Net Control Training Manual

There have been many HAMs I have spoken with lately who tell me they never received any Net Control training. I was fortunate enough many years ago to have a great ARES EC who taught a class once a year to all HAMs who were interested. To pick up the slack for some who haven’t received training, I have complied some resources from around the web. The document below is a great manual. I have also included a couple of pdf documents from the web (created by others) which are great resources.


By R. Bruce Winchell, N8UT
Copyright 1997
Permission is hereby granted for non-profit reproduction of this material provided
this statement is included and the material is used in its’ entirety; or properly
credited by same, if used in part.


Table of Contents


PURPOSE OF THIS MANUAL

The purpose of this manual is to begin to identify a base set of
information and procedures for use in amateur radio emergency and
weather nets. The intent is to begin creating continuity in net
operations. It will, hopefully, spur other writers into continuing the
concept. This manual is not a definitive work.

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Chapter One – NECESSARY BACKGROUND STUFF

It is an unfortunate fact that many served agencies and the general
public judge our potential performance and relative value as a public
service by what they hear via scanner during our weather nets and SET
drills. Most of our weather nets and practice drills are poorly done.
Public concensus is, all too often, that amateur radio operators are
nothing more than glorified CB’rs. All too often, they are right. We
simply do not project the “professionalism” that they rightfully expect.
Then we wonder why they don’t call us when something happens and why
our frequencies are under attack. We must correct and promote our public
image; or fade into history.

Served agencies often view Amateur Radio operators as nuisances
instead of assistants. The reason is that we often don’t pay enough
attention to what the served agency really wants and needs. We tend to
operate within our own perceptions of what we think they want or need.
We don’t seek a deep understanding of what their perceptions really are.
The result is that the service we offer becomes greatly diminished in
value to the served agency. We wind up offering and performing services
convenient and effective for us . . . but not necessarily what they
envisioned, really wanted or needed. This is not an easy issue to
resolve.

Served agencies know that they need help with communications. A
problem arises when we assume that they are aware of all the different
modes of communications available to them from the amateur radio
service. They are not aware! You should assume that they know nothing
about communications beyond their telephone and pager. Most people
aren’t really aware that their cordless or cellular phone, wireless
intercom, baby monitor, garage door opener and pager are really radio
devices.

The idea that hams can serve them with packet, ATV, APRS/GPS, long
range HF, CW and VHF/UHF simplex and repeater communications is simply
too much technology for most agency personnel to comprehend. (How much
study did it take for you to get your Extra ticket?) We have to gently
educate them as to our capabilities and then carefully listen to them
for clues to possible uses of various modes to help solve their
communications problems. Hams are great talkers. The greater part of
true and artful communication is listening.

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WHAT IS AN EMERGENCY NET?

The word “net” is short for “network.” Networks can be defined as
groups of equipment, individuals, and/or agencies acting together to
increase efficiency and effectiveness through shared information and
resources. The word “network” can be further broken down into it’s two
components. “Net” implies a capture and holding effect. “Work” implies
that something productive is to be accomplished. Ham radio operators and
nets in emergency situations capture, record, hold, and distribute
information so that others may work (produce results) more effectively.

“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.

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WHO SHOULD START AN EMERGENCY NET?

An emergency net is started only after a request for service has been
submitted by a served agency. Such a request is usually routed through
an appointed amateur radio Emergency Coordinator (EC) or one of his/her
assistants. If it is known that there is an emergency situation
developing, an EC could request that a “Standby” or “Resource” net be
started in anticipation of a request for service from a served agency.

The proper way for the EC to start the emergency or standby net, is
for him/her to contact a trained NCS operator to handle the task. The EC
could start the net; but it is not recommended. The EC will, sooner or
later, be required to interact with the leadership of served agencies.
It is impossible to do this if the EC is also acting as NCS. An
excellent rule of thumb is that the EC should never be NCS in any
emergency or weather net.

Summary: Generally, an emergency net is started by an EC or AEC at
the request of an authority outside the Amateur Radio Service. National
Weather Service offices are the only authorized source for public
weather watches and warnings. Standby nets are OK in any case.
Memorandums Of Understanding should be in place to clarify activation
processes.

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DIFFERENT KINDS OF NETS

There are many different kinds of emergency nets. We will examine
only a few of the more common nets here. The basics are all the same.
Details of net activities will be examined throughout this manual.

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NET FORMATS

There are two basic Net Formats. The first is the open or undirected net. The second is the directed net.

An open net can be held in the midst of other normal frequency
traffic. It is very informal, net participants may converse directly
and there may or may not be a specified net control operator. If a net
control is selected from the group, that NCS can set the level of
formality with informal net guidelines.

A directed net is formal, has a set of rules or net
directives, all communications must go through net control, it dominates
the frequency with net related traffic only, and has a specified person
in charge and known as the Net Control Station (NCS). The NCS will
issue specific instructions on how he/she wants the net to run.

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SKYWARN/WEATHER NETS

Weather nets have their own set of start-up conditions.

One point must be made very clear right at the beginning: SKYWARN
SPOTTERS AND SPOTTER NET CONTROL STATIONS ARE NEVER RESPONSIBLE FOR
ISSUING WEATHER WATCHES, WARNINGS OR OTHER WEATHER RELATED ANNOUNCEMENTS
TO THE PUBLIC, PUBLIC SERVICE AGENCIES, OR TO THE MEDIA. This is the
responsibility of the NWS only.

National Weather Service offices request that amateur radio spotter
nets be activated in several different ways. Some offices request
spotter activation with announcements included in their Public Weather
Watch or Warning broadcasts. Some offices prefer to use a group of radio
or telephone “calling trees.” Still others, (probably the vast
majority), prefer a very simple, “automatic” system; whereby spotter
activation is automatically triggered throughout a coverage area by an
NWS announcement of a watch or warning anywhere in that coverage area. A
combination of these methods, in whole or in part, is not uncommon at
all.

Regardless of what system is used, a formal agreement, known as a
Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), should be in place between at least
the District and the NWS. County level MOU’s are very useful to cover
special needs in fringe areas. This agreement should describe, in
detail, exactly what the notification system will be; and the response
activities that the amateurs radio spotters will perform at each level
of the watch/warning . The MOU should be freely copied and distributed.
All amateurs within the coverage area should be informed regarding the
content of MOU’s. It is absolutely essential that all Net Control
operators be aware of, and fully familiar with, the Skywarn activation
process for their area.

Note: Some NWS offices are very particular about the use of
“SKYWARN” as a description of a weather net. It is recommended that the
word “Skywarn” not be used in any standby net called by an EC or others.
Once a request for activation has been formally received, or publicly
broadcast by the NWS, it is usually understood that the word “Skywarn”
is OK to use. This issue should be covered in the MOU.

