Gotenna Mesh User Guide for Emergency Management / Disaster Response

Like many Gotenna Mesh users, I am interested in helping others during emergency events, and given some comments on this forum, others are as well, some even with experience or professional background in emergency management / response. That’s really inspiring and I think this forum can be a great way to involve the professional first responders in helping develop a best practices guide for all gotenna users on how best to use mesh communications technology in emergency management and disaster response.

I’ve started a public Google Doc for everyone to edit to start brainstorming best practices for now. Anyone can edit it - as it grows we will change to comment only to retain structure and vote on changes.

Here are some links that may prove helpful:


@dbfish this is amazing — and a great idea!

This is great stuff. If I can add on, the app ZELLO (iOS) should be looked at as it can be a very useful tool for gotenna mesh deployments. This app was and still is being used heavily within the great community of citizens helping citizens in the Harvey recovery (and others- Irma etc). I learned about this application as Harvey hit Houston.
The application assisted all rescue crew efforts (citizens helping citizens and even professionals) both abroad and at ground zero. There were shared google documents and maps published like @dbfish posted for community input and engagement. Using the app ZELLO you can create open or private groups for gotenna deployment and discussion during recovery efforts. I recommend those interested to download the app and take a look around. During Harvey I was following a group called Louisiana Cajan Navy on ZELLO (recently recognized by officials for there efforts with previous disaster recovery efforts, and who were recognized by local officials and officially asked to assist in the Harvey recovery) Another group I followed but on twitter was @harveyrescue and @harveyrelief.

I can see gotenna mesh users utilizing the ZELLO app as well. The app works like a walkie talkie. Press and talk and everyone in the channel can hear you. Press to respond. Play back message if needed etc. Just thought I would put this out there.

But doesn’t Zello require connectivity? So wouldn’t it be used at different times than goTenna Mesh? i.e. When service is available/restored you use Zello/when there’s no service (usually in the immediate aftermath in metro areas; weeks in far-flung areas like USVI today) you use goTenna Mesh? Also what’s the difference between Zello and all the other walkie-talkie apps (e.g. Voxer)?

1 Like

Zello however ONLY WORKS with an internet/data connection - if cellular data or wifi is not available, it is useless and your phone is now an expensive brick.

That is the entire point of gotenna - create your own network! Social media with internet connections is an important, but separate part of disaster response than citizens creating their own offline communications networks, which is what we will be creating a guide for here - modeling off of amateur radio emergency response that also are not dependent on the internet.


Yes you are correct @danielagotenna. The app would require connectivity. Situations like USVI the app would not be used. Leading up deployment the app would be useful.


I know nothing about public safety unfortunately, so I’m here to learn! Are there best practices people could use to determine how many units to deploy with and how many to allocate for mobile/on-person use v. as stationary nodes? Also where do stationary nodes go?


Thought about starting something similar, but thanks for taking the lead @dbfish.

I definitely have a lot of thoughts to share, but tonight I am feeling a bit under-the-weather, and pulling fully coherent thoughts together is proving difficult.


I’ll have to look this up when I’ve got more than a couple of minutes, but it sounds like you’ve already made progress on the same reasons why I am testing the goTenna Mesh devices. I’ve got a background with my local EMA and am a HAM operator. I’d love to find a way to utilize these devices, perhaps within our teams (CERT, ECS DART, EManT), or as part of a communications plan for events, exercises, and real world disasters. Sheltering is a big deal, and having reliable communication in grid outages is essential.


Perhaps of value to you all here is this May whitepaper that I shared elsewhere on this board some weeks ago, written by public safety professionals at the University of Colorado - Boulder. The paper is about goTenna v1 (i.e. no meshing) but likely still applicable here.

It’s called “Cost-Effective Solution for First Responder Communications and Situational Awareness” and was written by experts/professionals in wildland firefighting in particular:


Given the ongoing devastation from hurricanes and earthquakes, this is still on my mind. What are the best use case scenarios to deploy Gotenna to actually be useful in these situations? I’m not trained in this and I would appreciate help from those that are.

For example - In my continued testing, in dense city areas with no additional height, Gotenna has a pretty limited range before meshing. In cities like SF/NY where there are small clusters but still limited number of users, ad-hoc networks would pop up and be disorganized and chaotic. While still potentially useful - what if only a few users can connect and are not near enough to others to be helpful?

It would probably be helpful to spread a guide on how to best establish communications to be most useful given a) limited urban range but mesh capability, and b) limited number of mesh users/units available. For example, area captains with known locations to elevate a mesh unit to relay between parts of neighborhoods in a hub and spoke configuration. That way a block can be canvassed on foot and then information about what help is needed or what help is available can be relayed to others. Thoughts? I’ll distill the best ideas posted in this thread to the google doc above.


We’re about to publish a blog post of our team’s experience deploying with All Hands Volunteers to USVI for Irma recovery (had to be evacuated for Maria). That is at least one real data-point for how goTenna Mesh was used. Stay tuned, that’s coming today. CCing @elyssad so she can share it here when it’s live!

