowhere, your phone’s battery is flat and you’re faced with a long trudge through the rain to find the nearest phone box. Wouldn't it be great if you could press a button and someone would come to the rescue? A one-touch system available from next year will alert a breakdown company to the driver’s whereabouts and the car’s make and model.

Called “B-Call” by the BT engineers developing it (it will have a different name when it is launched) the system will eventually be able to narrow down and communicate the cause of the breakdown, using information from the car’s engine management system.

BT says it is in discussion with car companies and breakdown services interested in installing the system. “All the information will be transferred instantly to the breakdown service provider,” said Daniel Ballin, service information consultant for BT.

As people also like to know how long they will have to wait, and hear a reassuring voice, a call-centre operator could phone them (assuming they have enough signal/battery to receive the call) or send a paged reply to the in-car system confirming receipt of their alert message.

“You would be able to fit a system like this relatively cheaply and breakdown service providers could offer it as an added incentive to attract customers,” said Ballin. “There would be an initial installation cost and then perhaps a small subscription fee.”

The device would be installed in the car in a similar way to a tracking system, probably in the engine bay. When the driver presses the button a message is sent using a paging network to your breakdown service. It would include an identifier — probably your policy number — then your name, contact details, car make, model, colour and registration number would appear on a screen in the company’s control centre.

The device would also include a GPS locator. The AA estimates that more than half of motorists do not know where they are when they break down. “Our call centre staff spend quite a lot of time trying to establish details of landmarks to try to locate motorists,” said a spokesman. GPS technology will let the B-Call system pinpoint the car to within a few metres.

The facility to give the mechanic attending the scene an idea of what has gone wrong is still being developed and will not be available before 2008. Modern engine management systems store data that could help diagnose what happened in the engine immediately before the car stopped, such as a fan belt or valve breaking, the engine overheating, or a problem with brakes or suspension.

BT’s system is one of a number of services being developed that allow cars to “talk” to breakdown or emergency services if the car is in an accident. BMW Assist is an optional service that sends a text message to the emergency services when airbags are activated in an accident, giving details of where the vehicle is.

The service comes as part of a package with satellite navigation and Bluetooth wireless phone connection that costs from £1,730 with an annual subscription of £120. “We know people have really benefited from this system,” said Duncan Forrester of BMW. “In May this year a woman crashed into a tree in her X5. She was knocked unconscious but BMW Assist went into action and the next thing she remembered was being helped out of her car by a policeman.”

The European Union wants to see all new cars fitted with similar systems by 2009. Under the EU proposals the technology would also be used to give investigators clues about how accidents are caused, in the same way as an aircraft’s black box recorder. The technology could reveal whether seatbelts were worn, the brakes failed, the car skidded or at what speed the vehicle was moving.

Police forces in the UK use similar devices in some patrol cars to help explain what happened before a collision, especially following an accident during a high-speed chase. Some courier and freight companies use them to track their vehicles.

The fast-developing technology has caused controversy in the United States. Like the EU, the National Transportation Safety Board there wants to make black boxes compulsory by 2009. The devices are fitted in 15%-20% of American vehicles and most new cars have them as standard.

However, in the interests of privacy, US motoring organisations are calling on manufacturers to state in their owners’ manuals what data are collected and who would be able to access them. The controversy has been fuelled by revelations that unknown to most customers, car hire companies have used black box recorders to check their whereabouts.

The same technology could be used as a basis for road user charging.

Source: Times Online (UK)

ARRL First VP Chairs Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference

garec 2006
GAREC-2006 attendees flank ARRL First Vice President and conference chair Kay Craigie, N3KN (center in yellow blazer).

NEWINGTON, CT, Aug 15, 2006 — ARRL First Vice President Kay Craigie, N3KN, represented the League at the Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference 2006 (GAREC-2006). She also was chosen to chair the event, held June 19-20 in Tampere, Finland, concurrently with the International Conference on Emergency Communications (ICEC 2006) and the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications (WGET). GAREC-2006 participants primarily followed up on items first raised during GAREC-2005. Representatives of than 20 countries were on hand, and Craigie said it was beneficial to have a chance to get to know amateurs from other countries who are involved in emergency communications.

