For the past couple of years, the Section Manager and I have been working on the creation of a framework that will facilitate the flow of NTS traffic throughout the Oklahoma Section. This sparked the creation of NTSOK. (https://ok.arrl.org/nts/ntsok) In some states, ARES and NTS are distinctly different groups of people that do not collaborate. In Oklahoma, we are frequently the same individuals and we felt we would be remiss if we did not leverage that fact. To that end, this is my first communication to the Emergency Coordinators and I sincerely plan for it to not be my last!
We have reached the point that we need to establish a network of Official Relay Stations. If you are not familiar with the term, you can find more info at https://www.arrl.org/official-relay-station. However, don’t stress over those qualifications and wording. What we are looking for at this stage are amateurs who are willing to pickup and deliver messages over that “last mile”. Think of your postal carrier. We have volunteers as “liaisons” in each of the Section’s ARES Districts and if we can get each EC to find two or three amateurs in your areas to pick up message and grab a phone every once and awhile and deliver a message, we will better equipped to handle things like the health and welfare traffic that may come our way.
One of the big issues that we have is the current lack of traffic to maintain interest and involvement in traffic handling. This is a problem with which most of the Sections are dealing. In an effort to deal with this, the Traffic Managers in the West Gulf Division have begun collaborating in a series of exercises. The first will be this coming Saturday, 12 August 2023 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM CDT (1500 – 1900 UTC). The South Texas Section will be generating traffic due to a simulated hurricane impacting the general Houston area. Traffic destined for Oklahoma and states east of the Mississippi will be delivered to NTSOK as well as other traffic handlers in Oklahoma using the Amateur Radio Disaster Welfare Message format (FSD-244) and returning the time and date of delivery. Yes, this will most likely be a traffic handling disaster on this end as well. We expect that and we will not be alone. However, this is the first step in our Section building the infrastructure that is needed. After analyzing the outcome of this first exercise, we will plan the next to be held after giving the STX, NTX and OK Sections time to make improvements to their systems. Our failings will be important in informing those decisions.
Thank you for your time in reading this and any efforts you are making in moving NTS traffic. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or our Section Manager.