Jan 232011
 

For some time now I’ve thought about and spoken of a new way for Skywarn nets to gather and report their information. Most NCOs (Net Control Operators) simply use a pencil and paper to take check-ins, reports and locations changes. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing more reliable than a piece of lead, some paper, and a battery powered radio. After all, when all else fails… amateur radio!

Reliability is the strongest foundation a service to the public can have and the Skywarn program is top of the class in that respect. However, when building a house, you do not build a strong foundation and then precede to spend your days in the basement, unless of course that’s where your shack is! As such, I think it’s important that we try to augment our foundation with as many effective tools as possible so we can do what we’ve volunteered to do, save property and lives.

This new tool, what I’m calling the KWiXS Skywarn Reporter, will allow NCOs to log check-ins, reports, and location changes into an online interface that is capable of relaying that information to anyone else logged into the system. This could be emergency managers, NWS employees, other Skywarn members, or any other authorized person. The goal of the software is to create paths along which information can flow freely with high availability. Communities that are downwind of a storm system can get even more lead time by getting alerts of reports that have been entered into the system. There will not however be a method for real-time chatting, there’s NWSChat for that, or you can always use RF if it’s urgent.

One of the key features is integration of the data into a Google Maps interface. With GMaps a user will be able to quickly see reports, county conditions (green, yellow, or red), and the location of the storm using NEXRAD radar data. There’s also the possibility of integrating APRS data so spotter’s out in the field can have their location tracked. There are many other potential features, but that’s where I put the call out to all hams, skywarn spotters, emergency managers, and NWS employees. I want to know what else could be implemented to provide the most effective tool. It’s not likely everyone will be appeased, and there will most certainly be those who want to stick to the RF way of doing things, and that’s OK. This system will never be meant to replace what trained Skywarn spotters do, nor what ham radio does for Skywarn, it’s merely there to augment the system and improve upon our mission, saving property and lives.

I have this wonderful piece of software envisioned in my mind, but I wanted to share that vision, to allow it be modified and grown into something used not just by our Skywarn program (in Wayne County), but across the country. I welcome any suggestions or comments and will most certainly welcome any programming support. It has only taken a few paragraphs to describe how the system will work from a high level, but it’s actually quite complicated to make sure all the moving parts play nice together. The more help, the better the software!

You can post your comments, ideas, suggestions, complaints or any other thoughts to this blog post, or email me directly at w8fi [at] kritikal [dot] com.