An Offline Document Vault for Your Go-Kit

by Marino KG7EMV on 2016-03-06

What documents and files would you want with you after a big disaster strikes, when you have no access to your computers or the Internet?

When I attended the PBEM NET training, I heard the suggestion of having a USB flash drive containing digitized copies of important vital records, passwords, and other important information that could be useful at a time when your computers have been destroyed, and access to the Internet made unavailable.

I think the same concept can become useful within the context of ARES and amateur radio operations.

As a member of Multnomah ARES, you may be asked to deploy in locations and situations where you do not have ready access to the documents and tools you need. Why not have those files with you at all times?

On my laptop, I have a “ham radio USB key” folder structure, under which I organize a variety of sub-folders.

Under “Personal” I keep digital copies of any IDs and certificates that I may need to present to an Incident Commander when deployed: copies of my FCC licenses, copies of my Multnomah ARES certifications, certificates of completion of FEMA training, etc.

Under “ARES” I keep copies of the Multnomah ARES Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), ICS forms, copies of Net scripts/preambles, and copies of the regional ARES frequency template.

Under “PBEM” I keep documentation regarding the NET program, including the new “Section 900” detailing the practices of AROs within the PBEM NET guidance.

Under “Manuals” I keep PDF copies of the user’s manual for all the equipment (transceivers, tuners, analyzers) that I personally own, I may have to operate at a Fire Station or Served Agency, and any popular product that I may encounter during emergency operations.

Under “Reference” I have several of the ARRL published band charts, a digital copy of the ARRL Handbook (when you buy a copy of the book you get a CD-ROM with the PDF files) and the Antenna Book.

Under “Software” I keep binary installers for popular ham radio software I may need, including RMS Express (to operate Winlink), CHIRP (to program radios), LibreOffice (to interoperate with Word and Excel documents), a PDF reader, 7-zip (to expand ZIP archives), MSSSTV, Easypal, my favorite text editor, FLdigi, and so on.

Every time I find something new that I consider useful, I add it to this folder structure then, two or three times a year, I perform a sweeping review of the files in it. I may delete some information that has become obsolete, refresh the SOP with the new one, add a new copy of the HRO PDF catalog and delete the old one… you get the drift. When I am done, I take the entire folder structure and copy it to an 8GB USB flash drive that I have with me at all times.

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