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  • Mesh network could aid 1st responders if disaster hits

    Jul 14, 2015 | Read More News
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    Pima County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) recently took an important first step toward creating a back-up emergency communication network, said Jay Hand, administrative project manager.

    Office of Emergency ManagementThe mesh network would be used by licensed amateur radio operators (hams) and could also be used by first responders if a catastrophic event disabled or overwhelmed the Internet and cellular telephone networks.

    The network is comprised of data transfer points or “nodes” that are set up by and under the control of licensed amateur radio operators, Hand said.

    Under the auspices of OEM’s amateur radio club, of which Hand, a licensed amateur himself, is trustee, OEM established its first node this week on a 125-foot communication tower.

    Nodes “talk” to each other and can pass email, voice over IP (VoIP), files and even video -- just like the Internet or any other digital network, Hand said. OEM intends to establish at least three other such nodes by the end of the year.

    “Once all four nodes are established, we’ll have the nucleus of a grass-roots emergency communication network up for less than $2,000 in equipment costs,” Hand said.

    Establishing a partnership between the County and “ham operators” is beneficial to everyone, Hand said.

    The amateur radio operators benefit because the County is establishing key nodes that will help “connect the dots” among what is hoped will be a proliferation of citizen-sponsored nodes. Residents of Pima County will benefit because “the propagation of this network will help communities stay connected to emergency services during a major disaster,” Hand said.

    “The more wireless access points there are in the network, the more robust and fail-proof it becomes,” Hand said.

    Even when there are no emergencies, the ham community will never stop experimenting with and investigating new capabilities of this network, continually bringing added value and innovation to this evolving technology and to the people of Pima County, Hand said.

    OEM is always seeking licensed amateur radio operators to volunteer in its emergency communications group. If you’re interested, please contact the Office at 724-9300.