Ready Alliance when operating a net does so professionally in the manner of an EMERGENCY net. During practice nets we conduct regular business and practice emergency operating procedures. All RA nets are directed nets and net control stations are used.
At this point in time, RA is using repeaters owned by others for practice nets. The repeaters we use are ARES repeaters and if there were a real world emergency those ARES groups would like have their own nets going. We would likely participate, but it would not be and RA net. We are in the process of getting our repeaters up and hope to have it done very soon for our own emergency nets.
RA Net Records Procedures
A google sheets document is stored on the club google drive and shared with club members. When internet is accessible it is ideal to record directly to this sheet, as it is immediately updated so that all can see the check-ins. There is also a sheet within this document which is printable. This is to keep with your “ready kit” so that you can write if there is an emergency net where you don’t have internet access. You may also print a copy of this sheet for offline use from the members area.
The club net sheet has directions on how to fill it out.
Principles of VHF/UHF Net & Emergency Communications
Keep the non-critical communications level down.
If you’re not sure you should transmit, don’t.
Study the situation by listening.
Don’t transmit unless you are sure you can help by doing so.
Don’t ever break into a disaster net just to inform the control station you are there if needed.
Monitor established disaster frequencies.
On voice, “EMERGENCY” is universally recognized.
Avoid spreading rumors. If you don’t know it as a fact you have seen with your own eyes or heard with your own ears, don’t repeat it.
Use “plain language”, don’t use jargon, or any type of codes or signals.
Authenticate all messages.
Strive for efficiency. Make transmissions brief. NEVER laugh, clear your throat or make other little noises ha, ahem, etc. These wastes of air time have no place on the radio.
Select the mode and band to suit the need. Voice modes are ideal in an emergency. In a real emergency non-voice digital modes such as FT8 or winlink messaging are worthless for in the field operations. Also in an emergency determine whether to use digital voice or analog voice based on who you wish to contact. Often analog may be more appropriate.
Know your ITU Phonetics. Making up your own phonetics and cause confusion. We have a universal set for a reason.
What is a net?
An Amateur Radio Net exists whenever 3 or more operators are in simultaneous contact with each other for the purpose of exchanging information or passing informal or official traffic.
The most important thing to remember about participating in a net is that it either is an emergency situation or it is practice for one and should be treated as such.
Types of Nets
Open Net – Stations call each other directly to converse or pass traffic.
Directed Net – Stations call only net control directly, go direct to other stations only with net control permission.
Emergency Nets – Another of directed or formal nets is Emergency net. “Emergency” may be defined as an accident or other crisis where people and/or property are in distress. Emergencies are nearly always recognized and declared by agencies or authorities outside of the Amateur Radio Service. Amateur radio operators and net control stations do not have independent authority to declare an emergency. An Emergency Net is a group of stations who provide communication to one or more served agencies or to the general public in an emergency. Emergency nets may have different purposes and a given emergency may require one or more of these types of net. During a small operation, all functions may be combined into one net. SkyWarn and RACES are examples of emergency nets. Tactical, Command, Resource and Information nets are types of emergency functions used during an Emergency Net.
Command Net – Official traffic between OpArea command staff and between EOCs
Message Net – Official traffic on behalf of served agencies
Resource Net – Unofficial information and volunteer contacts
Tactical Net – Unofficial and official traffic of a local nature
Hospital Net – Official traffic with Dept. of Public Health
SkyWarn Nets – It is absolutely essential that all Net Control Operators be aware of and fully familiar with the SkyWarn activation process for their area and be fully trained by attending the NWS or Emergency Management training sessions for summer and winter weather. Weather reports on severe weather nets are limited to critical severe weather observations unless specifically requested by the net control operator.
ARES Net – Amateur Radio Emergency System (ARES) nets are open to any licensed amateur radio operators. They may be originated by club or public service events. They may also serve agencies like the Red Cross, Salvation Army or any other non-governmental agencies. In a real world scenario an ARES net may be activated prior to an emergency and stay in place after.
RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) nets have specific requirements for initiation and a discussion can be found in the Emergency Nets section. Weekly RACES training nets may be scheduled or initiated by the RO. Scheduled RACES nets may be used to conduct monthly Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Nets.
RACES Nets may last no longer than one hour per week.
RACES Nets are limited to actual RACES members, no others may check in. RACES nets may include public service partners and are governed by a section of part 97 which limits a tremendous amount of what they can do.
RACES is organized by local civil defense organizations.
RACES Nets will be active only during an emergency and the immediate aftermath.
Club Nets – The club net is another excellent place to break in a NCS trainee. Most of the time, they are run as a directed net in a relaxed atmosphere. These are great training grounds for Net Control Operators. They may be informational, training or just fellowship. Many clubs make check-ins to the club net part of participation requirements.