"It is easy for American amateurs to assume that Amateur Radio emergency communications work in other countries is the same as what we are familiar with in the USA; however, for historical, cultural and regulatory reasons this is not necessarily the case," she said. "We have much to learn from one another, whether Amateur Radio in one's home country has a long history of emergency communications service or has begun this activity relatively recently."

Center-of-Activity Frequencies

Establishment of emergency communications center-of-activity frequencies was among the GAREC 2005 agenda items carried over to this year's gathering. Not to be confused with calling frequencies, center-of-activity frequencies provide common spots on various bands for operators in disaster areas to congregate — after making initial contact — to carry out necessary communications and pass emergency traffic.

Establishment of global center-of-activity frequencies was recommended for 15, 17 and 20 meters, with regional frequencies considered more appropriate on 40 and 75 meters. IARU Region 1 has adopted global and regional frequencies, although Craigie said IARU Region 2 and Region 3 have yet to take up the subject at what she called "competent conferences."

Emergency Communications Handbook

Further refinement of the International Amateur Radio Union Emergency Communications Handbook and a proposal to produce a brochure about Amateur Radio communication also came in for discussion. Craigie said that while the handbook project has made some progress, things have stalled recently. She cited the challenge of producing a book that is useful worldwide — neither too generalized nor dominated by a few countries' practices. GAREC-2006 participants shared views on what the handbook should include as well as its purpose and audience.

Conferees concurred to support the efforts of the IARU Emergency Communications Handbook working group and to make copies of the publication available in their respective languages. International Coordinator for Emergency Communications Hans Zimmermann, F5VKP/HB9AQS, has spearheaded the handbook effort.

On the Horizon

One conference session was devoted to discussion of special and innovative emergency communication concepts. Mark Wood, G4HLZ, of the Cellular Emergency Alert Systems Association (CEASA) described how Amateur Radio emergency communication organizations could use the cellular broadcast public warning system to alert their members.

He also discussed how eQSO is being used in the UK. Craigie said that eQSO seems to be more like the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) than EchoLink, which also came in for some discussion regarding its in emergency communication role. EchoLink is being used, Craigie pointed out, but its dependence on repeater infrastructure is a vulnerability. Participants also debated the various advantages and disadvantages of newer digital modes and networks.

Craigie said attendees appeared interested in maintaining the relationships established during the two GAREC events. "There was a general sense that holding a future conference in Region 2 or 3 might permit participation by representatives of more and/or different countries," she said.

Suitably Prepared or Suicidal?

garec 2006
GAREC-2005 Chair Seppo Sisatto, OH1VR (left), greets ARRL First Vice President Kay Craigie, N3KN, the 2006 chair.

Although Craigie only attended the opening and closing ICEC 2006 sessions, she said the program brochure reemphasized for her how important it is for Amateur Radio "to avoid being dazzled by our own press clippings into thinking that we are the big dog in emergency telecommunications."

"The point of the Tampere Convention is to remove regulatory impediments to the swift deployment of modern emergency telecommunications equipment and competent personnel," Craigie said, "especially to disaster zones in those parts of the world where communications infrastructure may not have been much to talk about before the disaster struck and where regulatory environments may be hostile."

In the US, Craigie pointed out, there's been a post-Katrina emphasis to speed up deployment of sophisticated communications systems after disasters, so that government and non-government organizations can get to work quickly. "As the emergency telecomm world as a whole speeds up its reaction time, we hams must be better organized, more capable and on the scene as quickly as possible after our help is requested," Craigie commented. "Given ham radio's dependency on emergency communications as our reason to exist in the US, it would be suicidal to assume that what we have always been able to do — at the speed we have always been able to do it — will be just fine to maintain our relevance into the indefinite future."

Craigie predicted there will always be a role for Amateur Radio in disasters. "The question is whether we will suitably prepare ourselves to play it," she concluded.

Additional materials, including a presentation by Craigie, are available on the GAREC-2006 Web site.

Source: ARRL

Siemens Brings Two New Wireless Modules to Market Radio Modules XT75 and XT65 combine GPS with GSM

In December 2006, the Siemens Communications Group will bring to market two new modules for tracking and navigation applications: the XT75 and the XT65. Both modules contain a GPS receiver that allows global positioning, and EDGE or GPRS technology for transmitting data to a mobile device. The modules are based on JavaT and have quadband capability, which means they can be used in all GSM mobile networks worldwide.