And also pinging @Shawn from our team whose diary of the experience is that blog! He leads retail sales but who used to be in the Navy and deployed to St. Thomas with All Hands for a week (just got back Monday) to share more about his experience here!


Thanks Daniela!
Hello MESH community.
Daniela connected me with All so that we could help them deploy communications post-Irma in Florida and I was lucky enough to be part of the Initial Response Team Deployed.
We thought we would work in Florida but ended up pivoting to St Thomas as their were reports of utter devestation there.
Turns out the reports didn’t due the reality justice. Little, or not electricity across the island - no running water very little cell coverage in just a few spots on the island. The place literally looks like a bomb went off.
We had a team of 11 go in. I trained up everyone on how to use MESH and we dowloaded the Maps for both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before heading in. Once in, we were often split into teams of 2 - 3 throughout the island. I set up one MESH device at our home base which was at a home on the top central part of the island ~ 1500 feet above sea level. That device worked as a really good relay point as St Thomas is very hilly and when those of us were down in the city ~ 3 miles away we could relay up to that point and over to others via the stationary point. It’s a pretty small island so we never had to MESH more than a second hop and more often then not, the teams just used the SHOUT so that they could communicate with everyone at the same time. The maps were EXTREMELY helpful because there are no residential street names on the island. Locals navigate by memory and by landmark. Irma blew all of those landmarks away, so we would drop pins at our major nav points and use the off line maps to navigate to those areas. Very cool.
We had to evacuate due to Maria’s approach but All Hands will be going back in there as soon as possible. I expect they will be doing work in Puerto Rico as well. Happy to answer any other questions you might have and also want to put a shameless plug for each of you to visit and consider supporting their efforts with your donations or time.


To answer your questions directly I would say that the best use scenarios are really just staying in contact with those that you need to connect with and utilizing the maps. Communication in a time of crisis is worth its weight in gold. Knowing that loved ones are safe or that team members that you are working with are safe and doing what they need to do is critical. Knowing how to navigate to people and places when infrastructure and connectivity goes down is also really important.
Hope that helps


Thanks for the insight and for your time volunteering on the ground, I am grateful to you for both. I have some followup questions if you have time.

Setting up a mesh relay in a high point first if possible is a great best practice. Using “shout” to communicate between small teams in a small area makes sense, however shout’s are not meshed, and with no delivery confirmations, were there ever times when one team member went out of range and you would not know, and they wouldn’t know nobody could see the shouts they were sending? Or were you all in a small enough area to not worry about this?

Your description of how maps and location sharing was used is very useful knowledge and good practice in that type of situation.

What types of texts were you sending your team and other teams through the relay? Were you ever helping residents send messages or ask for information about something?

What I am thinking is a small ground team working together would use a group chat which does mesh and have delivery confirmations, and a second group chat would be setup across the central relay point in a sort of chain of command to relay back information and requests. Did you use this type of structure, or was it easier to just send messages directly to those you needed using the base relay since it was in such a good placement to relay for the area?

Thank you again.

1 Like

Good Questions all.
Most of our communication came from our base location from the team lead, so she usually sent out shouts.
However we did plenty of 1:1 chats as well that would hop through that stationary node

Most of the texts we were sending situated around communicating where we were location wise and where were we as far as completing a group task or if we were running into problems.
As for helping residents communicate - that didn’t happen but I could definitely see situations where that could happen the longer a group is on the ground and ingrained into the community.

Hope that helps


As for residents, I could envision a secondary layer of mesh network being setup with stationary points at shelters, community centers, religious centers, basically any communal point, and then that mesh being linked into a central response location. This would allow for the community to interact amongst themselves, and connect to the outside world through the hub to relay information, and to communicate to the responders at the hub (and then back to the responders in the field) as needed.

I am going to be volunteering with All Hands in TX in a couple weeks, and actually talked with Sherry Buresh about doing possible rapid response, as I have a background in the field.


Sherry and Mike are Amazing! They were both on the team in St Thomas.
Thanks for volunteering with All Hands. I know they can use all the help they can get with their Texas Response.
I believe they have committed to help there for the next 2 years.


And thank you for volunteering as well. I have volunteered with other agencies, and have also responded to disasters with Uncle Sam. I have read and heard good things about All Hands, and to date, all my intersections with them have been amazing, so I am excited to become a part of their efforts, in Texas, and beyond.


Hi all, we have more and more different groups ranging from the US Army Corps of Engineers to a recovery-management firm working with Walmart (!) deploying in the next few days with goTenna Mesh units to Puerto Rico. And many of you, too, are deploying (or are deployed now) doing great work throughout the affected Caribbean area. I just wanted to say this is very exciting and we hope to learn more from each deployment.

@Rahul_Subramany will be drafting a 1-sheet to give to some of these groups who are deploying in the next few days based on some of what you guys have put together here and other little gotcha’s to watch out for that will be fixed in future app releases (e.g. make sure to put “1” in front of your phone # if using that as your GID, etc.). When we’re done we’ll share it here too for any other immediate deployments!

Edits: fixing typos

1 Like