CAVERN was a 2018-2021 effort by the nonprofit CryptoRights Foundation, Inc (CRF) to help a rural mountain town recover from, prepare for and even prevent another disastrous wildfire like the 2015 Valley Fire (which caused several deaths and destroyed over 1,300 homes in the area).
CRF is a public benefit human rights security research & development nonprofit hiding in plain sight since 1998. It was known by journalists as ‘Cryptographers Without Borders’ during its early ‘muddy boots’ period doing human rights fieldwork and war crimes investigations in strife-torn regions.
CAVERN was part of CRF’s VERN project under the R&D project administration at the Harmless Little Project*. Beginning in 2021, the VERN R&D work is entering Phase 2, using the research findings from the three years of CAVERN community organizing work to build a VERN Toolkit for any community/group to create it’s own local network, first with handheld FRS and GMRS radios and eventually smartphone apps over a radio-based mesh network. The VERN Toolkit is to eventually include RF radio documentation, downloadable CHIRP radio programming templates, community organizing tools (mailing lists), online services (websites) and downloadable hardware specs for the radio mesh network node prototype, which can be build by almost anyone from inexpensive off-the-shelf components. Version 1.0 of the Toolkit will also be released free to the Public — so people at risk from communications failures due to natural/manmade disasters anywhere on Earth will have an option that makes them independent of profit-driven corporations.
CRF’s goal for the CAVERN phase of the VERN project was to create a robust public safety communications and information network to bring the community together and support the residents during emergencies, especially during wildfires to which the Cobb area and Lake County in general are both especially vulnerable.
Questions? Want to volunteer for the Dev Team? Please use this form at VERN.org.
The goal of the CAVERN phase of the VERN project was:
(A) to organize general community communications and improve them for emergency preparedness and response;
RESULT: CRF's CAVERN team grew the local RF radio network from a handful of unorganized amateurs to over 200 FRS & GMRS radio operators checking in weekly, with a backbone of trained GMRS radio operators networked through a Repeater, a website with information, documentation for new members, a registration form, a donation form to help pay for more radios for new members and templates for various human/network functions.
(B) to introduce low-cost technology that enhances those communications, and;
RESULT: CRF donated dozens of FRS and GMRS radios to new radio operators the area and collected a roster of suitable people/locations for future mesh node prototype deployments.
(C) to introduce a radio mesh network —aka a ‘supernet‘— that can continue to provide a community and emergency responders with connectivity — even when normal communications (e.g. from ISPs and cellular networks) are suddenly and/or indefinitely unavailable.
WORK-in-PROGRESS: CRF is re-assembling its Dev Team after the Pandemic to continue work on the 2019 prototype mesh nodes. A Wiki server* has the proposal documents and we've launched our own Git server** to host the FOSS technology. The CAVERN web content is being turned into generic templates to make it easy for a small town or organization to spin up its VERN website, and CRF is ready to host custom websites (e.g. <townname>.VERN.org for communities/orgs/groups and other nonprofit entities.
CAVERN was CRF’s way of supporting the safety of the Cobb community in the future fire/weather/etc emergencies and eventually providing the same communications empowerment and support to at-risk communities everywhere.
What did we learn from working with Cobb residents about what to do, what not to do, and who to work with and who/what to avoid? Those questions and more will be answered in the Phase 1 notes our team will eventually make public at VERN.org — so stay tuned for some spicy research notes!
* see HarmlessLittleProject.org/wiki/ …N.B.: please create a (validated) CamelCase “WikiName” to login.
** see git.HarmlessLittleProject.org/ …N.B.: you will need an approved dev team login from CRF until v1.0 launches.