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Emergency Communications

RECOM - Red Cross Communications


Red Cross Emergency Communications (RECOM) was formed in 1997 and quietly built up an enviable list of achievements in technology innovation and activation service during floods, tropical cyclones and bushfires. The organisation was born out of the thoughts of a few visionary radio amateurs and the Red Cross' Victorian Executive Director, Andrew Hilton, who had the foresight to encourage the adoption of state-of-the-art technology.

Due to the importance of the data and traffic, the design and use of a secure digital communications system was seen as imperative. RECOM developed their own suite of sophisticated software and hardware solutions for emergency deployments, whether local, interstate or overseas, based on low-bandwidth digital modes over HF amateur radio.

In fact, voice communication has never been used as the digital system is capable of transferring fully error corrected data at a useful rate when a similar power level voice signal would be totally inaudible. To make the best use of the relatively low-baud rate the data is highly compressed.

The Red Cross has activated RECOM many times over the years. During the disastrous Black Saturday bush fires in 2009 Red Cross deployed RECOM to nine evacuation centres where all communications had been lost. The data and messages from those centres were transmitted by the amateur digital HF system developed by RECOM.

RECOM field stations use an array of EMCOM Network stations for data/message delivery to clients, the Network Stations acting as digital RF to Internet Gateways. Secure messaging and file transfer (text, spreadsheets, data files and images) between field stations is also possible. The field data is presented to the "customer" via easily accessed web pages and standard email.

Deployed field stations are GPS tracked, all messages and field data GPS tagged, and all computers in the field are remotely time-locked to GPS synchronised clocks located at the EMCOM Network Stations

To satisfy the legal requirement for confidentiality when transmitting personal details of evacuees, the data is encrypted with the encryption key "rolling" after each transmission interval and time stamped and stored at the sender's and receiver's end for later analysis in the event of a subsequent inquest.

Nearly all members of RECOM are also members of the WIA.

Page Last Updated: Tuesday 30 August 2011 at 21:20 hours