The radio modules XT75 and XT65 are especially suited for fleet management, vehicle positioning, navigation, emergency call or location-based services. The modules allow the user to determine the exact location of persons, vehicles, goods in transit or end devices. Location-related information can also be sent and called up via the mobile network. A car driver, for example, can thus load information on the nearest restaurant in a navigation system or send an emergency SMS with position data.

Fast satellite positioning is carried out via 16 parallel channels, using A-GPS data. The integrated TCP/IP communication protocol ("TCP/IP stack") converts the A-GPS data into data packets and then transmits these via EDGE (XT75) or GPRS (XT75 and XT65) technology to the mobile network. Both modules send and receive on the frequencies 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz. The XT75 can send data packets at up to three times the speed of ISDN. The modules are 54 mm x 39 mm x 3.5 mm in size and use various GSM & GPS energy-saving modes to minimize power consumption. The integrated RIL driver ensures simple connection to end devices based on Microsoft® Windows MobileT.

Thanks to JavaT support for the XT75 and XT65, programming all the applications is fast and easy for developers. The integrated processor and memory reduce the total cost of ownership and guarantee a shorter time to market. All standard sensors and actors can be linked via digital and analog interfaces.

All of Siemens Communications' radio modules are manufactured in compliance with the EU directives on restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS).

Siemens Communications
The Siemens Communications Group is one of the largest players in the global telecommunications industry. The company offers a full-line portfolio of innovative solutions for voice and data communication. Its comprehensive offerings range from devices right through to complex network infrastructures and services for wireless, fixed and enterprise networks. It is the largest Group within the Siemens organization and operates in more than 160 countries around the world. In fiscal 2005 (September 30), its 54,500-strong workforce posted sales of over 13 billion euros.

More about Siemens Communications at

Source: Wireless Developer Network

Cisco Helps Emergency Responders With SWAT

August 10, 2006

By Patrick Barnard
TMCnet Associate Editor

Cisco Systems has unveiled a suite of all-IP mobile services designed to improve communications among emergency responders.

The company’s new Solutions with Advanced Technologies (SWAT) program is designed to integrate all forms of emergency communications - including 911, dispatch, radio, satellite, wireless, weather monitoring and video - on a common platform to improve emergency response and operational efficiency.

“SWAT represents the first approach to public safety networking that allows converged communications using multiple devices,” a press release from Cisco states. “This helps law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services (EMS) and other emergency response agencies communicate via voice, video and data, all using standards-based IP networking technology.”

The suite includes Cisco’s Instant and Mobile Integrated Communications Solution (IMICS), which allows emergency response agencies to quickly deploy IP communications including VoIP, Web connectivity and wireless hotspot capabilities. It also features Cisco’s Tactical Communications Kit (TCK), which provides highly secure voice, data and video communications solutions that can withstand harsh conditions. According to Cisco, the system allows for emergency communications in all types of conditions - including storms that knock out the broadband.

The suite also features video surveillance and communication via a mobile video kit supplied by TANDBERG. This facilitates emergency applications such as in-field video conferencing and situational awareness reports. SWAT also offers up-to-date, neighborhood-specific weather information through a Cisco partnership with AWS Convergence Technologies Inc., which operates the WeatherBug monitoring service.

More important than its individual features, though, SWAT enables emergency response agencies to quickly and easily migrate from a “patchwork quilt” of communications systems to a single- all-IP system which can be used to establish highly efficient “chain of command” communications architectures.

“Public safety networking is the foundation of a connected, safe community,” said Morgan Wright, Cisco’s global industry solutions manager for public safety, in the press release. “By providing a standards-based, converged, highly secure network, law enforcement, fire, EMS and other agencies can better safeguard and respond to their communities.”

The emergency communications market, for both equipment and software makers, is booming, as local, regional and state agencies begin upgrading their legacy systems to all-IP. There are numerous players in this market, but it appears the pie is big enough for everyone to have a healthy sized slice. Research conducted by Crimson Consulting Group shows that the five primary challenges currently facing public safety agencies are: incompatible communications technologies, insufficient staffing, insufficient information sharing, technology obsolescence and the inability of agencies to communicate and coordinate their efforts.