If a request for a weather net is received from a local government
authority instead of the NWS, (this is fairly rare), the request of the
government authority supersedes NWS authority. The net normally
transfers at this point, to come under RACES/FEMA authority. The NWS
should be notified if this should occur. Spotter reports of significance
would still be sent to the NWS. The NWS still retains the exclusive
authority to issue all watches and warnings; but a local County
Emergency Manager, for example, can override the NWS on a local level
and sound warning sirens, etc. at his/her discretion.

A basic misunderstanding frequently occurs in new ARES/RACES groups. You do not have to wait for a NWS public watch or warning statement to be issued before you start a weather net!
If the weather is presenting a local threat that is making a number of
you nervous, start a standby weather net!! Don’t call it a SKYWARN net.
Don’t issue any watches or warnings on your own. Just announce that a
standby weather net is in progress . . . that you are beginning to track
conditions.

Regardless of whether a net is directed and formal or an informal standby net, only one person should be responsible for reporting conditions to the NWS. The NWS frowns on multiple, identical reports. Multiple reports make our efforts look totally disorganized.

Standby nets can be a very informal information gathering process
that will help immensely if, and when, the NWS issues a watch or
warning. If conditions really get nasty, formalize the net and notify
the NWS that you have a net in progress; and why. The NWS should never
complain about this activity; indeed, they should be grateful; and they
have no right to complain. Your right to communicate and have nets for
the benefit of the public is under FCC jurisdiction and authority . . .
not NWS authority.

Standby nets are generally run under condition “Green”. This is the
lowest weather priority. Condition “Green” is also used during a
thunderstorm Watch. When an official Watch is issued for a particular
locale, nets covering a location experiencing adverse weather effects
can go to condition “Yellow” and begin using the word “SKYWARN” as a
descriptor. When an official Warning is issued, nets usually go to
condition “Red.”

Local NCS’s may upgrade/downgrade a condition code on their own; in
accordance with local conditions and for the safety awareness of their
Spotters. NCS operators should be very careful to phrase an
upgrade/downgrade statement to the net; so that it doesn’t represent, or
sound like, an official public Watch or Warning statement. A simple
statement such as:”This net is now changing to condition Yellow alert
and safety status.”, will suffice.

The NWS does not have to activate their in-house amateur radio station just because you have started a stand-by weather net.
Ask them if they are going to activate it. If they say “No”, thank them
for the information and use the telephone for any further
communications. Never underestimate or overlook the value of a working
telephone.

The NWS recognizes that their radar has severe limitations and that
with their current radar technology, they will never be able to see what
is happening at the all important lower elevations between zero and
4000 feet for more than just a few miles.

Only a spotter can actually observe and report the effects of hail,
wind velocity, gust fronts, funnel clouds, wall clouds, downburst
activity, rotation, and tornadoes. The NWS radar can’t actually see any
of these things. Their radar can only indicate a relative location of
conditions at higher elevations that are known to be conducive to these
things occurring at lower elevations.

The spotter becomes increasingly more important to the NWS and the
public as the distance from the radar site increases. Even at minimal
radar take-off angles, at a distance of 40 to 100 miles, the radar image
may be well above any, or most, significant ground effect storm
activity. This is one major reason that a NCS must keep track of all
spotter locations. Knowing a spotter’s exactlocation helps the NWS know
where to look for developing patterns.

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ARES NETS

ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) nets are held under
auspices of the ARRL and in accordance with national and local MOU’s
between the ARRL, local ARRL organizations, and many served agencies.
These nets usually serve agencies like the American Red Cross, Salvation
Army, and other non-governmental agencies. They are widely used in
Public Service Events. SKYWARN nets are usually run under the ARES flag .
They are nearly always directed nets, with varying degrees of net
discipline, held on local repeaters, FM simplex, and HF frequencies.
The level of formality is set by the NCS.

Net Control Stations for these nets are usually located at an agency
command post. Field stations and operators can be required. Served
agencies will usually want a communications link established to an even
higher organizational level within their agency. This is especially true
of the Red Cross. Be prepared to establish long distance communications
in addition to local communications. Expect the necessity to establish
communications liaisons with other agencies and a RACES EOC. ARES NCS
operators should be RACES qualified and should be familiar with the
Incident Command Structure (ICS).

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RACES NETS

RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) nets are a bit different.

1. They are federally sponsored by FEMA and can only be activated by a
governmental official. This appointed or elected official can be at a
local, State, or Federal level. It is usually a County Emergency
Manager, Sheriff or the State Police.

2. A RACES net, under current law, can only have RACES membership. An
operator must be RACES qualified in order to participate. To become
qualified, an operator must take a simple, short course of instruction
available from FEMA. The text for the course and the open book test are
now available on the Internet; from FEMA. You can take the test
interactively on the Internet. Contact your EC or RO (FEMA Radio
Officer) for further information. Your EC/RO will guide you through the
simple RACES application process

3. As a general rule of thumb, during a RACES net, you cannot communicate with a non-RACES station.
This is a topic of considerable debate. Some individuals and groups
claim an interpretation of the rules that allows communication with
non-RACES stations. This is predicated on permission being granted by a
government official for such communications. We will not debate this in
this manual. The following is a direct quote from the part 97 FCC rules.
We will let you decide.

“Subpart E – Providing Emergency Communications

97.407 (c) A RACES station may only communicate with:

  1. Another RACES station;
  2. An amateur station registered with a civil defense organization;
  3. A United States Government station authorized bythe responsible agency to
    communicate with RACES stations;
  4. A station in a service regulated by the FCC whenever such communication is
    authorized by the FCC.

(d) An amateur station registered with a civil defense organization
may only communicate with:

  1. A RACES station licensed to another civil defense organization with which
    the amateur station is registered;
  2. The following stations upon authorization of the responsible civil defense
    official for the organization with which the amateur station is registered:

     

    • (i) A RACES station licensed to another civil defense organization;
    • (ii) An amateur station registered with the same or another civil defense
      organization;
    • (iii) A United States Government station authorized by the responsible
      agency to communicate with RACES stations; and
    • (iv) A station in a service regulated by the FCC whenever such
      communication is authorized by the FCC.

