RESPONSE: Yes, with packet radio (digital data) you can access a world of data you may never achieve in any other way. For that reason, it is recommended that every EOC and/or communications center have a packet radio terminal, which consists of a radio, a terminal node controller, and a digital communications terminal (computer) and printer. Once the unit is operational and accessible to a local bulletin board system (BBS), it can be left on all the time so that any traffic addressed to RACES will be automatically transmitted to unattended government terminals. A licensed Amateur Radio operator does not have to be in attendance to RECEIVE traffic.
Packet radio has earned its highest praise during major incidents like forest fires, earthquakes, floods, etc. California State OES volunteers regularly issue one or more SITREPS (situation reports) daily to all affected agencies and jurisdictions. It is transmitted via the Amateur Radio packet system to all packet Bulletin Boards in the Western United States. Many fire departments, for example, rely on these updates.
Necessary to the overall formula for success is a state emergency management agency committed to actively promoting, using, and providing ongoing management and leadership in the utilization of communications volunteers in government service. Unfortunately, not all states support and participate in this role. However, our experience proves that the cost is extremely low for the benefits derived. Packet radio communications has been just one of them.