“SWAT represents Cisco’s unique approach to public safety networking where more and better information is available for faster, more effective decision making and response,” Wright said. “Cisco’s advanced technologies can be rapidly deployed and scaled to meet agencies’ changing requirements and deliver a converged, highly secure and more reliable network that meets public safety information needs wherever, whenever. As a result, agencies can immediately coordinate their response to events and quickly direct the appropriate resources where they’re needed.”

For more information, visit


Patrick Barnard is Associate Editor for TMCnet and a columnist covering the telecom industry. To see more of his articles, please visit Patrick Barnard’s columnist page.



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Nighthawk Systems Inc. manufactures low cost and reliable remote control products for fire house alerting, volunteer alerting, activation of warning signs and sirens, and a number of applications for public safety.  The Company manufactures the EA1 and the FAS-8 which have been designed specifically for these applications.  Both products are paging based and will work with any public or private paging network.  They are available in all VHF, UHF, and 900 MHz paging frequencies.  The products can serve as the primary notification system or an excellent, low-cost backup to existing systems.

Public Emergency Notification & Volunteer Alerting

The EA1 is the solution for remotely activating public warning signage.  Examples include tornado sirens, flash flood warnings, fire danger, Amber Alert, icy roads, etc.  The EA1 can also send text messages to scrolling signs.  This can occur in conjunction with the activation of audible alarms and visual strobes.  This is ideal for public notification in buildings, schools, hotels, factories, etc. The group call feature allows for any number of signs or flashing lights to be activated at the same time over a wide geographic area.  In addition, the EA1 Emergency Alert is the perfect solution for low cost yet highly effective alerting of volunteer fire fighters in their home.  When activated the EA1 will emit an audible alarm and activate the power outlet on the units faceplate.  A common setup is to simply place the EA1 on a table and plug a lamp into the faceplate.  When paged from dispatch or any touch tone phone the EA1 will awaken the fire fighter to a lit room.  As an option the EA1 can be ordered with a serial cable, allowing for attachment of a serial printer.  When paged the alphanumeric message will be printed out at the same time the alarm sounds and the outlet is activated.  The EA1 is an ideal complement to alphanumeric belt pagers common to volunteers.

nighthawk sign

Firehouse Automation

The FAS-8 is designed for activating one or more relays in a firehouse and if desired, printing the alphanumeric message to a serial printer.  For this application the FAS-8 is set to activate upon receiving the proper paging cap code sent from 911 dispatch.  Up to eight different devices can be activated all with individual time functions.  The most common devices to turn on include the PA amplifier, audible wake up alarm, and house lights.  The most common device turned off is the stove.  The FAS-8 can accept up to 8 different cap codes and have separate relay and time functions per cap code.  This allows for different alerting to be accomplished at the same physical location depending upon which cap code is sent.  This can be very helpful when fire crews and medical crews are housed in the same building.



Put the innovative technology of Nighthawk to work for you. For more information on any of our products or services, please contact us.

Nighthawk Systems, Inc.
10715 Gulfdale, Suite 200
San Antonio, TX 78216

Phone: 877-764-4484
Fax: 210-341-2011

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$500.00 FLAT RATE

TAPS—Texas Association of Paging Services is looking for partners on 152.480 MHz. Our association currently uses Echostar, formerly Spacecom, for distribution of our data and a large percentage of our members use the satellite to key their TXs. We have a CommOneSystems Gateway at the uplink in Chicago with a back-up running 24/7. Our paging coverage area on 152.480 MHz currently encompasses Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Kansas. The TAPS paging coverage is available to members of our Network on 152.480 MHz for $.005 a transmitter (per capcode per month), broken down by state or regions of states and members receive a credit towards their bill for each transmitter which they provide to our coverage. Members are able to use the satellite for their own use If you are on 152.480 MHz or just need a satellite for keying your own TXs on your frequency we have the solution for you.

TAPS will provide the gateways in Chicago, with Internet backbone and bandwidth on our satellite channel for $ 500.00 (for your system) a month.

Contact Ted Gaetjen @ 1-800-460-7243 or left arrow CLICK TO E-MAIL


Digital radio crucial for disaster alert for the deaf and blind

Tuesday 15 Aug 2006

mike starlingDigital radio not only improves audio quality and introduces a whole new interactive experience for the user, it also plays a crucial role in disaster and emergency alerts for the hearing and visually impaired, the ABU Digital Radio Convention was told today.