(e) All communications transmitted in RACES must be specifically authorized
by the civil defense organization for the area served. Only civil defense
communications of the following types may be transmitted:

  1. Messages concerning impending or actual conditions jeopardizing the public
    safety, or affecting the national defense or security during periods of local,
    regional, oar national civil emergencies;
  2. Messages directly concerning the immediate safety of life of individuals,
    the immediate protection of property, maintenance of law and order, alleviation
    of human suffering and need, and the combating of armed attack or sabotage;
  3. Messages directly concerning the accumulation and dissemination of public
    information or instructions to the civilian population essential to the
    activities of the civil defense organization or other authorized governmental or
    relief agencies; and
  4. Communications for RACES training drills and tests necessary to
    ensure the establishment and maintenance of orderly and efficient
    operation of the RACES as ordered by the responsible civil defense
    organizations served. Such drills and tests may not exceed a total time
    of 1 hour per week. With the approval of the chief officer for emergency
    planning the applicable State, Commonwealth, District or territory,
    however, such tests and drills may be conducted for a period not to
    exceed 72 hours no more than twice in any calendar year.”

If that doesn’t confuse you, you are a lawyer.

4. These are always directed nets; requiring fairly tight net discipline.

5. The Net Control Station is nearly always located in a
pre-designated Emergency Operations Center (EOC). If the EOC is ill
equipped, put your NCS somewhere else. Expect to deal with a number of
agencies and manage communications liaisons with most of them. NCS
operators will normally be reporting directly to the EC/RO.

Note: (If an EOC is poorly equipped, the EC should work
closely and creatively with the local Emergency Manager to solve this
problem.)

6. RACES NCS operators and net participants should be familiar with the Incident Command System (ICS).

7. Participants in RACES activities are covered by their State’s Disability/Workman’s Compensation Structure.
Recent changes in Federal law also gives participants increased, but
limited, liability protection against the possibility of being sued for
actions they might take as emergency volunteers.

8. A RACES training net is currently limited by law, to one hour of airtime per month. A RACES training net may be called or initiated by the RO.

Note: Participation in RACES operations can involve taking
direct orders from public service agencies and governmental officials.
If you are steadfast in your belief that you are a volunteer, and that
volunteers don’t have to take orders, the author suggests that you think
long and hard before becoming involved with RACES. When you sign a
RACES application, you are basically signing a contract with the
government and agreeing to do what you are told, during a RACES
controlled event.

Standby nets are one of the most often used
and most useful tools available to the amateur radio community. They can
be started in open or directed format. They can be started and run by
anyone and offer an excellent opportunity for NCO trainees to become
exposed to running an actual, “almost emergency” net. The standby net
allows a monitoring, qualified NCO to get organized and get into the
flow of the event, without having to actually run the net. It also gives
the trainee an on-line coach to fall back on for advice. When the
qualified NCO feels that it is necessary to take over the net because of
escalating circumstances or the inability of the trainee to continue
efficiently, the transfer is seamless.

Big events, usually under RACES, are most often run using the
Incident Command System. The ICS uses a different form of a standby net.
It is called a Resource Net. These nets are always directed and it’s no
place for a rookie. They are literally “collection point” or “staging
area” nets where excess personnel, relief schedules, lists of equipment,
lists of supplies, etc. are kept in some semblance of order. This is
the “Supply Sergeant” of a big event. This is also the net that
participants check into when they become available to work the event.
The resource net control makes assignments, gives instructions, and
directs the flow of available resources. The Resource NCS receives
requests for transportation, equipment, supplies and personnel from a
front-line Tactical Net, the Command Net, and outside served agencies.

You need experience, outstanding organizational skills, a cool head,
and several assistants to be an effective NCO for a major ICS agency
net. While we should train for this position in the event that we could
be called on, it is normally handled by a professional dispatcher . . .
with the amateur NCS filling in the communications “holes”.

The amateur radio participation level in big disasters, like
hurricanes, may be large enough that it will require it’s own Resource
Net. These nets have extreme value in smoothing out the flow of
communications, personnel, and equipment. They simplify the operation
and drastically reduce the stress level for tactical and command NCO’s.

Tactical nets are used after an event has
occurred or during and after a lengthy event. They are found on the
“front lines” of response, disaster assessment, recovery and Search and
Rescue operations. There may be several of these nets running at the
same time; on different frequencies and from widespread locations . . .
all reporting to a “master” Tactical NCS at the EOC. Stress safety to
your people. Recovery operations are very dangerous. Everyone is
excited, in a hurry, confused, and in an unnatural situation . . . a
dangerous combination. It is very easy to step on a nail and become
another casualty.

Command Nets are encountered in all large
disasters or emergencies. This is a communications net established to
keep the top “executive board” of emergency officials informed. They are
also used by fire departments and police agencies during smaller, local
events. They are run in accordance with the Incident Command System,
(ICS), which will be addressed later in this document. It would be rare
for amateurs to be involved directly in one of these nets, but fairly
common for amateur nets and sub-nets to be reporting certain information
to a command net. For now, just be aware that they exist and that they
are the guys who are really running the show..

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Amateur Radio Public Service Corps, (ARPSC) nets

ARPSC nets can be held at the ARRL Section, District, and Local
levels. These are information nets. Participants are informed of ARRL
policies, news, events, and appointments. These nets represent an
excellent training opportunity and should be held weekly. These are
always directed nets.

This author firmly believes that all ARES/RACES organizations should
hold their own weekly nets for the purpose of advancing the state of
readiness for all personnel. This is a tremendous opportunity to address
local organizational and educational issues and weaknesses. It is a
waste of time to hold one of these nets and not do some training.
Training should be no longer than 15 minutes in length. Short
simulations of correct vs. incorrect communications and content can be
very informative and a lot of fun.

The weekly rag-chew or club net is another excellent place to break
in a NCO trainee. These nets can be run in nearly any fashion . . . open
or directed. Most of the time, they are run as a directed net in a
relaxed atmosphere. These are great training grounds for Net Control
Operators.

IMPORTANT NOTE: ARES/RACES and Weather nets and activities should not be run as local club events; unless that “club” has been formed, separate and apart . . . as an independent ARES/RACES organization. The EC or RO must
be the final leadership authority in such an organization. An elected
local club official should never be in a position to challenge the
authority or leadership of an EC/RO in an ARES/RACES emergency event,
weather net or emergency test.

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WHO SHOULD BE NET CONTROL?

An actual emergency requires an experienced and, possibly, certified
operator in the position of Net Control Station. Unfortunately, there
are few certification/training programs around.

There has been little, if any attempt, to standardize minimum levels
of experience and knowledge for net control operators. Altogether too
often, the NCS winds up being manned by whoever was available to be
pushed into the hot seat when the stuff hit the fan. . . qualified, or
not.

Your organization should establish what it believes are minimums in
order to qualify an individual for the responsibilities of running an
emergency net. This manual will give some guidance.

