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
- Have something prepared for taking notes
- Make sure you have all necessary frequencies