Legal requirements within nets are
those of identification and operation on frequencies within the
amateur radio bands. The FCC tells us that you MUST identify
at 10-minute intervals during a conversation and in your last
transmission. During periods of heavy activity in event nets
it is easy to forget when you last identified.
The easiest way to insure that you
comply with FCC identification requirements during an event net is
to identify with your FCC issued call sign as you complete an
exchange. This serves as two functions: 1) Tells NCS you
consider the exchange to be complete without having to use extra
words (saves time) and 2) Fulfills all FCC identification
Customary protocols will normally be
used in long standing, non-emergency nets. They may include
such practices as identifying with the FCC call sign of both
stations on each transmission, giving the FCC call sign of the next
person to talk or many other variations.
Please listen to the net
before joining. Customary protocols will easily stand out.
c. Tactical Calls -- When and
how to use them
Tactical calls are used to identify
a location during an event regardless of who is operating.
This is an important concept. The tactical call allows you to
contact a location without knowing the FCC call of the operator
there. It also virtually eliminates confusion at shift changes
and when a person takes a break from operating. Think about
that. Do you answer a call from the sound of a persons voice
or from the identified location? Obviously from the identified
Tactical calls should be used for
all Emergency nets once there are more than three participants and
most public service nets if there is more than minimal traffic.
Net control will assign the tactical
call as each location is opened. It will normally be some
unique identifier that indicates the location or function.
Some examples are:
NET: For Net Control
FIREBASE-1: For the first fire
base established or the fire base in a particular region.
CHECKPOINT-1: For the first
checkpoint in a public service event.
CP: For the Event Command Post
AID-3: For the third aid station
on a route.
Proper use of tactical calls can be
best explained by example:
Initiating a call
If you were at Aid Station Three
during a directed net and wanted to contact Net Control, you would
say "NET, AID 3", or, in crisper nets, simply, "AID
3." If you have emergency traffic you would say,
"AID 3 Emergency Traffic", or for priority traffic,
"AID 3, Priority Traffic."
Notice how you have conveyed all
information necessary without using unnecessary words or taking
If you had traffic for another
location, such as Check Point Five, you would say, "AID 3,
TRAFFIC FOR CHECKPOINT 5." This tells NCS everything
needed to handle the traffic. NCS will then call Checkpoint
5 with "CHECKPOINT 5, CALL AID 3 FOR TRAFFIC", if there
is no other traffic holding.
Traffic during a call
Tactical calls will normally not
be used in the contact unless a separate location is mentioned in
Completing a call
To complete the call from AID 3,
after the message/traffic is complete, you would say, "(Your
FCC Call), AID 3." This fulfills your identification
requirements and tells NCS that you believe the call to be
The above is the same for all
participants under virtually all traffic examples.
d. Participating in a net
Enjoy yourself -- Amateur Radio
public service is fun! Prepare yourself. Are your
batteries charged? Are you on your best antenna for the
frequency/repeater you will be on? Do you have pencil, paper,
or other items you think you will need? Listen. If you
are there at the start of the net or join one in progress, LISTEN
for several minutes before you check-in. NCS will announce/ask
for what they want.
Follow all NCS instructions.
NCS will ask for specific people/categories-of-people as they are
needed. Follow instructions.
EDITORIALIZE: "This is Phred in the Northeast
portion of the county at 9300 feet where it is snowing, but it was
sunny five minutes ago when I came in from feeding the birds, geese,
and hamsters, but it's cold right now and it looks like it could
rain in the next day or so -- just checking in" is UNNECESSARY
AND UNWANTED! This ties up the net and does nothing to
add usable information. Check in with your CALLSIGN ONLY!
name and other information as requested by NCS.
Plan your transmission. If you
have more information than just your Name/Call then jot it down.
You can, if necessary, just read your note. This promotes
clear, concise information.
Check in ONLY if you are going to be
part of the net. Do NOT check-in as "in and out" or
"for the count." You are either joining the net or
Checking in with "This is"
then a pause or unkey followed by the call may work on a few nets,
but causes delays and potential problems on most.
(Local net option) Unless your
transmission is longer than ten minutes, you need only identify at
the end of the transmission/exchange of information.
Let NCS know when you leave or if
you need to leave early. Do not go into details of why you
need to leave.
During an event, if the authorities
ask you to move, do so immediately and without comment, then notify
the NCS of your change in status as soon as you can.