Not everyone is cut out to be a net control operator. Those who would
not be considered good net leaders usually are not interested in
becoming emergency net controllers. This is a fortunate natural
phenomenon. Nothing can be tougher than to have to develop the diplomacy
to tell someone who has tried their best, that they probably will never
be qualified because something in their personality, physical condition
or basic intelligence will forever keep them from being effective. This
is not to say that the physically challenged, or handicapped, cannot be
effective NCO’s. Two of the finest emergency net controllers this
author has ever heard, are legally blind.

Some of the characteristics that are desirable in a net control operator are:

  • Good voice quality – with an air of authority; without sarcastic overtones or being overbearing.
  • Sense of control and self-assuredness.
  • Decisiveness and the maturity to make good judgment calls.
  • Knowledge of band characteristics
  • Knowledge of common equipment
  • Good basic communications skills and fluent command of language
  • Ability to absorb new terminologies quickly
  • Knowledge of the ICS
  • Physical condition that will tolerate high stress for extended periods of time
  • A strong team player and organizer
  • Good hearing capabilities
  • Good ear-to-hand copying skills
  • Good listening capabilities
  • Decent (readable) penmanship
  • Computer keyboard skills – touch typing
  • Generally “professional” appearance
  • Willingness to take and carry out direct orders
  • A cast-iron stomach and constitution that can exist on hot dogs, cold smashed sandwiches, soda pop and coffee for days on end
  • The ability to sleep in a rock quarry without bedding
  • Has a spouse who doesn’t care how much time is spent away from the family “playing radio”
  • Consistently demonstrates above average operating technique
  • Has general understanding of all MOU’s with served agencies
  • Constant concern for the safety of participants
  • Good sense of humor

Unless you are fortunate enough to get the author as a Net Control
Operator, you probably won’t find too many people with all of the above
listed characteristics. (Humor intended) The point is, that no two
people naturally have identical skill sets or personality assets.
Training must be devised and taught in order to enhance the
effectiveness of everyone. The training does not have to be complex or
sophisticated. . . just effective.

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WHERE SHOULD NET CONTROL BE LOCATED?

This question will always be subject to local circumstances and
resources. Some areas have beautiful facilities in their County EOC’s
and the amateurs are encouraged to use those facilities in nearly any
way they choose. Some EOC’s are marginally equipped and have restricted
access. The best location for a NCS may not be at the EOC. In other
areas, no such public facility exists and the amateurs must rely
entirely on club stations or their own private stations. Whatever the
case may be, the following guidelines should be followed.

  1. Net control should always be located at a station that has a strong,
    commanding signal. The same is true of choosing a repeater to use. A
    NCS that can’t be heard is worthless. If you have taken temporary
    control of a net that is just beginning, do not transfer NCS duties to a
    weak or marginal station. If faced with a choice of a weak station
    manned by an experienced NCO or a strong station manned by an
    inexperienced NCO . . . go with the strong station and try to get an
    experienced operator to a strong station.
  2. The NCS should have the capabilities to communicate with served
    agencies. This could be by telephone, radio, liaison station, courier,
    CB, pony express, or whatever. Get your links set up as quickly as
    possible.
  3. If at all possible, the NCS should have alternative, back-up power and a back-up rig.
  4. During short-term, violent events, an alternate NCS should be either
    pre-arranged or set up immediately to run parallel recording operations
    during the net. If the primary NCS should experience failure, the
    secondary would automatically assume net duties.

It is the duty of the EC and the Emergency Net Manager to see that
the best of resources is utilized for the NCS. If neither of these
individuals is available, either the scheduled NCO or assuming NCO
should see to it.

Ideally, your organization should have an Emergency Net Manager and a
roster/schedule of qualified NC stations and operators; with
alternates. This system helps assure that a NCS and NCO are always
scheduled for a specified period of time.

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Chapter Two – THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO HANDLE

BEING IN CHARGE

Some people are not comfortable being in charge, and others seek out
opportunities to be in charge. Some are natural leaders and others have
to learn leadership skills.

Net Control Operators are perceived as leaders. Assuming a leadership
role means that you are also expected to assume responsibility. When
you are accepted as a leader, you are given a certain amount of
Authority by those who have accepted you. Use the given Authority wisely
and accept full Responsibility for your actions and Trust is built. The
greater the level of Trust that is earned, the more Authority and
Responsibility you are granted. The longer you produce positive results
within this balanced framework, the more you earn Respect.

Seeking a position, accepting the Authority, using it to build up
some kind of false personal image or power base, and wiggling wildly to
avoid Responsibility for your actions and all the while expecting
respectful adoration, is a fool’s game. The fool will be quickly found
out, scorned and run out of leadership and fellowship by those he
presumes to lead.

Be sure you want to lead for the right reasons.

There is nothing grand or glamorous about being a Net Control
Operator. It takes work to acquire the skills that make you appear
professional. It’s the kind of work that can wind up being a lot of
challenging and rewarding fun, if . . . you know what you are doing.

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CHOOSING THE NET FORMAT

There is little that can be said about making a decision regarding
what net format to use. You have to decide. Nothing is chiseled in
stone. You can change the net format from open to directed at any time
you think it is necessary. An open net is much harder to control;
because of it’s very nature. When you think you are losing control or
desire more control over the net, change the format to directed.

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DETERMINING NET SIZE

One of the other items you must make a decision about in starting an
emergency net is the size of the net you are going to need. It’s a
judgment call all the way. It can change very quickly. If you think you
are only going to need a half dozen operators, start with a half dozen
but leave the door open for more if you need them. If it is a fairly
major event that is likely to grow, don’t hesitate to activate the
calling tree and wake up the world. They can always go back to bed. A
Weather net demands all the people you can get.

Don’t keep ninety hams hanging in the resource arena when all you
need is twenty. Give them a status report, thank them and release them.
Some will hang around anyway. There will nearly always be more
volunteers lurking and listening to net proceedings.

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USING TACTICAL CALL SIGNS

Try to minimize your use of tactical call signs. If you are in an ICS
controlled event, the use of “Resource”, “Tactical”, “Command”,
“Main”,”Control”,”Shelter One”, etc. is easy for everyone to remember.
To assign everyone a tactical call sign is very confusing. Hams suddenly
forget what and how to ID. The use of call suffixes is highly
recommended. It is quick and familiar. If a ham forgets to use his
assigned tactical call, just gently remind him by leading. If he calls
in using KX8ABC after you assigned him “Shelter One”, just “Roger,
Shelter One” from you will be reminder enough.

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NET DISCIPLINE

The level of net discipline is yours to set. You have to decide how
tightly you want the rules followed. Describe exactly what you want in
your net instructions. Most of the time, the net participants will sense
just how much urgency there is by how you are reacting. If you push up
the pace and become more clipped or terse in your responses, they will
follow your lead. If you are laid-back and relaxed, they will follow.
When you can, change the pace and have a little fun!

