21 March 2020

Coronavirus, Part 2

"EVERYBODY is a carrier!" - The XYL

One full work week into self-isolation with the XYL while home schooling our granddaughter...

Everybody survived.

The XYL is an elementary school teacher in a school system that a few years back tossed their local (and poorly performing) IT infrastructure overboard and adopted Google for Education. So for her, the transition to a 'distance education' paradigm was relatively easy. At least the school system had the tools in place, and a good experience base among both the teachers and many of the parents. Not all. But many.

Since our granddaughter's school was closed and both parents work in law enforcement (and HAD to show up for work), we volunteered to home school her. Her 'classroom' was set up right next to the XYL's, on the same table. Kind of a cute setup, actually. But the granddaughter went through something of an adjustment process - it took her a while to realize the lady she was sitting next to wasn't her normally squishy grandmother, but was in fact her hard nosed teacher. There were a few bumps along that road.

As for me, my employer (a very busy commercial airport) sent most people home to 'telework'. Most departments were utterly unprepared for 'telework', and the technology base - laptops and web-based services like Office 365 - were not in-place to enable this new work-from-home concept. My particular group was one of the exceptions. Years ago we transitioned almost everything to cloud-based services, even going so far as to adopt Amazon Workspaces to host our desktop production software. Moving everyone to a home-based work paradigm was relatively easy.

I also took the time to play radio. I'm interested in tracking how this particular pandemic situation - enforced isolation, yet with full and uninterrupted services - impacts how groups like ARES provides communications support. If you think about it, what we are facing with the Coronavirus is almost the exact opposite of what ARES normally trains for. Most of our disaster scenarios involve a disruption of essential services (electricity, internet, phone), and an aggregation of individuals in shelters or other meeting places. So far the comms support requirements seem to be little more than the old Army concept of 'stand-by to stand-by'; open your nets, exercise them, and wait for further instructions. After listening to a few nets through the week, here's some observations:

  • The bubbas need to stay off the air
  • DSTAR is getting a good workout

Why do the bubbas need to stay off the air? Well, if you listened to the first Georgia ARES HF net that took place the day ARES started daily net ops, you'd understand. Net discipline was awful. The concepts of critical information only, brevity, and proper net protocols went right out the window. Bubbas from one end of the state to the other reported on everything from the health of their pet cats to the tread depth of their pickup truck tires. It was embarrassing. Things seem to be under control now, with better net discipline in-place. I just pray to God that nobody from GEMA was listening to that first net.

Next, DSTAR seems to be clicking right along. More accurately, Georgia ARES use of DSTAR seems to be clicking right along, and DSTAR's use as an EMCOMM backbone in Georgia may have actually found its place. There are several well run DSTAR status update nets every day, and folks with limited DSTAR proficiency are getting good training. The Coronavirus experience may cause me to change my normal sour opinion of DSTAR in this role.

I've taken the time to evaluate my personal equipment and training status. It's rare when I say "I've got enough toys", but I really do. I found I lack a few odd connectors for this-and-that, and my mix of coax lengths may be a little off (too many 200' runs, not enough 50' runs), but other than that, I'm set. In preparation for next week's Fayette ARES NVIS Day event I still need to set up my antenna(s) and test them, but I'm waiting for a break in the weather to do that.

So that's it for this week. Stay healthy.

W8BYH out

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