Posts from — June 2011

Local Amateur Radio Group Receives Award

In our very own backyard (Albemarle County Virginia), the Albemarle Amateur Radio Club (AARC) has been awarded the 2011 Amateur Club of the Year.  Congratulations to the club!  There are 600,000 amateur radio operators (also known as “ham radio”) in the United States (over 2 million worldwide).  The United States is home to over a thousand amateur radio clubs.

So why join a ham radio club?

  • It provides contact with local radio amateurs.
  • You can get help building a station.
  • Clubs often sponsor license exam classes.
  • Clubs make ham radio more visible in the community.
  • You can often borrow infrequently used test equipment instead of buying it.
  • Clubs organize activities such as “hamfests”, Boy Scout radio merit badge sessions and organize local participation in National Field Day.

In fact, the Albemarle Amateur Radio Club has just completed participating in the AARL’s (American Radio Relay League) 2011 National Field Day.  The object of this exercise, according to the AARL, was “to work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands… and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions”.  Translated that simply means “how to communicate during disasters when all other forms of terrestrial communication fail!”

Amateur radio has an impressive track record in supporting critical infrastructure during times of crisis.  Amateur radio operators came to the rescue of stranded victims of Hurricane Katrina in both Mississippi and Louisiana.  The Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) coordinated efforts between refugee camps and government offices during the cataclysmic disasters there this past Spring.

If you do begin to build your very own ham radio station, you might keep in mind solar power to supplement your needs.  We’d also like to recommend our recent blog post on gas generators. Amateur radio operators are able to provide critical communications when other methods fail – but only if you have power to run those radios!

If you are interested in joining a Ham Radio Club in your part of the world, make sure you check out HamDepot.com for a list of clubs in the United States.  For a more detailed look at amateur radio, check out our blog, The Role of Amateur Radio in Disaster Communications.

Facta Non Verba

June 27, 2011   1 Comment

Preparing for Digital Disaster

Cyber attacks. Concerned?  Perhaps you should be.  In recent months, several large organizations such as Lockheed Martin, L3, the Central Intelligence Agency, and ADP (Automatic Data Processing) have all experienced varying degrees and ferocity of cyber attacks.  In fact, just days ago the Malaysian government had 96 websites succumb to such an onslaught.

It is widely debated as to just how vulnerable the United States is to wide-scale, far-impacting cyber terrorism, but such attacks can easily be launched against you personally.  To what end?  Data theft is usually the motivation – with personal financial information the typical target.  However, many cyber attacks are aimed at simply causing destruction and mayhem.  The CIH (or Chernobyl virus) was specifically designed to destroy data and even leave computers stone-cold dead by overwriting the BIOS.  It caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and infected millions of computers.

The CIH virus is now considered a nominal threat because of its age – virus protection software has long been able to detect this nefarious bug.  However, there are thousands of new malware (stands for “malicious software” and is the collective term used to describe all cyber bugs – viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, rootkits, etc.) developed and distributed every month.  So, don’t forget to include your computer and valuable data in your own personal emergency preparedness plans.

The following is provided by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team to help you secure your digital assets.

General information

Why is Cyber Security a Problem?

Guidelines for Publishing Information Online

General security

Understanding Anti-Virus Software

Understanding Firewalls

Coordinating Virus and Spyware Defense

Debunking Some Common Myths

Good Security Habits

Safeguarding Your Data

Keeping Children Safe Online

Attacks and threats

Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft

Recovering from Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses

Recognizing and Avoiding Spyware

Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks

Email and communication

Understanding Your Computer: Email Clients

Using Caution with Email Attachments

Staying Safe on Social Network Sites

Mobile devices

Protecting Portable Devices: Physical Security

Protecting Portable Devices: Data Security

Privacy

How Anonymous Are You?

Protecting Your Privacy

Safe browsing

Shopping Safely Online

Browsing Safely: Understanding Active Content and Cookies

Understanding Internationalized Domain Names

Facta Non Verba

June 20, 2011   1 Comment

Arizona Wildfires Latest Among Record Disasters

May 29, 2011. A suspected unattended campfire in Bear Wallow Wilderness in east-central Arizona sparks the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history. Now the most extensive ponderosa pine forest in the southwestern United States has been reduced to smoking timber and ash. It fails to escape irony that one of the key resources being used to fight this 512,000 acre, 800-square mile behemoth is a company known for the past 36 years as Ponderosa Aviation.

Ponderosa Aviation, based out of Safford, Arizona, is a long time friend of ours. The company owns 21 Aero Commanders which it flies in the role of aerial reconnaissance focused on locating wildfires. Once a fire is identified, the Commanders transition roles into “air attack ships”, coordinating the ground resources and air assets used against wildfires. Such air assets include helicopters dropping water and air tankers such as the modified DC-10 which can drop 12,000 gallons of slurry (a fire-retardant chemical). In fact, the DC-10 air tanker is one of the latest assets being brought to bear against the Wallow fire. Ponderosa has deployed three air attack ships on the Wallow fire alone. Normally only one air attack is in use on any one fire.

5 of Ponderosa’s Commander Fleet

Director of Operations, Shawn Perry, says that the Wallow fire, although the largest, is not the only blaze in Arizona. The Horseshoe fire near Douglas has burned 84,000 acres with its big brother, the Horseshoe 2 fire, destroying 148,000 acres. Nor is Arizona the only place burning. Perry says that Ponderosa Aviation has 15 air assets deployed on fires in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Alaska. Their planes have flown almost as much in the last 2 ½ months as they did in all of last year combined.

It’s been a record year for tornadoes. We’ve had record flooding across the central United States. It seems the stage is now set to have a record year of wildfires as well.

Rockhouse Fire in Texas – taken from a Ponderosa Aviation “Air Attack Ship”

So how does one prepare for such devastating events? In these situations, sheltering-in-place is tantamount to a death sentence. You have to leave. Plain and simple. What are you going to take with you to help you survive?

In the days to come we will be announcing the details of our two latest products – Exodus™ and Phoenix™. Both are rapid evacuation systems. As we designed these two critical products, we considered the following which we present to you for your own consideration.

  1. Account for sustainment away from home or office for a minimum of 72 hours if not longer.
  2. Remember food, water, water filtration, medical, lighting, fire protection, respiratory protection, communications, emergency tools, weather radios, protection from the elements, and clothing.
  3. And, after having listed all of that, you must make it easily portable! This aspect is probably the most challenging. Watch for our product announcement of Exodus & Phoenix to see how we did it!

Facta Non Verba

June 13, 2011   2 Comments