History - The Only Voice in the Dark
The Georgia Conference was established in early 2016 as a response to a growing number of repeaters and users trying to maintain a group connection during nets and weather events. Since the average single user link can only handle 6-10 simultaneous connections, it was decided that a dedicated server allowing up to 200 simultaneous connections would be more efficient. Thanks to the efforts of Worth KG4PXG and a group of other hams, a server was installed in Atlanta and the Conference was born.
The timing couldn't have been better. When Hurricane Matthew slammed into Coastal Georgia in late 2016, the closest hit in over 100 years, the Georgia Conference proved to be a critical life line for many affected residents. Operating as an ad-hoc emergency traffic net, volunteer Net Controllers manned the system continuously for over 3 days. As the worst of the storm battered the Georgia coast, a number of official agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), Georgia Amateur Radio Emergency Services (GAARES), the National Weather Service and Hurricane Center, and the Hurricane Net, were all monitoring the EGC. Both during the storm and after it had passed, with widespread power outages and road flooding, the net became the only means for many affected residents to report emergencies. Local Amateur Radio operators who had lost power used the free Echolink app for mobile phones to monitor the situation. Hams who had evacuated were able to get real time status reports and know when it was clear to return. Many remember that net as "The only voice in the dark"
That event was quickly followed by the 2016 "Day of Tornadoes" that brought devastation across the state. The EGC once again proved to be a critical information sharing and communications source. Volunteers across the state were able to relay severe storm warnings and tornado sightings in near-real time. In the far south-east corner of the state, local information from official sources was non-existent, so even media outlets and weather monitoring centers like WX4JAX, the Jacksonville Florida Skywarn Association, monitored the EGC for real-time reports.
The Georgia Conference continues to grow, with repeaters, simplex links, and user nodes in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and more. We even have frequent visitors from overseas, such as Australia, England, Scotland, Japan, Germany, and Italy.
With the free software available to licensed hams for just about every operating system including Android and iOS, the Conference can be accessed from any where in the world. For non-hams, the live streaming audio is available for PC (see the sidebar link) and for Android and iPhones with the free app from Broadcastify. Regular nets are held every Monday and Friday, with a regular Storm Prep Net held every other Tuesday. The Georgia conference has quickly become one of the most active and fastest growing conferences on Echolink.