RRI operates an international network of survivable, decentralized and dispersed communications networks. These interoperable networks operate without critical infrastructure such as cellular towers, mobile switching offices, terrestrial facilities, distributed nodes, or other infrastructure. The foundation for our networks is the unique, survivable high frequency radio spectrum in which we operate a modified, hybrid mesh network called the “Digital Traffic Network” (DTN) as well as “manual mode” radiotelegraph, radiotelephone, and specialized digital networks.
The Universal Radiogram Format
RRI networks utilize the universal radiogram and radiogram-ICS213 messaging format, both of which provide excellent accountability and the necessary network management data to facilitate the routing of replies and service messages.
The Purposeful Use of Two-Way Radio
In the era of instantaneous personal communications, many ignore the reality that distributed networks such as the Internet and cellular data networks are vulnerable to both natural and technological disaster. RRI seeks to develop cooperative relationships with agencies and volunteer organizations to promote and develop effective programs that ensure basic, survivable connectivity in time of emergency.
National Traffic System
RRI was founded to modernize and enhance the National Traffic System, a national messaging layer that operates 24-hours per day, 365 days per year. NTS is exercised daily by volunteer radio amateurs as an open network, which handles routine radiogram messages. During a disaster, the NTS routine configuration is replaced by an emergency configuration designed to expedite the flow of welfare, priority and emergency traffic.
RRI MISSION STATEMENT
The RRI mission is cogent; training operators and exercising our networks daily. Our operators warmly add that traffic-handling is fun and personally rewarding. The camaraderie and friendships made are long-lasting. Taken together, RRI is a valuable public resource, particularly in times of need. To accomplish our mission, RRI operates continuously three-hundred and sixty-five days per year handling local, medium, and long-distance written or “record” message traffic in a standard format. Through its affiliated area staffs, it employs traditional radiotelephone and radiotelegraph nets, manages inter-area liaison functions similar to the Transcontinental Corps and maintains an automated high frequency Digital Traffic Network using an RF-only hybrid mesh topology for maximum efficiency.
RRI sponsors several programs including:
- National SOS Radio Network
A networks of local radio amateurs link citizens equipped with common FRS walkie-talkies to local emergency services during disaster situations. This program allows citizens to request assistance from local emergency response organizations when cellular networks or telephone service is unavailable.
- Neighborhood Radio Watch (Neighborhood Hamwatch)
Integrates volunteer organizations active in disaster response (VOADs) into a cohesive, interoperable emergency communications program. Local amateur radio clubs train VOADs in basic radio communications techniques using RRI training materials. These VOADS then establish their own interoperable FRS/GMRS network for internal communications, with volunteer radio amateurs providing connectivity from the VOAD network to both local emergency management and international messaging networks such as RRI and Winlink.
- Boy Scout Radio Watch
Introduces scouts to the purposeful use of two-way radio technology. Scout units are trained in basic radiotelephone procedures, the radiogram and radiogram-ICS213 message formats, and the technology of radio communications. Assistance is also provided for scouts interested in obtaining an amateur radio license. Scout units can also be integrated into the local public service and emergency communications organizations.
- I Am Safe
RRI offers a suite of documents and software that can assist in the transmission of welfare related messages from a disaster area.
An Historical Perspective on the Founding of RRI
In preparation for a major government exercise in 2016 (“Cascadia Rising”), Radio Relay International volunteers, operating under the auspices of NTS at the time, were tasked with providing connectivity between Alaska, Idaho, Northern California, Oregon and Washington State, and the FEMA National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. At that time, it became obvious that an appropriate “National Response Plan” had not been in place since the early Cold War era. As a result, a prototype plan was developed by RRI volunteers to govern the Cascadia Rising exercise. The results were excellent and the plan has since been updated regularly in response to an on-going cycle of emergency communications exercises conducted by RRI and in response to actual disaster operations. A copy of the RRI “National Emergency Communications Response Guidelines” can be found below.
Radio Relay International normally conducts between two and four emergency exercises per year. These exercises range in complexity from testing individual network layers and components, to functional and full-scale exercises in cooperation with external agencies. Examples include on-going exercises with U.S. Army MARS Region Two, Navy Medical System exercises, and on-going support of various local and state emergency management exercises occurring throughout the United States and Canada.
RRI is an open access concept
RRI networks utilize an “open access” concept in which common denominator networks using basic modes such as voice and CW nets are combined with more advanced infrastructure systems such as the RRI Digital Traffic Network, a modified hybrid mesh network operating in the HF spectrum to ensure survivability.
In cooperation with the Winlink Development Team, RRI operates a series of region gateways designed to expedite the flow and distribution of record message traffic (e.g. radiograms and radiogram-ICS213 messages) between the systems. Special editing templates are available within the Winlink RMS program, which walk inexperienced radio operators through the process of creating a properly serviced radiogram or radiogram-ICS213 message. These templates provide guidance while suppressing disallowed formatting or content. Messages originated via Winlink are routed to the destination RRI region, from which the gateway operators can select the most appropriate network to expedite routing and delivery to the served agency addressee. This fully interoperable concept allows a message to pass between networks and radio services intact with full accountability and tracking. This process is tested on an on-going basis at random times thanks to the cooperation of U.S. Army MARS.
Specialized Message Formats
RRI has developed three specialized message formats designed to facilitate situational awareness, weather observation, and operational readiness reporting. The latter format supports our “Network Coordinator” process through which individual traffic stations active in disaster response report their status and connectivity to various communications networks and their access to served agencies. From this operational readiness data, a modified ICS205 spreadsheet is created through which network volunteers can identify the best routings for messages addressed to various agencies, thereby ensuring timely delivery of priority or emergency message traffic. This concept is unique to RRI.
RRI conducts an on-going cycle of emergency communications training classes, which are open to all radio amateurs as well as emergency services professionals. Below one can find more information on our classes, prerequisites, and documents.
A more complete history of RRI can be found in FM-001 “Traffic Operations” starting on page 4.