Digital Emergency Communications ("Packet")

Digital or "packet" communications allow written messages - such as email and incident command system (ICS) forms - to be passed over amateur radio. This significantly increases speed and efficiency during emergencies. Both the Cannon Beach and Arch Cape fire stations have the equipment in place to handle digital radio traffic.

EQUIPMENT. Packet communications over amateur radio require software on a computer linked to the radio. The Cannon Beach fire station has equipment for digital traffic on both high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF). This allows both long-distance and local traffic handling. The Arch Cape fire station has VHF equipment, which can send and receive digital traffic throughout the county.

SOFTWARE. There are a variety of digital communications options. Winlink 2000 is the digital software recommended by Oregon Emergency Management and endorsed by Clatsop County Emergency Management. In addition to a radio and computer, Winlink 2000 requires a terminal node controller (TNC), which is basically a radio modem.

WINLINK 2000. Because of its ability to link amateur radio traffic with the Internet, Winlink 2000 allows for global messaging. Winlink uses a system of relay stations to pass traffic in and out of local disaster zones in which Internet services have been disrupted. In addition to digital reports, Winlink can provide position reporting and other services essential to emergency communications. Winlink was used effectively by Clatsop County amateur radio operators to request a declaration of emergency from the state in 2007, for example. Winlink can also be used peer-to-peer to pass local traffic within the county, without being dependent on the Internet.

WINLINK EXPRESS. The most common software in use for Winlink 2000 is Winlink Express, similar to the widely-used RMS Express. Winlink Express has the capacity to handle VHF and HF traffic. It can be configured for peer-to-peer and long-distance messaging. To download Winlink Express, click here.

LEGACY PACKET. "Packet" refers to digital radio traffic in general. It also, and confusingly, refers to a specific sub-set of digital radio communications sometimes called "legacy packet". Legacy packet messaging allows for peer-to-peer messages as well as the use of store-and-forward bulletin board systems. One well-designed software program for legacy packet is Outpost. To download Outpost software, click here. It is good to be aware of legacy packet's ability to forward messages to Winlink 2000 gateways.

Clatsop County ARES provides an excellent resource guide to digital communications, including a comparison of the capacities of Winlink 2000, packet (aka legacy packet), and FLdigi, an emergency communications mode in wide use in the eastern regions of the U.S. To view the comparison chart, click here.

For instructions on how to use the packet set-up at both the Cannon Beach and Arch Cape fire station, select from the list below.

Packet communications, Cannon Beach fire station, MS Word format. Click here.

Packet communications, Cannon Beach fire station, PDF format. Click here.

Packet communications, Arch Cape fire station, MS Word format. Click here.

Packet communications, Arch Cape fire station, PDF format. Click here.