Traffic Nets – Traffic Net handles formal written messages in a specified format. The nets operated by the National Traffic System (NTS) are an excellent example of traffic nets.
What is a Net Control Operator/Station or NCO/NCS
The Net Control Station (NCS) runs the net. This person controls the flow of messages according to priority and keeps track of where messages come from and where they go. The NCS also keeps a current list of which stations are where, their assignments and what capabilities they have. In a busy situation, the NCS may have one or more assistants to help with record keeping.
NCS is in charge of the net and during the net has full control and authority over the frequency.
NCS activates and assigns resources.
NCS keeps track of resources.
NCS assigns tactical call signs.
NCS performs welfare checks of field operatives.
DOCUMENTS EVERYTHING (often NCS has someone at their side to do the recording of data)
REMEMBER to give your call every 10 minutes and advise you are not only net control but readvised what your net is. If a visitor stops by you want them to know what is going on. Also pause for break-in emergency traffic.
In amateur radio tactical calls are assigned to a position, not a specific person, this is usually assigned by the net control operator.
USE OF TACTICAL CALL DOES NOT REPLACE REQUIRED USE OF FCC CALL SIGN. You must still follow ID rules and ID every 10 minutes with an FCC assigned call sign.
Every Ready Alliance member (with voting privileges) has a tactical call sign even if they are not a HAM. We use tactical call signs across all communications methods including private radios. Your tactical call is your member number. You can look it up in the membership roster.
On HF checkins are done in alphabetical groups instead of a true Roll-Call.
This causes doubling and other issues on a repeater and therefore it is a more common practice to do a true roll-call using a roster on repeaters.
During a roll-call, roster style check-in, you should state your call, and if you have traffic for the net. This is your opportunity to make a brief announcement if you have one, or state that you have a longer announcement for after roll-call. Again, this is different than how it is handled in an HF scenario.
Spend most of your time listening.
Know the nature of the net and when it is appropriate to seek permission to speak.
Respect directions of Net Control.
Respond quickly when called. You will be missed during roll call if you don’t answer immediately. If you are called on and don’t respond, not only is it a waste of everyone’s time, but in a real world emergency scenario someone will have to physically come make sure you are okay. You are either all in or you are out. If you can’t dedicate time to the net or need to leave, check out. For a practice, training or equipment check net, you can check in and out immediately just to show that you are there and your equipment works.
Use good annunciation. If requested, you can spell something out with phonetics. Usually phonetics aren’t needed on a repeater, but it could be requested if you have a weak signal.
AVOID superfluous comments.
What is someone else is using the frequency or repeater?
No one owns a frequency. Unless you have a legitimate emergency, if someone else is using the frequency you have no authority to “kick” someone off.
If the frequency is in use, try to call those in the conversation and request that they clear for a scheduled net. Use the best decorum you can. If they refuse, YOU must move to another frequency.
It is a good practice to announce ahead of time that your regular net is being held at whatever time on this frequency. Some use 15 min, some 5 and some countdown. As NCS you can do what you deem appropriate.
Sometimes someone is trying to mess with you or someone doesn’t know what they are doing and are interfering.
IGNORE IT! Do not acknowledge it, just continue the net as normal. If possible raise your power and try to capture the repeater away from them.
Real World Emergency Nets
Don’t volunteer to participate in emergency comms until you have done the following:
Make sure your family is safe and secure
Make sure your family has needed provisions
Make sure the structure you and your family is in is secure and stable
Check your radio equipment to verify it is operating properly
Make sure you have power and your backup power is ready should power go out
Contact Net Control and await commands
DO NOT TAKE ACTION until you are told to by the appropriate authority
The term “full quieting” in ham radio usually signifies a good quality signal on a repeater or FM transmission – it means that your signal is clear, free of static, and easily readable by others.
The phrase Picket Fencing is used to describe the way an FM transmitter will cut in and out as it nears the capture threshold of a moving receiver or transmitter as it passes through fresnel zones, thus chopping the speech of the transmitting operator. It refers to the way portions of speech are stripped from the conversation, as if the listener was walking by a picket fence, and hearing a conversation on the other side that changes audibly depending on the position of the pickets relative to the listener.
This phrase is also used to describe the same audio phenomenon in digital voice modes which is caused by various methods including being on the fringe of a coverage range. In some digital modes this is caused by “packet loss”
Another term which isn’t as much about a signal report but rather why a signal could be bad is multipath. Multipath is the propagation phenomenon that results n radio signals reaching the receiving antenna by two or more paths. Causes of multipath include atmospheric ducting, ionospheric reflection and refraction, and reflection from water bodies and terrestrial objects such as mountains and buildings. Just as it sounds the signal is taking multiple paths and can result in the same signal being received at the receiver at multiple time delays. Digital modes tend to be more susceptible to multipath.
