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Sep 29, 2008
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ARES/SKYWARN preparedness
Emergency NET procedures.
a little training / improvement ...

Guest speaker . . .
Doug Hilton -WD0UG .


Doug is currently the SKYWARN coordinator for WX4HUN - the NWS forecast office in Huntsville, AL.

(previously, ARRL
District 6 Emergency Coordinator
for ARES)

An editorial on Emergency Net procedures,
from an article submitted to the Huntsville Amateur Radio Club, by WD0UG.
(appeared originally in the HARC-VOX newsletter for April 2008 pages 1 &3)

- Doug regularly contributed ARES District 6 articles
for the HARC-VOX newsletters

- Doug has graciously allowed SomeNet to re-publish this article.
(this is part < 1 - 2 - 3 > of a special series)
Let’s do a little training this month. I have heard from several hams in the District asking about correct net procedures. I’m glad when I hear questions about ham-related activities that question current practices, because then we get a chance to develop more professional approaches. I’m constantly reminded that “true learning begins with dissatisfaction with oneself.” This month’s article is inspired by Steve Conklin, AI4QR, and several others who want to make all of us more professional on the air. Steve is a first-class ham, and a first-class guy. The fact that he dares to question “status quo” shows how much he cares about us, and the Amateur radio community.

In a recent email to me, Steve said: "In some nets, stations checking in will say "this is", un-key, and then send their call sign. Some feel that this practice helps prevent 'doubles', but informal studies have shown that it actually wastes valuable time. Instead, the NCS should read back the calls he has received, and then ask if he has missed anyone. This method can cut the time required for check-ins by half when compared with the "this is" method. If local operators are in this habit, consider prohibiting it in the net’s opening script."

First of all, Steve recognizes an important underlying aspect of our practice nets: they are a simulation of a real emergency, and therefore must be run accordingly. It is important to cut check-in time, because a PRIORITY message may be waiting to be passed while the net control station (NCS) checking in 10 or 20 stations. You can understand why it is more important to get PRIORITY messages vs. get more accurate check-ins. I hear nets all the time, where the NCS tries 5 or 6 times to get someone’s name right, or his location right. We just Can’t Waste Time Doing That!

There is no excuse for the NCS not getting the operator’s call sign right the first time, because minimum, basic net procedure requires that the operator check-in using the standard ITU phonetic alphabet — but I hear operators using non-standard phonetics all the time, and each time, I cringe, because it shows that we have not achieved an adequate level of professionalism. What do I mean — am I criticizing you who use “Kilowatt” instead of “KILO” when signing in? When you are talking to your friends in an informal circumstance, I really don’t care how you identify yourself. But in an emergency net, including practice nets, you should Always Use The Proper ITU Phonetic Alphabet. I have read the correct pronunciations on the air several times in the last couple of years, and if you need a refresher, it’s easy to find on the web. Last week, one old-timer signed into an active weather net, and I thought that he was using his CB call sign, since none of the letters or numbers were recognizable! If your call sign sounds like “KILOWATT FOUR DARN COLD BEER”, please don’t check into any net that I’m running, because as NCS, I simply will not acknowledge you, and I will not waste time trying to train you on-the-spot.

Another common mistake that I hear is operators that use the phrase “ROGER-ROGER”, when they mean “AFFIRMATIVE”. Correct use of procedural words (proword) is/are essential during an emergency net. The proword “ROGER” indicates to the listening station that you have received their last transmission satisfactorily. Note this does not mean you agree with the transmission or that you will comply with any instructions it contained. Additionally, since it only signifies understanding, the proword “ROGER” is not used as an action word. For example, it is inappropriate to say “I ROGER INTO THE NET WD0UG...” or “I ROGER YOUR TRANSMISSION”, where “ROGER” spoken alone will suffice. The proword “AFFIRMATIVE” simply means, “yes” or approval of a request. There simply is no proword “ROGER-ROGER.” A good summary of prowords can be found here: .

As of now, in District 6 we are going to adopt Steve’s suggestions:
  • 1. When the NCS calls for check-ins, All stations should check in. Pick an appropriate delay time from the last station, and then proceed.
  • 2. Stations shall check in using proper ITU Phonetic alphabet and numerals.
  • 3. Stations shall say “THIS IS”, followed by their call sign, name and location, and traffic report (“NO TRAFFIC”, or “1 ROUTINE MESSAGE”, etc.)
  • 4. The NCS will read back the calls s/he has received, and then ask if s/he as missed anyone.
  • 5. It is the responsibility of the NCS to maintain net discipline, and s/he has the absolute right to get things right.

Don’t make the NCS suffer with your inability to conform to well-known standards— it’s not fair to the net, and is disrespectful of our served agencies, who are counting on us to provide reliable EMCOMM. If you are an NCS and you can’t get somebody signed in correctly, instantly, Move On—it is not an insult to the ham, or the net, it’s what’s going to happen when poor propagation, and terrible circumstances prevail.

Am I picking on you, or just encouraging you to become more professional — you decide. In our Amateur radio community, I am constantly amazed at the number of hams who get intensely upset whenever they are corrected in any way. Some folks tend to go sulk for a few weeks, months or years. If that’s how you feel, OK — I’ll miss you: but not much and not for long. Listen up: as Professional-grade Holistic Emergency Communicators, it is our job to do our absolute best for our served agencies— it is our commitment, it is our duty, it is our privilege. Small things, like the correct use of prowords, proper use of the ITU phonetic alphabet, and running every net like a real emergency is taking place, will make our jobs a lot easier “when the ball drops.” Let me state the role of Amateur radio in EMCOMM: ACCURATE, TIMELY, RELIABLE communications. When we have dozens or hundreds of emergency messages to pass, under the worst-possible conditions, you will be able to accomplish the task only if every team member is trained, and ready.

Thanks to Steve, and the other hams who have the courage to question! We have a really great “core” group in District 6, and I think that this change will make a better experience for everyone.

If you would like to discuss ARES, RACES, EMCOMM, WinLink, Army MARS, or any District 6 issues, I want to hear from you.

73, Doug Hilton, WD0UG / AAV4YP
SKYWARN Coordinator, WX4HUN
Northern AL / Southern-middle TN

When All Else FailsHuntsville-Madison County EMA
The local ARES/RACES organizations are consolidating some of the overhead associated with registration and training of the membership. Join us on the 2nd Thursday evening of each month for a good meeting at the HMC EMA EOC (and learn more about this).
Remember, the severe weather season is available year-round.

digital radio messaging
Additional discoveries, rants and raves, and experiments :
+ Be sure to check for interesting articles inbetween updates to this page.
+ NBEMS = Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System - check it out (new Yahoo group)
VHF Propagation Map = using APRS beacons to visualize current propagation conditions.
+ APRS.FI = another view of the APRS-IS database, from Finland.
+ CWOP = My weather instruments are still active and logging.
although I'm not yet satisfied with the radiation shield I made for the external thermometer.
The reading is too high in full sun. (check my conditions via FindU).

Previous pages from the archives :
2008 . . .
2007 . . .
2006 . . .
+ 2005 . . .
Additional organizations, projects and web sites that I continue to support and promote :

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