You are going to have the usual Bozo in your net. Count on it! Look
forward to it! It’s a challenge to your skills! Lead your Bozo back into
proper procedure by example and gentle reminder. Conducting on-the-job
training is part of your job. A good, non-sarcastic sense of humor is
invaluable. If you did a good job on your net instructions, you can
always repeat an applicable part of the net instructions as a general
reminder to the entire net. Do not address that reading of the
instructions directly at Bozo. Avoid direct confrontation with anyone.

NEVER dress anyone down on the air for a rules infraction. If
the problem persists, find a way to get Bozo off the air. Have him come
in and log or be a courier for you . . . as a special favor. The rest of
the net will be rolling in the aisles.

You are going to be in charge of a frequency. Your first duty is to
be sure that frequency is used in accordance with FCC Rules. Proper ID
at the ten minute mark can be difficult to remember in the heated
activity of a net but you and your participants have to do it. If you
can grab 30 seconds, hold a round-table ID session or an ID roll call in
which they answer you with their call sign. They will look forward to
it and stay on frequency.

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HANDLING REQUESTS TO “GO DIRECT”

These requests can be a very valuable tool. They can save a lot of
valuable air time. They can also seriously disrupt the flow and control
of a net when abused. Cover what you expect these requests to consist of
in your net instructions. A good, quick response to one of these
requests is simply: “Make your call.”

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NET INSTRUCTIONS – USING AND CREATING

When you go to a directed format, you should be prepared to give net
instructions, or directives. Be specific. Practice writing exactly what
information you want passed in your net and how you want it passed.
Listen to other net controllers and pick up little goodies that they do.
Net instructions are very important to you and to the participants.
They give the net a defined purpose, content and method of operation.
Again, nothing is chiseled in stone. Net instructions can, will, and
should change with the intensity and duration of the net. Don’t change a
lot of little pieces of the net instructions. Inform participants that
you are giving an updated set of net instructions and give entire set
again.

Whatever your instructions are, WRITE THEM DOWN! You need to
be able to refer to them for updates, as a personal reminder as to what
you last told them to do, and for repeats of instructions as needed.

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NET INSTRUCTIONS IN WEATHER NETS

Net instructions are extremely important in weather nets. You
must be very firm and specific about what you want reported. If you
don’t, you will get “sunshine, flash-to-boom, and dewdrop” reports that
don’t mean anything to anyone. If you don’t explain at the outset, that
this is a thunderstorm watch … we expect clouds, rain, thunder and
lightning . . . and those things are not reportable unless rain
accumulation reaches flash flood danger or lightning strikes a person or
property . . . they will drive you nuts with weather drivel. If an
inexperienced spotter reports these things, thank them and simply read
that part of your instructions again. Start your reading with something
like: “The net is reminded ………” They will get the idea sooner or
later.

Net instructions for weather nets should contain strong
discouragement of storm chasing. It is a very dangerous practice for
professionals. It is potentially deadly for the average spotter; who
believes he is above average. Spotting and Driving do not share a common
meaning. The author is about to the point that he will refuse to
recognize a spotter who is deliberately chasing. It makes for an
impossible safety program for the NCS when he doesn’t know exactly where
everyone is. Part of the job of the NCS is to keep spotters out of
harm’s way. This is impossible when eight or ten hot-dog, stupid
spotters are driving willy-nilly into the active center of a storm. Park
them and keep them parked . . . or refuse to use them. They too, may
get the idea sooner or later.

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SAMPLE WEATHER NET INSTRUCTIONS

This is not something you should copy and use directly. It is only a sampling of content possibilities.

“This is KB8ABC, and I will be acting as net control for the
duration of the weather event that is current in our coverage area. This
will be a directed net. All communications are to be addressed through
net control. The NWS has issued a Severe thunderstorm watch for the
following counties ______ , _______, ________. At this time we are
condition green.(yellow, red). Your check-in instructions are as
follows:

  1. When checking into the net, please give your call sign, name,
    location, mobile or stationary status, direction of travel if mobile and
    how long you will be available.
  2. If you must leave the net for any reason, please notify net control

“I will now take check-ins for this weather net.”

AFTER CHECK-IN

Attention all net stations!! This is KB8ABC, net control …. please stand by for net instructions.”

“The instructions for this net are as follows: This is a Severe
Thunderstorm Watch. We expect rain, thunder and lightning, wind and low
cloud formations. The following items are the only reports that net
control wishes to hear from Spotters; please use only the suffix of your
call when calling net control:

  1. Report all hail . . . regardless of size.
  2. Report only winds measured or estimated to be over 50 MPH.
  3. Do not report lightning unless it hits a person, building, electric services or causes damage resulting in blocked roadways.
  4. Rainfall is NOT to be reported unless accumulations threaten flash flooding.
  5. Wall Clouds with confirmed rotation are to be reported.
  6. Funnel clouds are to be reported.
  7. Tornadoes are to be reported.
  8. Thunder is not important and is not to be reported.
  9. If you are stationary, do not move without notifying net control; unless you are in imminent danger.
  10. If you are mobile, do not engage in Storm Chasing. Mobiles that
    must remain moving will please report their location to net control
    every 15 minutes.
  11. Do not go mobile unless it is to go to your pre-assigned stationary viewing area.
  12. If you are in a convertible, please do not observe from inside your vehicle. Seek a shelter from which you can observe safely.
  13. All reports should follow the TEL (Time, Effect, and Location) reporting procedure.
  14. Priority and Emergency transmissions must meet standard definitions and will be handled immediately by Net Control.
  15. Consider your own safety at all times.
  16. Only your direct observations are reportable. Commercial radio
    or TV weather reports, radar descriptions, or police and fire department
    transmissions that you hear on scanners, are not reportable on this
    net.

“This concludes net instructions at this time. I will repeat the
net instructions from time-to-time. Please listen carefully to the net.
Instructions can change quickly with events. This is KB8ABC, standing
by for Spotter reports.”

Time permitting, you can take more check-ins to the net. Each time
you take in a new group of Spotters, you should repeat the net
instructions.

The above is only an example. Tear it apart. Modify it. Put it back
together. Embellish it. The important thing is that you practice writing
examples like it; so that you get used to thinking ahead about what you
want from the net participants. The better your instructions are, the
smoother the net will run, the more professional it will appear to the
world, and the more control you will have

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NET ANNOUNCEMENTS

Good NCO’s use net announcements regularly. Net announcements do not
have anything to do with Net Instructions. They are merely a way of
keeping the net participants informed of events and operational changes.
Net announcements keep them reminded, interested, awake, and on
frequency.