Amateur radio users in the U.S. and Canada have used the R-S-T system since 1934. This system was developed by amateur radio operator Arthur W. Braaten, W2BSR. It reports the readability on a scale of 1 to 5, the signal strength on a scale of 1 to 9, and the tone of the Morse code continuous wave signal on a scale of 1 to 9. During amateur radio contests, where the rate of new contacts is paramount, contest participants often give a perfect signal report of 599 even when the signal is lower quality, because always providing the same signal format enables them to send Morse code with less thought and thus increased speed.
Obviously in phone or “voice” modes only the first R and S are used and often stated in the “5 by 9” fashion.
S1 Faint signals, barely perceptible
R2 Barely readable
S2 Very weak signals
R3 Readable with difficulty
S3 Weak Signals
R4 Readable with no difficulty
S4 Fair signals
R5 Perfectly readable
S5 Fairly good signals
S6 Good signals
S7 Moderately good signals
S8 Strong signals
S9 Extremely strong signals
T1 Extremely rough hissing note
T2 Very rough AC note, no trace of musicality
T3 Rough, low pitched AC note, slightly musical
T4 Rough AC note, moderately musical
T5 Musically modulated note
T6 Modulated note, slight trace of whistle
T7 Near DC note, smooth ripple
T8 Good DC note, just a trace of ripple
T9 Purest DC note
Plain-language radio checks
The move to plain-language radio communications means that number-based formats are now considered obsolete, and are replaced by plain language radio checks. These avoid the ambiguity of which number stands for which type of report and whether a 1 is considered good or bad. This format originated with the U.S. military in World War II, and is currently defined by ACP 125 (G), published by the Combined Communications Electronics Board.
The prowords listed below are for use when initiating and answering queries concerning signal strength and readability.
What is my signal strength and readability; how do you hear me?
I have received your last transmission satisfactorily.
To be used when no reply is received from a called station.
Your signal is very strong.
AND or BUT, depending on which prowords are combined
The quality of your transmission is excellent.
Your signal strength is good.
The quality of your transmission is satisfactory.
Your signal strength is weak.
The quality of your transmission is so bad that I cannot read you.
Your signal strength is very weak.
Having trouble reading you due to interference.
At times your signal strength fades to such an extent that continuous reception cannot be relied upon.
Having trouble reading you due to interference.
Having trouble reading you because your signal is intermittent.
In the digital realm signal strength is irrelevant as it isn’t something that can be distinguished via the human ear. What can be reported upon is audio level which can be adjusted in a radio by the mic gain. Another item which can be reported on in some digital systems with forward error correction is packet loss. Basically the error correction isn’t able to piece the message together at 100% accuracy and therefore it results in choppy transmissions. We have all experienced this phenomenon with cellular telephones. This can be caused by many things, including weak signal, intermittent signal, multi-path and interference.
This is mostly for new HAMs but it’s a good review for all of us.
ID, using your call sign every 10 minutes and at the end of your transmission.
Repeater communications should be kept to a minimum in case someone needs to use it for an emergency; always use simplex mode if you can
Repeaters can be open or closed. If a repeater is closed it is private to club users only. If you want to use that specific repeater, join the sponsoring club.
Pause between transmissions. “Quick keying” gives the appearance that other hams are unwelcome in your conversation, not to mention it prevents emergency traffic from breaking in.
If you feel compelled to interrupt an existing conversation, remember that it is no more polite to do so on the air than if you did it in person. Would you barge into a roomful of people engaged in a discussion without saying anything of interest? …or even worse, saying something completely unrelated to the topic of conversation?
Don’t cough, clear your throat, laugh, or make little noises like hmmm or randomly saying yeah. Always be brief and don’t try to fill dead air. If you have nothing to say or nothing more to contribute back out of a conversation.
Don’t act like some sort of Broadcast Radio station. Your fellow Amateurs will most likely not appreciate such a blatant display of personal ego.
When you need to break into a conversation, simply give out your call and wait for someone to acknowledge you.
If you have an emergency, you may break into any communication on any frequency by saying EMERGENCY. Don’t use BREAK or BREAK BREAK, these aren’t universally understood. The word EMERGENCY is.
To make a call on a repeater to a specific person, give their call and then yours and wait for a response. If you suspect they may have a radio which is scanning, key up for a second before speaking and give their call twice before giving yours.
To “CQ” or request a conversation with anyone on a repeater simply give your call, or your call and then listening or monitoring. This tells others that you are seeking a conversation. Saying CQ on a repeater is frowned upon and may make you appear like a “newbie”.
When doing a radio check, give your call and then radio check and wait for someone to call back. If you are just testing and don’t want a response, Give your call, then say testing, and then your call again and clear.
Know your own signal quality before responding to a signal or radio check. If you aren’t getting into the repeater or hearing it well, you aren’t going to be giving accurate information about someone else’s signal.
The word clear means someone is leaving their radio or shutting it off. Do not try to talk to someone after they have said they are clear.