If an on-scene authority requests
that you shut your radio off, or that you not transmit, do what they
ask immediately and without question. This is one circumstance
where you do not notify the NCS of a change in status. This
deserves a little explanation. This would normally occur only
if there is a presence of explosives or explosive chemicals or
vapors, and there is the possibility that a spark producing
electronic device is present which might be triggered by an RF
Be patient with the NCS. An
NCS operator is under high stress. His questions and request
should be clear and crisp; but as he/she begins to tire, there may
be a tendency to become rather terse. Typically, there is a
whole lot going on at the NCS site that the field operators never
Hams are patriotic, independent
people, and they are volunteers. The attitude among a few hams
is that "Volunteers don't have to take orders."
That's absolutely correct. We don't have to take orders, but
if you're not ready to follow instructions, you may want to do
something outside ARES/RACES.
e. Leaving a net
You will leave a net for one of
1. The location is closing
If NCS has given you directions to
close the location, simply identify with your FCC issued call, the
location tactical call and the word "CLOSED." The
NCS will tell you if anything else is needed.
If you are closing the location on
orders of the served agency, you will identify with your FCC
issued call, location tactical call, and the phrase "location
CLOSED per (Name of Person -- served agency identification)."
2. You need a break and there
is no relief operator
Tell NCS that "I will be away
from the radio for (number of minutes)" and end with Tactical
ID, (your call)."
3. You have turned the
location over to another operator
You will normally not need to tell
NCS that you are leaving. However, if there are specific
instructions from NCS, then follow those instructions.
f. Don't over identify
There is normally nothing that will
expend more time, needlessly, than over identification.
Someone that uses their FCC issued call in every transmission is
usually a person that is unsure of themselves, or, worse yet,
someone that is more interested in having their call known to
everyone at the event. In the latter situation, help them find
The FCC tells us that you need only
identify at ten minute intervals during a conversation (NOT during a
net unless you talk more than ten minutes) and during your last
If you end each exchange with your
call, that tells everyone that you are of the opinion that the
exchange is complete and you fulfill all FCC requirements.
g. Write it down
The easiest way to minimize what you
say during a net is to write down everything before you key the
microphone. Since very few of us like to write lengthy, this
will promote brevity.
An excellent place to keep this
information is in your location log. This serves two purposes:
1) You have a complete log of everything that came from your
location, and 2) It will become very brief.
The NCS is in charge of the net
while it is in session. He/she is responsible for controlling
who uses the frequency and when they pass traffic. This needs
to be balanced with the fact that you will be dealing with
Net Control shall have a commanding
signal, i.e. clear, crisp signal with good audio characteristics.
NCS must keep track of which
resources are on the net and who has cleared the frequency.
NCS is also responsible for knowing what traffic each person is
capable of dealing with (sending HF traffic to a Technician No Code
will not work).
In medium and large operations you
need to have a backup NCS and a person to log.
Keep a written record of incidents
and all traffic passed. This does not mean a copy of all
formal traffic -- simply an overview of the message.
Make ALL instructions clear and
concise, using as few words as possible.
Use tactical callsigns. If
participants do not follow your lead, only recognize those using
tactical calls (obviously all bets are off if it is emergency
Different nets handle different
traffic. Should someone try to pass traffic that should be on
another net, refer them to the correct net.
b. NCS backup
There are two types of NCS backups.
The first is located in the same room/area as the NCS and acts as
relief of the NCS at regular intervals. The second type is a
person that maintains a duplicate log of everything happening at the
event and is available should there be a failure at the primary NCS
location. Whenever there are enough people working an event,
an offsite backup NCS should be maintained. This person must
be operating with the knowledge and consent of the NCS station and
should be known to the entire net.
People to handle the operational log
for the event are very important to the smooth operation of the
event. These people free the NCS from having to split their
time/effort down to a level that is neither efficient nor
productive. Every net will be enhanced by a good logger.
d. Site communicators
Site communicators have the
responsibility of listening to everything that happens on the net
and maintaining contact with the served agency people at the site.
They need to produce formal traffic as applicable, maintain a log of
activity at their location and be responsive to the needs of their
served agency people.
It will be far easier to handle all
the tasks at the location if there were at least two people there
(this presumes an emergency situation).
e. General communicators
Report to the NCS promptly as they
Ask clearance from NCS before using the frequency.
Answer PROMPTLY when called by NCS.
Use tactical callsigns.
Follow established net protocol.
f. Listeners -- LISTEN!
The most helpful listener, during an
emergency, is one that listens and stays quiet! NCS does not
care that you are listening unless he asks for assistance from
listeners. Normally there will be enough people working the
net to handle everything NCS needs.
g. Liaison Stations
Liaison stations provide the
communication link between two nets. They will generally be
limited to two nets so they can maintain good communications between
Liaison stations will need to have
at least two radios, each with their own antenna. These
antennas must be operated sufficiently to NOT interfere with the
other radio when the operator transmits on either frequency.
Liaison stations will be appointed
by NCS or the staffing officer, usually from trained operators.