Some of the things you can put into your announcements are:

  • Safety reminders
  • Frequencies of Sub-Nets and Liaison Stations
  • Current events regarding the emergency. Be careful not to air exact
    locations of casualty occurrences or the known names of casualties.
  • Short term weather forecasts
  • Encouragement and praise to the poor guys standing in the rain, etc.
  • Shift Schedules
  • Eating Schedules and Food Source Locations
  • Short break relief rotations
  • Locations of restrooms available
  • Travel/transportation hazards
  • Safe/Approved travel route
  • Termination/Activation of emergency sub-activities
  • Humorous happenings
  • Equipment/battery check
  • ID sessions
  • Relays of personal messages from family to participant

Boredom sets in with a vengeance in many nets, and in a relative
short time. Use your net announcements to keep it interesting. If your
people don’t have anything to listen to on the net, they will wander off
frequency looking for something of interest or shut their radios off to
conserve power.

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THE UNTRAINED OBSERVER

The untrained observer can be a lot of fun. He/she will test your
patience, communications skills and teaching abilities to the max. The
untrained observer will, most commonly, be found somewhere in a weather
net. They really don’t know that they are supposed to know exactly where
they are, what they are seeing, what they are supposed to report, how
to report it, how a net works, that the rubber duck on their HT is
really just a dummy load on a stick, or that their spare battery pack
needs to be charged once in a while whether it gets used or not.

Be gentle with them. Teach them by prefacing all questions and
comments with something like, “KZ8ABC, thanks for your input . . . on
this net we usually . . . OK?”, and proceed to teach them without them
knowing it. If things are going hot and heavy in the net, tell the
station to stand by and go back to him when you get a little break. If
you are clever and have the time, you can entertain and re-educate the
entire net regarding proper operating procedures; without hurting the
newbie.

Fun Suggestion: Find someone in your club or organization who was a
Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) in an artillery outfit. Have them tell
you how the military taught them to handle an untrained forward
observer. Take some of those ideas and work them into the beginning or
end of your next DF Fox Hunt. Mixed with a few scavenger hunting
techniques that have nothing to do with radio, it can be a real brain
teaser and it’s a great equalizer between the guys with Doppler and the
guys with the coffee cans and garbage can covers

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THE IRATE/UPSET PARTICIPANT

This is one of the toughest things you are going to face. If handled
incorrectly, it can cause net participants to “take sides” and erode the
morale and effectiveness of your net. People get their feelings hurt
over nothing, especially when they are tired and under unusual,
stressful circumstances. Your first reaction may well be to retaliate in
an upset manner. This will blow the net. Here is a formula to cure the problem:

1. Slow up. Don’t respond instantly. Take a deep breath.

2. Do a quick personality review of your assailant.

DO THE NEXT THREE STEPS ALL IN ONE STATEMENT.

3. Acknowledge the problem. Give in to the “Problem”. Whether
they are right or wrong! This acknowledges that there is a problem and
that you are recognizing that fact. It also throws them off balance.
They are not expecting this. Once you agree that there is a problem, the
“fight” is gone.

4. Empathize with them! Whether you understand or not, tell
them that you can understand how they can feel that way and that under
the same circumstances, you would probably feel the same way.

5. Ask them for a quick and simple suggestion for a solution.

#6. Listen intently! This is where they will reveal the real
problem. Everything they have said up to now may have been a loud
smokescreen. Somewhere in their suggestion, they will tell you what they
really want from you.

7. If their suggestion/solution is something reasonable, tell them
that you will try to put it into play. If it is not, make a
counter-suggestion that will satisfy the real problem that they have
revealed to you.

. 8. If the problem cannot be resolved quickly and reasonably,
quietly send someone to replace this individual and relieve him from his
post. If there are no posts involved in the operation, give up … let
him win . . . politely explain that the net must continue, thank the
person for his services, and tell him he doesn’t have to stick around.
You tried to solve the problem reasonably and he refused. He wins the
fight and you won the battle. The rest of the net will respect what you
did and morale will remain intact.

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WHAT CALL GETS YOUR ATTENTION FIRST?

“Emergency” calls have the highest priority of all calls you may
receive. “Priority” calls have the second highest. Whenever you hear a
call on the net that begins with the words “Priority” or “Emergency”,
you must stop the net cold in it’s tracks and give your undivided
attention to that call. No routine transmissions are allowed until you
announce that normal net activity is to resume. Say something like:
“Please hold all routine traffic until emergency traffic is cleared.”
The “Emergency” call is the only call that is authorized to interrupt
the handling of a “Priority” call. If by some weird circumstance you
should ever be involved in handling a Priority call and you should
receive an incoming Emergency call, tell the Priority call to stand by
and handle the Emergency call immediately. Then go back and finish up
with the Priority call.

Here is the difference:

“Emergency” calls mean that if the call is not answered immediately, there is a definite, severe and “RIGHT NOW” condition or hazard that will result in death or serious injury to a person or people.

“Priority” calls mean that if the call is not answered
quickly, a possible and probable hazard or condition exists, or is
developing, that could, might, or may result in loss of life, injury to people, or severe damage to property.

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WHAT IS A LIAISON STATION AND HOW DO YOU USE THEM?

Liaison stations are very important in many nets, especially
large-scale nets or those spread over a wide area. They are invaluable
in a net that is serving several different agencies. As NCS, you can
create Liaison Stations “on the fly” as you need them.

What a liaison station does, is act as an answering service and
garbage filter for the main NCS and a served agency. It monitors what is
happening on a sub-net that is serving a particular agency on a
frequency separate from the NCS. The liaison station may act as a
semi-silent net control for the group of hams doing the work at that
agency. He handles a lot of the usual goofy questions for the group and
makes sure they have what they need. The workers know that he is their
contact man. In most cases, he also monitors the Main NCS Net. When
important stuff comes through from either side, the liaison station
passes it to the other party. This entire process is designed to lighten
the load on the main NCS. Instead of constant and confusing chatter
from 30 to 100 hams, the NCS is dealing with 5 or 6 liaison stations.
The use of various tone-encoding schemes by the main NCS can
significantly reduce the chatter for the liaison stations as well.

Situations are encountered, particularly in weather nets, where the
distance from one area to another is too great for effective direct
communications and repeater linking is either not possible or
inadequate. In this case, a liaison station may be used to relay only
specific information between the two sites. This requires two
transceivers, sometimes on different bands, outstanding antennas and,
possibly, amplifiers. The operator must have outstanding operating
skills and be very well trained. A simpler method is often used. The
liaison station may just monitor repeater activity and report the
appropriate information to the second site by way of telephone. Because
of their fascination with radio, hams often overlook the value of a
working telephone.

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WHAT IS A SUB-NET AND WHEN IS ONE NEEDED?