Mike Starling of Washington-based National Public Radio (NPR) said HD Radio, the only digital standard deployed in the US, supported the expansion and improvement of public service broadcasting by reaching out to the deaf and the blind communities.

Mr Starling said digital radio provided extra channels that could be allocated for radio reading services for the blind as well as descriptive video services for the deaf which could save lives during an emergency.

He said that NPR was working with the International Association for Audio Information Services (IAAIS) to come up with a special emergency HD Radio with a bed-shaker connection to alert sleeping hearing-impaired people of emergencies.

The device, he said, could trigger the bed shaker when an emergency alert is received, waking them up in time to look for shelter.

Similarly, live broadcasts could be paused for video describers to narrate televised coverage of disasters. Software which removes spaces in programme material allows the station to catch up to the real time broadcast so that the visually impaired could be kept updated on the latest developments.

“We have 32 million Americans who are visually or hearing impaired. This figure is expected to grow to 50 million by 2020 as the population ages. We need to be able to provide adequate radio services for these people and digital radio serves this purpose,” he said later in an interview.

Mr Starling had earlier presented his paper on “Radio reading services for the disabled over HD Radio” during the second day of the ABU Digital Radio Convention which is being held in Kuala Lumpur from 14-17 August.

The conference, which aims to provide answers on how and when to introduce digital radio services in countries in the Asia-Pacific region, also features an exhibition and demonstrations of the latest digital radio technologies and products available worldwide.

The principal sponsor of the event is Harris Corporation. Other sponsors include HD Radio, DRM, Thomson, THL Group, VT Communications, Broadcast Australia, CRA-Australia, WorldSpace, Klotz Digital, on and AMP Radio Networks-Malaysia.

The event is also supported by WorldDAB, mpeg and Tourism Malaysia, with TV3-Malaysia and APB as its media partners.

Source: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union

Storm Communications No Big Easy

02:00 AM Aug, 03, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — It was a great idea: an emergency communications system that would kick in at the first signs of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, putting up-to-date information in officials' hands and getting word out to the masses.

But like many great ideas, it hasn't worked out yet. Plans have been floated and committees formed. But have authorities implemented an effective hurricane-response system that works on a grass-roots level? Some say older, disbanded schemes worked better than the current mix of "modern" systems.

As Louisiana approaches the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, some fear a repeat of the Katrina debacle, when a lack of accurate information about the developing situation on the ground slowed authorities' response.

"Lack of communication hinders a lot," said Mark Smith, spokesman for the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "It's exceedingly difficult to run search-and-rescue operations of that magnitude without communications. There were parishes — we didn't know whether or not they had even survived for two to three days because the (satellite) phones weren't working."

Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville) says "politics" are delaying deployment of a rapid-response emergency communications system. He sponsored legislation to require the state to set up a system, but says the governor's office is ignoring the possibilities of the internet. "They're focusing on a radio-based system, which could cost hundreds of millions," he said.

Burns' team estimated that a text-messaging system like the one successfully employed by the Swedish government to evacuate thousands of citizens from Lebanon could be set up for $20 million in less than six months. His bills, HB540 and HB619, passed the Louisiana House but were killed in Senate committee.

Geeks to the rescue

Meanwhile, tech-savvy entrepreneurs showed officials an emergency-communications system they say would be effective and relatively inexpensive.

first diagram

The founders of I-55, a New Orleans ISP that weathered Katrina without a significant loss of service, designed a disaster-communications system they say would let state and local authorities instantly push emergency information from an internet-based control center to citizens, first-responder teams and the news media.

"It would benefit the public. Anybody could sign up to get emergency alerts," said Ezra Hodge, co-creator of the system they called FIRST (for flexible immediate response and safety technology). "We've got the technology to connect the dots so people can get information — better information — quicker. And evacuations can be better coordinated."

Hodge figures the FIRST system would cost about $2 million to implement and $1 million a year to operate. It uses a variety of methods — including internet chat protocols, cell phones, desktop alerts and text-pager messages — to disperse critical information efficiently during a disaster.

