In case you have not realized it yet, Hawaii is very isolated from the rest of the world. In fact, Hawaii is the most isolated region on the entire planet. The closest landmass to Hawaii is 1,523 miles away at Kure Atoll, which is uninhabited other than hundreds of thousands of seabirds. The closest continent to Hawaii is North America which is 2,390 miles away. In plain terms, in a disaster situation you are stuck on a small rock in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean and help is not coming anytime soon.
In an emergency or disaster, when telephones and internet are no longer an available option, having effective communications available is paramount. This is where Amateur Radio, otherwise known as "ham radio" comes in. Amateur Radio operators are able to send email messages over HF radio signals instead of the internet for hundreds or even thousands of miles, outside of a disaster area to reach another ham radio operator in an unaffected area where electricity and the internet is still functioning. The email messages are then sent through the internet to their destination.
During a natural disaster, FEMA will block the public's access to cellular phone towers so that they are available to first responders. Your ability to communicate with your family and loved ones do not matter to FEMA.
Hawaii Emergency Radio Operators members are able to set up a publicly accessible short-range WiFi system with our PiGate units shown here, that can be deployed to disaster shelters on Oahu which will allow the public to use their own laptops, tablets, and cell phones to access our Emergency Email System to compose email messages that will be sent to their friends, family and loved ones outside of the disaster area to let them know that you are safe. These emails are what are known in the Emergency Communications world as "Health & Welfare" messages, and they are a vital part of EmComms and disaster relief efforts, yet many EmComm groups completely overlook their importance to the well being of those affected and their families, especially here in Hawaii.
This Emergency Email System acts as an e-mail gateway to the world-wide WinLink2000 radio messaging system, and allows e-mail to be sent to any email address in the world.
You would simply access the web browser as shown here on the "Client Interface Screen" from your device and type your message. A message can also be sent via email to any cell phone in the US by the system by entering the cell phone number which it will convert to the appropriate email address depending on the cell phone carrier. If you already know how to send an email which almost everyone does, you would easily be able to utilize our very easy to use emergency email system.
The message would then get sent to the laptop computer of the Amateur Radio operator deploying the WiFi system so that your message can be sent out over their HF radio system to the mainland, Australia, Japan, or wherever it needs to go. The Winlink2000 global e-mail radio service then routes the e-mail to any address in the world. Their screen would look like the "Radio Operator Interface Screen" shown here.
Multiple people can be accessing the system at the same time from their own devices, each typing their own emails to be sent out. The entire system is automated and a single radio operator can send hundreds of email messages out in a very short amount of time allowing a single radio operator the ability to deploy to multiple disaster shelters, one after the other, allowing more of the public the ability to send an emergency email out.
Client Interface Screen
Radio Operator Interface Screen
We serve our community, not agencies
Unlike other Emergency Communications groups like ARES and RACES who handle emergency communications messages for their "served agencies"like local, state or federal government entities or the Red Cross, we handle message traffic for the general public. This emergency email system was designed and is being deployed as a free service for YOU.
Our system is not designed to replace ARES, RACES and other EmComms groups, it is designed to compliment and augment their efforts and allow them to concentrate on "served agency" messages while we handle the messages for the general public.
To ensure that the system is not overloaded which would prevent emergency messages getting into the affected area and may hamper recovery efforts, these email messages will not allow anyone to reply back to them. They are one way communications messages for you to be able to let them know that you are safe and will contact them again when you are able to.
As the old saying goes in the military and preparedness community, "two is one, and one is none". We believe in redundancy in all of our critical systems. We try to have a backup for everything, and in many cases, we have a backup for the backup. When the electricity, telephones, cell phones, and internet are all inoperative, in addition to our HF analog radio and digital radio links, we also have Iridium Satellite Phone and both Iridium Satellite Internet service and our brand new Starlink Satellite Internet service from SpaceX available for Emergency Communications needs. Our SatComms systems, our HF, VHF, and UHF radio communication systems, and our Mesh Network are all designed to be powered from battery banks that are recharged with solar panels and wind turbines. We also have multiple dual-fuel capable portable generators as an additional emergency backup power source.
Our SatComms capability is just one of the many things that we bring to the EmComms table that make Hawaii Emergency Radio Operators very different from other radio clubs. While remaining connected to Amateur Radio's High Frequency spectrum roots, we also embrace the latest technology and utilize that technology to ensure that we are more capable and diverse communications operators in disasters and emergency situations.