If one station calls another, and there is no answer, don’t be insulted if the calling station doesn’t respond if you “drop your call”. They may have been looking for someone specific and really aren’t interested in a general chat, or they may have moved to another frequency.
It is no longer required by Part 97 to add mobile or portable to your call, but you will still hear those who do. While adding “mobile”, “portable”, or even “marine” isn’t required, there is certainly nothing wrong with continuing the practice. Doing so allows other to be aware of your circumstance and that you could drop out of range easily.
Do not monopolize the repeater. If 90 % of the conversations for long periods of time, night after night, include you and one or two others, something is wrong. If other hams turn off their radios for big blocks of time because they can hardly talk to someone other than you, something is wrong. You do not own, nor single handedly finance the repeater. It is suppose to be a shared resource. Don’t drive other people off the air. You know who you are!
Ignore those who cause interference and others who try to disrupt the repeater’s normal operation. Without any reaction from the repeater users, they will have no audience and probably go away in short order.
If you are someone who is the subject of frequent interference, it may be a sign that you are aggravating people with your operating habits. This may be a sign that it is time for you to adjust your attitude and use of the repeater. This isn’t always the case, but history has shown that those who have the most trouble with jammers are the ones who have caused the most friction among the repeater users.
When IDing you don’t need to say “for ID” or anything of that nature. When you give your call everyone knows the reason for it. It is a waste of air time and redundant.
Be upbeat and courteous. Don’t complain. This especially includes complaining about other hams, the repeater, or some aspect of the hobby. We all deal with unsafe and discourteous drivers, please don’t describe their actions to us on the air.
Do not use phrases learned on 11 meters such as “handle“, “making the trip“, “got a good copy on me?“, “the personal here is…“, “what’s your 20?“, “you’re giving me 20-pounds“, and other strange phrases which should stay on CB. Speak plain English; this is not a cult. The less said about 11 meters on the air the better.
Use plain language that everyone understands. 2m and 70cm are interoperabillity bands. Q Signals and Radio short codes aren’t appropriate. 10 Codes, 12 Codes etc are never appropriate in Amateur Radio. Also on a repeater unless you have a weak signal phonetics aren’t usually necessary and take up precious air time. If requested, use them, otherwise don’t. DONT MAKE UP YOUR OWN PHONETICS.
Following a roundtable, or rotation format is the best way for 3 or more to participate. Don’t ignore people by not passing it to them for several turns.
Don’t kerchunk the repeater without IDing. It’s incredibly rude and illegal.
As with all amateur radio, NO politics, religion or sex.
It is not necessary to give the other person’s call when ending a conversation. This is wasted air time. The other person will give their call when they sign off.
Don’t give out your call on a repeater and then just leave. Others might try to call you and this is incredibly rude. At least say clear so others know you are leaving.
JUST BECAUSE OTHERS VIOLATE THESE GUIDELINES DON’T MAKE IT RIGHT. BE THE EXAMPLE OTHERS WILL FOLLOW. On that same topic, remember not to be the radio police. If others are violating these, don’t confront them on the air. Just be the example.
The Ready Alliance Amateur Radio Nets are held on Wednesday nights. At this point we are holding two back to back. We welcome all licensed amateurs to check in. We also welcome those who are interested in joining our group to check in and find out what we are about. We have discussions about disaster preparedness.
Many of our members are Amateur Radio Operators. Many interested in our group are as well. We have been asked by both members and perspective members why we use GMRS. It boils down to this. HAM radio is great. It’s a great resource and we all love it, but it’s not for everyone. Some people don’t have the knowledge, skill, or desire to get a HAM license. We of course encourage everyone to get one, and will help in any way we can. But GMRS is a great alternative.
GMRS is a paid license, not an earned. You simply pay your money and fill out a form and you have a license. To become a HAM, you must take a test and learn a lot of information. It also is a great resource because one license covers your whole family for 10 years.
Once licensed it’s quite similar to the HAM resources we use locally. We can put up repeaters, we can use 50 watt mobiles, we can even use CTCSS/PL Tones.
We do everything we can to include all of our members in everything we do. Communications is a large part of our mission, but we want to be as versatile with those communications as we can be. We us other methods as well.
It’s important to note though, that you must have a license to use GMRS. The rules have changed a lot lately, but there are rules which must be followed. Some like to demean GMRS as something for kids or something that which is on the fringe of legality or even that it is a lessor method of communication. HAMs (myself being one) can be stuck up at times toward other methods of communication such as GMRS, FRS, CB, etc. Our group frowns on this mentality. We try to practice and teach all methods, because in a true emergency, you never know what you might need to use.
In a true emergency you use what is available and has the best chance of getting through to deliver your message. All bands will be crowded in an emergency. Each has it’s power restrictions as well as limitations based on frequencies.