OCRACES

County of Orange (California)
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service


Orange County Sheriff's Department
Communications & Technology Division


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Winlink

The need to transmit any volume of information during an incident can be critical. Accuracy and speed by which this information travels can certainly become a factor in a positive resolution to the incident; lives and property loss are paramount to the citizens of Orange County.

Winlink gives us a tool to augment Orange County's extensive communications arsenal. This program allows e-mail to be transmitted via amateur radio in a compressed mode, saving crucial time. This system has the ability to work from any point on the planet. Operation of the Winlink system does not require extensive amateur radio knowledge to operate.

Winlink e-mail is handled by simple “client” software such as Outlook, Outlook Express, and other similar e-mail programs. All of the features of your “client” e-mail software are at your fingertips just as though you were at your desktop. Attachments of photographs, spreadsheets, and Microsoft Word documents are compatible with this system. During a demonstration at the Orange County Chapter of the American Red Cross, a roster including names and phone numbers, a 10 kilobyte file, was successfully transmitted from their meeting room to an off-site campus.

In configuring a Winlink system for use at an Incident Command Post, a local area network can easily be established with a router and personal laptops. This system can be extended using other common network technologies such as WiFi.  Each laptop can be operated by IC personnel without the need for an amateur radio license. The only person requiring the license is the operator of the initial Winlink system, consisting of a radio and modem. This initial laptop system is therefore used as a bridge to a router, sharing e-mail access to the rest of the IC personnel.

County of Orange RACES has had a working Winlink Gateway in operation since 2005, operating from the Loma Ridge EOC. E-mail has been transmitted and received in the field successfully from any area with a view of the Loma Ridge site.

OCRACES has three Winlink Gateways throughout Orange County.

The surrounding areas of Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties are becoming partners in the Winlink system.

An HF, VHF, and UHF Winlink stations are now in operation at the Orange County EOC.

A list of other government agencies using Winlink is available online at http://www.winlink.org.