A net can rapidly expand into too many functions for one NCS to
handle. The worst and busiest time for a NCS is usually right at the
beginning of an event. When the action begins to get out of hand, you
should consider setting up a Sub-Net to handle some of the traffic.

When you put out the call for a volunteer to act as a Sub-Net NCS, be
prepared to give that operator specific net instructions. This way, he
knows exactly what you want him to handle.

One of the first sub-nets you should consider is a Resource net. This
net will handle the check-ins/outs, equipment list, duty assignments,
shift relief, and transportation problems for you. When you get a call
from an agency requesting two hams with HT’s and extra batteries, you
call the Resource NCS and he will handle it. He will report to you when
they have been dispatched and when they arrive.

When you receive a call for five teams of five individuals each to
help with damage assessment, call the Resource net NCS and have him set
up a Tactical Net. The Resource net gets the people, equipment and
transportation and has those people report to the new Tactical NCS.
Tactical NCS will report only priority messages to you. If he needs
additional people or equipment, he calls the Resource net.

Let’s say that the Resource NCS is now feeling that he is about to
loose control. Transportation is getting to be a major bottleneck for
him. He can check with you, (you have now become the Command, or Main,
NCS), and tell you that he wants to start his own Sub-Net to handle
transportation. You say to go ahead. He then gets a volunteer to be NCS
for the new Transportation net. The Transportation NCS will report
directly to the Resource net NCS. When the Transportation net is all set
up, the Resource NCS informs the Main NCS. Main NCS puts out a general
announcement that there is now a Transportation Net. Now, if anyone,
anywhere in your network, needs transportation, they call the
Transportation NCS.

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YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU KNEW – The ICS lights go on!

If you understand the Sub-Net process, you now understand the basics
of the Incident Command System! There is no mystery about the ICS. The
only difference between what was just described and the ICS is that the
ICS has automatic overload prevention. The ICS has a defined chain of
command and authority, and is designed to automatically split big and
growing tasks into smaller, specialized tasks before the whole thing
gets too big for any one person or group to control. It uses something
called a “span of control” to trigger the automatic split. As soon as a
leader is faced with more than 5 to 7 people or agencies reporting to
him, the system splits; and some of those people or agencies begin
reporting to someone else with the authority to handle their problems.
Police and Fire Departments are heavy users of the ICS. The Red Cross
has it’s own version of the ICS.

Hams get confused when they are suddenly told by a served agency
authority to begin reporting to what appears to be another agency or
division of an agency. Just do it! The ICS has split and you have a new
boss. No big deal. Just inform your own NCS of what is going on (he
probably already knows) and keep doing what you have been doing.

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HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY ON DUTY AS NCS?

Take frequent breaks during your tour as NCS. If you begin to wonder
if you should take a break, you need one. Turn it to one of your
assistants for a while. The net won’t fall apart. Experienced NCO’s will
tell you that a two hour stretch is just about maximum without a break.
A four hour shift is considered maximum. A six hour shift is considered
to be the beginning of a self-destruct sequence. It is a very stressful
position to be in. You will start running on adrenaline and caffeine
and not even know it. Be sure you eat regularly and take in plenty of
fluids. If your blood sugar or electrolytes get out of balance you will
get the “dingies” and become short tempered and/or silly.


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Chapter Three – THINGS THAT YOU NEED TO PRACTICE

Copying call signs

One of the greatest fears for a new trainee to overcome is that of
copying that flurry of check-ins at the beginning of a net. Ear-to-hand
coordination is difficult to master for some people. As NCO, you can ask
for a slow pace and lots of space between check-ins.

Studying for your Morse Code Exams will help a great deal. It’s all Ear-to-hand coordination.

Another way to practice is to listen to all the nets that you can.
Copy the call signs as best you can as they come in to the net control.
Don’t worry about getting all of them. Get what you can. Just keep
going. If you have access to an HF receiver, some of the hottest,
fastest, nastiest check-ins that you will ever hear are on the various
traders nets. When you can copy ten or fifteen call signs out of a “Big
Guns” check-in in 15 seconds, you are almost a master! The first time
you hear one, it’s guaranteed to blow your mind!

Another source of practice is to tune into a contest on the weekends.
Listen to how an experienced contester handles a pile-up. He will copy
as many stations as he can get down out of a burst of calls that fly at
him, he will the say “I’ve got a group” and then quickly list, verify
and work those calls in order. If he missed one, so what? They will try
again and he will likely get them on the next burst of calls. Copy right
along with him. Get all you can. The noise and multiple signals all
jammed up together will make it difficult at first but not impossible.
It will make it a piece of cake to pick out both sides of a double or
triple when you go back to that nice clean FM signal on the repeater.

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Writing it down

When you are NCS, you are always writing something down. You are
taking an NTS message, writing your next announcement, making notes,
logging net activities, taking check-ins/outs, making lists, etc.

While you are listening to any net, practice taking notes of what is
going on. Your own brand of shorthand will emerge. This will help you
immensely when it comes time for you to take on your first NCS
assignment.

Some prefer to do their notations on a computer. That is OK. But . . .
you should always plan and train for a worst-case scenario. What if you
don’t have power for the computer? How good are your ear-to-hand
skills? Running a pencil at twenty words per minute is a whole lot
different from typing at fifty words a minute. The personal shorthand
will change.

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Practice listening.

Sounds kinda dumb? Bad signals abound in amateur radio. Even on FM
repeaters, the rubber duck signal and fringe area propagation noise is
abundant. You need to train your hearing to sort out the message from
the noise. Try detuning your 2 meter rig by moving 5 hz off frequency
and listen to the traffic on your favorite repeater. Try to make sense
out of that “bad” signal. You can do it!

Sit and listen for periods of time to any conversation on HF during a
distant weather disturbance. After a while, with concentration, you
hear right through the noise like it isn’t even there. With some
practice, you can turn this new- found ability on and off at will; and
with more practice it becomes automatic. You can suddenly hear those
marginal stations on the repeater. Your ears only get part of what is
said . . . your brain will fill in the blanks.

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Practice running nets.

Run the local rag chew net, ARPSC net, weather standby net, the
ARES/RACES net, and every other net you can weasel your way into
running. It’s all good practice. If a NCS training program is working
well in your area, there should never be a need to beg for a net control
for any net. If it’s working right, you will have to stand in line to
run a net.

Tape-record any net that you run. This is one of the best ways to
actually test your developing skills. You will be your own worst critic.
Keep the recordings for a few months. By comparing your performance of a
few months ago with what you are doing now, you can really see how you
are progressing and . . . they will become great sources of
entertainment and teaching tools for you in the future.

