20 September 2019

All FOGged Up

It's rare that I praise the US federal government. I take the view that the least government is the best, and the only way you could use the word 'least' in describing what we've got here in the good old USofA is 'least effective'. But occasionally they get things right. NASA did a pretty good job with the Apollo moon missions, and the Coast Guard does a good job of keeping pirates from raiding our shores. And back in 2016 the Department of Homeland Security released to the public a neat little document called the National Interoperablility Field Operation Guide version 1.6.1. Or as the Amateur Radio community calls it, the NIFOG.

What is the NIFOG? I'll just quote from the document's introduction:

"The National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) is a technical reference for emergency communications planning and for radio technicians responsible for radios that will be used in disaster response."

In its original format the NIFOG is a pocket-sized guide chock full of extremely useful information that every emergency communicator will need access to in times of real emergency:

  • FCC rules for emergency communications
  • Federal, state and local interoperability and mutual aid UHF and VHF channels
  • Contact phone numbers for key agencies like FEMA and regional Coast Guard offices
  • Geeky stuff like RS-232 pin-out conventions, RJ-45 connector wiring standards, IP addressing standards, radio line-of-sight calculation formulas, etc.
  • Iridium and INMARSAT usage instructions
  • Aviation, marine, SAR and rail channel frequencies and coordination information
  • GMRS & FRS frequencies and rules
  • HF disaster coordination frequencies
  • Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) frequencies
  • A pretty good Amateur Radio section that includes the current band plan

Homeland Security makes the NIFOG available in a digital (PDF) and hardcopy format. While the PDF version is easy to get and have available on your computer, I strongly recommend everyone involved with emergency communications get the hard copy version from the US Government Bookstore. It's a pocket sized, spiral bound, waterproof booklet that should be a part of your Go-Kit. Get a copy, take the time to review and understand its contents and bookmark so you can quickly find the relevant sections. Like so many things disaster response related, the worst time to try to become familiar with the NIFOG is when a hurricane is bearing down on your county.

Here's a short video covering the NIFOG (version 1.4) contents. It has a bit of a 'prepper' bent, and the guy who made the video can be a little crude, but he knows what he's talking about. His day job is managing field communications systems for the US Forest Service, and he has published a number of videos on communications support during wildfires.

So get the NIFOG, familiarize yourself with it and always have a copy with you when you deploy. That's an order!

W8BYH out

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