Welcome To The Virginia Digital Emergency Network
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Part 1: General Operation Guidelines
Background and Purpose
The Virginia Digital Emergency Network (VDEN) was established on October 1, 1995 to provide amateur radio-based digital communications for supported agencies during emergencies, exercises, and other public service events. VDEN is designed to route traffic to and from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) or the Virginia EOC (VAEOC) on behalf of supported Eoc’s and other agencies. The VDEN system may also be used to send and receive digital traffic on behalf of the National Weather Service (NWS) Skywarn program.
VDEN uses several VHF and UHF amateur frequencies to interconnect Bulletin Board Stations (BBS), Personal BBS (PBBS) and various nodes that form the infrastructure of the statewide system. The primary frequencies are:
Other VHF and UHF frequencies at 1200 and 9600 baud may also be used with coordination to make interconnections within the VDEN network and satisfy the needs of supported agencies.
UHF ‘backbones’ are designed to forward digital traffic between regions of the state where reliable UHF propagation is possible. A backbone frees up the primary user frequencies so that the system will operate more efficiently and effectively. Out of necessity, forwarding also takes place on 145.730 MHz and other VHF frequencies as needed. Since VDEN is a forward-looking network, other forms of high-speed technology may be utilized to augment the network, particularly in times of emergencies.
Participating BBS Stations and Nodes
As an ‘open’ amateur-based digital network, VDEN welcomes all amateurs, regardless of affiliation, who are willing to be system operators or ‘sysops’ of BBS stations and interconnecting nodes. Amateur radio operators across the state provide their expertise, equipment, and volunteer many hours to help maintain their stations or respective segment(s) of the network.
Stand-alone TNCs, either VHF and/or UHF, provide the interconnecting capabilities of the VDEN network. Until suitable UHF infrastructure is established locally, new users are encouraged to setup nodes on 145.730 MHz at 1200 baud. New nodes serve as ‘relay stations’ that forward traffic into and out of various areas of the state where the network needs improved coverage or to provide redundant digital capabilities. During emergencies, exercises, and other events, portable nodes can provide needed connections to the main VDEN network.
Full-Service BBS Station Sysop General Guidelines
Exceptions to the @USA bulletin forwarding on 145.730 MHz will be allowed only during periods of non-emergencies, exercises, or when stations have no other means of forwarding, such as equipment failures.
Note: To ensure that digital traffic is forwarded during emergencies and exercises, bulletins must not be forwarded that would interfere with ARES/RACES traffic. Time triggers can be used to modify bulletin-forwarding schedules. Multi-node forwarding should not be done on 145.730 MHz unless no V/UHF backbone(s) exist to forward traffic on the primary user frequency.
VDEN does not restrict BBS stations to so-called ‘special interest’ BBS stations. Full service BBS stations and stand-alone nodes are welcome to participate in VDEN, and in doing so, are expected to follow VDEN guidelines. To make special accommodations during emergencies, exercises, and other events or circumstances, exceptions should be coordinated with the digital coordinator(s).
Node Operator General Guidelines
VDEN Member Information
Earl Moore, KR4MA
VDEN meetings, exercises, and other events will be held as possible with regard to family requirements, work schedules, and other responsibilities.
On rare occasions, it may be necessary to request that a radio operator who has equipment that causes problems for the network to turn off his or her BBS station(s) and/or node(s). From time-to-time transceivers, power supplies, and/or TNCs may have problems or fail. If problems cannot be resolved locally, then the system coordinator may have to lockout a station that is not operating properly and/or not following VDEN guidelines. Such measures are done as a last result to ensure network functionality, and thus, the smooth, unimpeded flow of digital traffic throughout the network.
Review of Operation Guidelines and Steering Committee
The steering committee members are:
Part 2: Digital Traffic Format Guidelines
ARES/RACES is an amateur radio-based means of sending emergency radio traffic on behalf of a supported agency. The VDEN system provides the capability to send traffic electronically much like email to and from VDEM or the VAEOC and supported agencies. The amateur radio call sign for the VAEOC is N4VEM.
Initial Check-in to N4VEM
Winlink address to VAEOC: email@example.com
Packet address to VAEOC: st n4vem @ n4vem
A typical packet check-in message to the VAEOC consists of the following:
Note: All times are local time (no UTC, Zulu, etc.)
A typical message may be formatted as follows:
As of 1200 noon local time, 11 August 2007, Ocean City EOC activated ARES/RACES support. We are providing emergency communications for Peppermint Patty, the Emergency Manager, or her designee.
Amateur radio capabilities are as follows:
VHF: 145.730 MHz on VDEN
Please acknowledge all traffic messages to the VAEOC to the following return packet address: kx4ocv @ kr4pk
Guidelines for Supported Agencies
Packet radio traffic on the VDEN system should follow a standard format that best serves the needs of the supported agency, such as:
Since packet radio traffic is typically not handled by voice, a standard email or memo-type format is straightforward and better understood by served officials – both the sender and the recipient.
TO: VAEOC, ESF #6, Mass Care
Torrential rains from Hurricane Earl have flooded shelters at Hickory Road High School and Holly Hill Middle School, causing both schools to lose electricity, telephone, and Internet. Both schools are near full capacity as shelters, each housing approximately >125 evacuees with more arriving each hour. At this time we have a total of 235 evacuees.
I am requesting the following as soon as possible:
Please let me know the availability of these generators and when they might be transported to Ocean City. We can provide either gasoline or diesel.
Whether the supported official includes all of the contact information is at his or her discretion. However, email and telephone contact numbers are helpful because:
Note: Times are important for agencies during exercises and actual emergencies. When a message was sent from one agency and received at another is important information that the management of served agencies will note when they reply to message traffic and/or send personnel and/or equipment, etc. to an incident site.
Listing Packet Traffic on a BBS
Confirming Receipt of Packet Traffic on Voice Frequencies
Due to high traffic volume to the VAEOC, it may be necessary to implement a network wide policy of temporary suspension of packet acknowledgement of received messages, when the sending station also has voice or CW contact with the VAEOC. This policy would be announced and applied only to stations with multiple Amateur radio modes communicating with VAEOC. Any temporary suspension would also apply to all stations with redundant amateur ability, and their acknowledgment of message traffic received from VAEOC. For any station that has no other modes of amateur radio communications except packet, acknowledgements would continue by packet.
Because of the central coordination role of VAEOC, traffic volume may delay response time for acknowledgements. Acknowledgements should be given only to traffic containing agency-generated messages, e.g. local EOC check-ins, local EOC or agency traffic.
Also note that replies may be sent by responding VAEOC staff and their coalition of supporting agencies through means other than Amateur Radio. Thus a message acknowledged as received, may have a response given by means other than packet; and no reply by packet would be necessary.
Training and Exercises
Supported agencies, such as an EOC, can be ‘activated’ so that amateur radio operators can become familiar with the radio equipment, computers, software, and procedures used by the staff of the agency. Realistic exercises can also find areas that need improvement, whether its equipment or procedures.
Packet traffic can be written before the exercise so that radio operators can have as much time sending, receiving, and acknowledging traffic rather than asking for an agency head to produce traffic for the simulated emergency.
As a reminder, packet traffic and voice traffic should begin and end with a statement, such as “This is an exercise. This is a Test. This is a Drill.”
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