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Practice passing NTS messages

A net control operator must be able to pass NTS format messages! The
Radiogram form should be a “picture” in your mind. The ability to take,
pass and initiate NTS messages should be as automatic and natural as
eating. Pass them on your local rag-chew nets. Pass or initiate messages
everywhere; until it is second nature. Send your mother an “I love
you”. Dig out your address book! Send your friends messages across the
country! It doesn’t matter how much of a pest you think you are. Do it
until you have it
down cold!

Actually, you probably won’t get any negative comments. Non-hams
think these messages are pretty neat. It really is, if you stop and
think about it. How would you like to get a phone call from a complete
stranger with a “happy birthday” message from somebody you haven’t heard
from in years? By WHAT?. . . by ham radio? I can send a FREE reply?
Instant ego trip. Guess what they are going to talk about all day! Guess
what they might check out for a hobby!

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Practice writing Net Instructions

We have already covered the importance of doing this.

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ODE TO A TOUR OF DUTY AS NCS
– THE FIRST 15 MINUTES

By R. Bruce Winchell – N8UT

Reproduce freely

Your EC just woke you up in the middle of your favorite TV sporting
event. He wants you to start an emergency net from your shack. He is at
the EOC. There is a ruptured gas main in a heavily populated part of
town. Other than the location, he didn’t give you any more information.
You head for the shack, turn on the 2 meter rig, and grab a clipboard.
Your training kicks in. You begin asking yourself questions and writing
down the answers.

OK, broken gas main . . . police, fire, gas company, and EM involved .
. . possible evacuation . . . possible need to open shelter . . .
transportation possibly needed . . . likelihood of handicapped people in
the area . . . danger of asphyxiation . . . might go all night

1. What kind of net should I start?

  • Open?
  • Directed?

2. How many people am I likely to need?

3. How long do I estimate the event will last?

4. Do I need to hold some people in reserve for a shift change?

5. What agencies are likely to be involved?

A. Do we have special liaison people for these agencies?

6. Do I have any operators who live in the effected area?

7. Which way is the wind blowing?

8. What will be the safest route into the area?

Don’t have enough information. EC said he will call back with more.
Better find out what I have available right now. Pick up the mike and
announce that there is an emergency situation developing. Use Open
format standby net. Take check-ins. Ask two operators to go to other
local repeaters and recruit people for the upcoming net. Check-ins
begin coming in. Tell everyone to prepare for participation assignments.
Recruit someone to come to your shack to do logging and phone calls for
you.

EC calls back. Says to prepare for an all-niter. You are going to
need relief shifts. Evacuation will take place. Need to activate Red
Cross shelter at high school. Red Cross has been notified. Wants voice
and packet for shelter. Requests 5 operators to report to staging area
to do head counts on city buses being used for evacuation. Needs 2 RACES
members to man 2 meter and packet stations at EOC ASAP.

Back on the air. Formalize the net. Request 2 RACES volunteers for a 4
hour shift at EOC . . . one has to be able to run packet. Recruit 2
more RACES volunteers to pick up the portable packet station stored at
the clubhouse and dispatch them to the high school shelter. Recruit 5
volunteers to handle head counts and assign one of them as team leader
to compile the reports. Send them into the area from the North.

Ask for volunteer RACES qualified base station close to the staging
area to liaison traffic from the staging area volunteers to the Red
Cross shelter on simplex so that HT’s can be run on low power to
conserve batteries.. Ask liaison station to relay only compiled totals
to NCS.

Request a qualified NCS volunteer to set up a resource net and two
shift reliefs on secondary repeater. Instruct all remaining individuals
not yet assigned to a task to check-in on the resource net. 8 minutes
… not bad …smooth as silk. Call EC and give progress report.

Can’t reach EC.

8 minutes, 15 seconds: Logging volunteer shows up. . . slightly drunk.

8 minutes, 30 seconds:Your wife informs you that the toilet is
plugged and she can’t find the handle to the plumber’s plunger. You
smile. It’s taped to the tower . . . holding your new wire antenna.

9 minutes: Your 6 year old tells you that there is a big fire
in a warehouse across town . . . he thinks it’s where you work . . .
it’s on TV . . . and a half mile upwind from the gas leak.

9 minutes 30 seconds: Over in the corner, under a big stack of
radio catalogs, the weather alert receiver begins to screech ….. it’s
tornado season.

9 minutes 50 seconds: The phone rings, your assistant drops
it, hiccups loudly, and then hands it to you . . . it’s the EC. The
telephone receiver is broken but you manage to understand that the EC
now wants you to set up a Skywarn sub-net and send out the Amateur TV
guys to the warehouse fire. You tell the EC, “No Problem”

10 minutes 30 seconds: Hang up the broken phone and call the resource net for manpower to fill the new requests. Resource NCS says “No Problem”.

11 minutes: Resource net calls back. One of the available ATV
guys is on his way to the shelter as the packet operator and the other
one is your hiccup afflicted logging assistant. The other ATV team is
out of town on an experimental, underwater, dual satellite linked ATV
Dxpedition near Easter Island . . . bunch of retired guys with too much
money. You console the frustrated Resource NCS and tell him to work it
out.

12 minutes 10 seconds: You call the EC and tell him there will be a bit of a delay but there is “No Problem”.

12 minutes 40 seconds: You have your wife start pouring strong
coffee into your assistant. Maybe he will function a little better as a
wide-awake drunk?

13 minutes 5 seconds: Your pager goes off with a message from your boss telling you not to bother reporting for work in the morning.

13 minutes 8 seconds: Console wife about income loss by giving
her a hug and saying, “No Problem”, while patting her on the rump and
trying not to lose focus.

13 minutes 20 seconds: The computer printer connected to your
packet station begins spitting out paper. The packet station at the EOC
is still programmed to your station from the last test you did. Fast and
frantic search begins . . . and ends. The right software for it is in
your briefcase . . . at work . . . where the fire is . . .

13 minutes 35 seconds: The liaison station calls on the radio
to report that one of your staging area volunteers has just gone into
labor . . . her water broke and ruined her shoes; and he wants to know
if it is OK to let her go to the hospital.

13 minutes 55 seconds: The 16 year old kid, who took the test
10 times to get his Tech license, calls in a “priority” message on his
HT, with a half-dead battery, on the rubber duck, from 15 miles out of
town, to report that the wind just blew over the outhouse with grandma
inside. Grandma got confused after she rolled out of the outhouse and
fell in the pit. After 8 more broken transmissions, you find out that
grandma is OK . . . “but she smells !!! . . . sumthin’ awful!

Welcome to the first 15 minutes of an emergency net from inside a net control station.

Out on the resource net, there is much grumbling about going to bed . . .because nothing is happening!!


Page Last Updated, 05/09/09

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