My fellow professional communicators! Lend me your ears (or your eyes in this case)!
I hope all is well with you and you are getting ready for some good family time as we bring in Christmas and the New Year. I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about some emerging technologies you might want to consider adding to your toolbox of emergency communications tools. Remember, I am not suggesting this is, “the way”, rather these technologies are, “a way”. If they work for you, great. If not, that’s great too!
First up is Ham Shack Hotline https://hamshackhotline.com/ . I was directed to this group by Alex K4BAN and Richard N4LRD and I got hooked. Now please don’t light the torches and sharpen the pitch forks just yet. This is an internet IP Phone system that is exclusive to licensed hams and does not have the ability to make or receive phone calls to or from a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Some phones will allow you to add a PSTN to it, but the current Ham Shack Hotline network does not support this. It does allow extension to extension calling (phone to phone). One cool feature the system does support is a Bridge, or a conference call between extensions. The possibilities are pretty vast, but one possibility would be to have a Bridge for SC EMCOMM where you can dial in, and then mute your phone until you have something to say. In some respects, it could become an IP Net. Hamshack Hotline is very young, but for the price, it packs a lot of bang for the buck. You buy the phone and there is currently no fee for access to the Hamshack Hotline Network. By the way, there are phones in the SEOC, the Alternate SEOC, and the SCHEART Trailer.
Last, I want to talk about JS8Call http://js8call.com/. JS8Call has become my new tool in my toolbox. It is a sound card mode with a capability set perfect for EMCOMM. There are several great YouTube videos out there about JS8Call, so I won’t go into deep details about it here. I do want to mention a couple of really cool features I like. The first is the ability to send messages without the other station being on the air. For example, I can draft a short message for KD4JQJ and save it to my computer. If I leave my station online, Roger can send a message to @ALLCALL to see if anybody has any messages. My computer will automatically respond to Roger’s request informing him I am holding a message for him and then he can choose to request the message from me or wait until later. You can create Groups to connect with, well, a Group of individuals. As an example, I created the Group, “@AUXCSC”. If you send a message to @AUXCSC, JS8Call will alert all stations currently on the air of the message. You can also relay messages through other stations to a station you may not be able to communicate with directly. Download JS8Call and give it a try. While you’re playing with it, send me a message (KN4SWB). Check out KM4ACK’s YouTube channel where he goes into detail on JS8Call and other EMCOMM modes.
That’s about all for this article. This article wasn’t meant to be an instruction booklet for you on these two modes, rather I hope they peak your interest and get you looking at more options, or tools for your toolbox. Explore new modes and options to evaluate if they will work for you or not. By the way, Winter Field Day is fast approaching and is a great time to hone some real EMCOMM skills. It’s one thing to roast in June, but if you’re like me, cold weather is miserable and uncomfortable. Sounds like fun! Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to take a look at the South Carolina ARES/RACES Tactical Communications Plan. Slide on over to https://ares-sc.org/?p=1425 and take look to make sure you have a good foundation of how South Carolina plans to operate.
Take care and keep expanding your toolbox.