It receives information from citizens on the ground to build an up-to-date, accurate database. Software groups high-priority or geographically connected messages to prioritize disaster communications, and the system reserves portions of cell-phone bandwidth for first responders.

The dynamic system can accommodate sudden and massive demands during an emergency. Data centers in several locations (some out of state) provide backup in case any one locale is hit. A future iteration would add levee sensors to transmit developing faults — a kind of early warning system for breaches.

Some of the FIRST planning came from the experiences of DirectNiC, an IT company whose data center (housing I-55 servers) stayed up and running last year as Katrina shut down the city. According to CEO Sigmund Solares, employees camped out on the 10th floor of their building in New Orleans' central business district and used a generator to power the servers in an air-conditioned room.

DirectNiC's blog became a hub for citizens to locate each other, an online village to connect people scattered by the storm while webcams documented what was happening on the streets below.

Hodge said he was ready to set up a FIRST-style system before the 2006 hurricane season arrived. "It's astronomically perplexing why this didn't get done," said Hodge, "Homeland Security met with us and said they needed us. We had lunch with Gov. (Kathleen) Blanco (in May) — she said it was one of the most brilliant ideas she'd heard since the storm and wondered why it's not being done."

We've got it covered

new orleans - katrinaGovernor's spokesman Smith, however, says there are so many redundant systems now that communications won't be an issue. "We've put our emphasis on communication; we've moved to improve it," he said.

"When I go out into the field, I'll take a 700-MHz and an 800-MHz radio, cell phone, BlackBerrry and AirCard for the laptop," said Smith, whose job during an emergency will be to ride herd on the media. He says cell-phone carriers have "hardened their towers — they're supposed to be able to take a hell of a lot more during a storm."

His agency has purchased three trailer-mounted, voice-over-internet-protocol satellite-communication systems. If a local jurisdiction loses its connectivity, one of these can be brought in by truck or helicopter and be up and running within 30 minutes, according to Smith. He added that the National Guard and the state police have "all kinds of new communications toys."

It's unclear how much the state has spent on its new toys or how effectively they will work together. Lack of interoperability was a major problem during Katrina. A December 2005 letter (.pdf) from Col. Henry Whitethorn of the Louisiana State Police to Tom Davis, chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, states: "For (Louisiana) to achieve true interoperability, the initial cost for infrastructure and equipment is $552,680,423, which must be supplemented by $10,150,000 in recurring operating costs."

Smith did not address how information gets out to citizens who don't have all the gadgets he mentioned, or how the government agencies plan to hear from those people. "We are so much more prepared than we were a year ago, but a year ago, we thought we were very prepared," he said. "No one could have prepared for Katrina (.pdf). Now we have much better planning and preparation and every day that Mother Nature is nice to us, we're a little better prepared."

Going local and getting the news out

Meanwhile, local officials in St. Tammany Parish — an 854-square-mile area located across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans — liked the sound of the FIRST system and decided to run with it. They're putting a slimmed-down version in place.

"We know this area," says Hodge, who lives in Mandeville. He's shifted his focus from the state level to the parish and formed a new company called Convergence Media Group with Jason Olivier, one of the designers of FIRST. "The concept has morphed — now it's to work directly with media outlets," said Hodge. It's a privatized model paid for by businesses, but residents can still sign up for free.

Local authorities in St. Tammany Parish, about half of which was wiped out during Katrina, don't want to be caught unprepared again. They are working with Convergence Media Group and, a local news site owned by Convergence. The sheriff's department has applied for a federal grant to establish a direct satellite uplink so it's not dependent on an outside satellite company for service.

I-55 will help with the deployment of the parish's emergency system, as well as provide IT support for The online publication, which also broadcasts over local cable, will embed reporters and videographers with the sheriff's department when a hurricane is imminent.

"If an emergency develops, we'll be able to deliver news on the air at any time with a satellite uplink," said Milena Merrill, a broadcast producer for the site. In return, local authorities can take over the top third of the website for certain emergencies.

"We won't have video accessibility at all locations, but we'll be able to upload close to breaking news live. If we're with the sheriff as they're dealing with a situation, we can uplink and stream what's happening," Merrill said.

Whether embedded reporters will be able to disseminate news more effectively than The Times-Picayune did during Katrina remains to be seen. The newspaper published first from its "hurricane bunker" and then from an office on high ground across the river.

