That is, 'Yet Another Flurry of Development'.
What a weekend. On Saturday, January 12th the Georgia State ARES group holds its annual meeting at the Georgia State Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) in Forsyth, GA.
Without any presumption that I'd be able to get placed on the speaking schedule, a few weeks ago I started updating the Amateur Radio Repeaters in Georgia web map that I put together back in 2016, and blogged about a hear ago here.
At last year's ARES meeting I was given a chance to present and focus discussion on the sorry state of amateur repeater data in Georgia (it's actually a national issue, but my gaze only extends to the state borders). At last year's meeting I practically begged repeater owners to help me update the information by checking the map and sending me their updates. I got precisely 1 (one) update for the over 620 amateur radio repeaters in the state. One. Eins, Uno. This year I told the organizers (who happen to be good friends) that I planned to set up a 'repeater update kiosk' at the conference and try to snag as many passing repeater owners as I could find.
The web map has been clicking along just fine, getting a few dozen hits on most weeks. When bad weather approaches I'll put the reminder out to our ARES groups that the map was still an available resource, and it will get a few more looks. Over the course of the year ESRI made some improvements to the web mapping interface and provided access to new data layers - things like the National Shelter System laydown and the nationwide fire station and EMS station database - as part of their 'Living Atlas' series, so I decided it was time to refresh and update the map. One of the tasks I set for myself was taking another stab at updating the repeater information in the map. After scraping what data I could from open sources on the web I reached the same conclusion I did last year - this is a hopeless task.
I find it amazing that a group that sells itself as emergency communications experts is OK with having just a vague, imprecise idea of where its communications infrastructure is located and what that infrastructure is capable of. Oh sure, an ARES member in Clayton, (in north Georgia) will know precisely where his local repeaters are and what the coverage is, but what if he's asked to deploy to Waycross (in south Georgia) to support an EOC down there. Can he find reliable information about the repeaters in Waycross and get them programmed into his radios before deploying? Likely not, given the current state of available data. Even the two 'biggie' commercial repeater data sources - RFinder and RepeaterBook.com - often have wildly conflicting data on the same repeater. Different locations (sometimes over 50 miles apart), conflicting offsets (one says plus, the other says minus), one will list a PL tone, the other won't. On and on it goes. Hence the idea of trying to snag as many repeater owners as possible at the State meeting and squeeze repeater data out of them.
Then a few days ago I got a call from the State ARES Director telling me that because of the government shutdown the National Weather Service has bowed out of their presentations and that he's now got holes in the schedule he needs to fill, and could I do some presentations? Of course! But that meant a mad scramble to put together presentations on the repeater database issue and an issue that I've been working on lately - inexpensive ways for local Amateur Radio groups to set up badly needed web environments.
So it's back to the presentation slides and some final looks at the web map to make sure all is in order. Saturday could end up being quite interesting!