Posting audio and text blog entries, staffers detailed their exit through rising floodwaters and published articles by reporters on the ground as the catastrophe unfolded. (The Times-Picayune coverage during and after the storm landed the newspaper Pulitzer prizes for public service and breaking news reporting.)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Another New Orleans group developing emergency communications is also focusing locally, using a hands-on approach to keeping people connected and safe. Common Ground has been working in neighborhoods hardest hit by flooding and hurricane winds to clean up homes and toxic soils, providing residents with medical and legal assistance, as well as basic supplies like food, water, tools and clothing.

Common Ground's emergency-response team developed a plan using citizens band radios, satellite phones and computer access with a generator-driven wireless system. They'll use a telephone patch through a ham radio system.

The plan is similar to the system that existed before mass evacuations were mandated, according to "Sheik" Richardson, a photographer who heads the Arabi Wrecking Krewe, a volunteer group helping musicians get back into their Katrina-drenched houses.

"I worked in communications for the city," said Richardson, who grew up in New Orleans' Upper 9th Ward and Gentilly neighborhoods. "We had a network of radios — the Gulf Coast Hurricane Network. We practiced every week."

Although they used high-frequency amateur radios, it was not an amateur network, but part of the city's civil defense network from the '50s into the '80s. According to Richardson, the system was disbanded by "Dutch" Morial, the first black mayor of New Orleans, who favored cell phones.

Neighbors helped neighbors, and detailed plans were in place. Folks who knew each other also knew who would need assistance, who had transportation, who needed medications. The neighborhood evacuations were disbanded during the Reagan administration, Richardson said, in favor of mass evacuations to central locations or out of the city.

The old plan resembled the highly effective system still in use in Cuba. The Cuban plan relies on civilian cooperation to make it work. There's plenty of water, stored food, a pre-hurricane drill that both prepares homes and instructs people where to go, and accelerated garbage pickup. The sick, elderly or pregnant are given priority, and doctors and nurses go with them to provide medical attention.

An Oxfam report (.pdf) noted that in Cuba, local officials are the civil defense workers, so people in the emergency situation are responding to someone they know. Reuters reports that a U.N. study found the risk of dying in a hurricane in the United States was 15 times higher than in Cuba.

It's possible to reinstate such an efficient system in Louisiana, say the folks working on these systems. But a look at what worked in the past suggests technology can help but success depends on people-to-people communication.

"It's fixable, it's doable — it just takes intelligence and a will," said Richardson. "It's common sense."

Source: Wired News


From: Gagan Puranik <>
Date: August 17, 2006 5:17:31 PM CDT
Subject: [PTC-PWG] Thank You!

PWG Members:

As some of you already know, I am taking an internal transfer from SkyTel to Verizon Lab. My last day with SkyTel is Aug 25th 2006. During yesterday (Aug 16, 2006) PWG call, the PWG members selected Pat Adams from USA Mobility as the new acting chair of PWG. Pat has been with paging industry for 15 years — if officially confirmed as chair in September PTC F2F meeting — I am sure he will do an exceptional job. Obviously, we still have great PWG team — Tereus, Paul, Doug, James, Allan, and Stephen. Will miss all of you. My personal e-mail address is Keep in touch.

Thank You — I had wonderful 9+ years in the industry & 6+ years as chair of PWG!

Gagan Puranik
Chair, AAPC/PTC Protocol Working Group

From: Stephen Oshinsky
Subject: September 26th Face-to-Face
Date: July 28, 2006 3:40:08 PM CDT
To: Paging Technical Committee

As voted on in the last meeting, the next PTC Face-to-face will be in conjunction with the combined AAPC/EWA show in Orlando on September 26th. We have the afternoon on the 26th for our meeting. The exact time is not completely set but will occur between 12-5 PM. This is to give everybody a heads up and to ask for input for the agenda. If you have anything that you want to present or have discussed, please send to me ASAP so I can get the final details for the meeting set up. Please go to the AAPC website ( to register for the show.

We also need a corporate sponsor for our meeting. The sponsorship cost will be about $1500. Please contact me if you or your company would like to be the sponsor for our next meeting.

Thank you,

Stephen M. Oshinsky
Technical Advisory
stephen oshinsky


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Brad Dye
Wireless Messaging Consultant

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