NET-117 Communications Guidelines

Communications Guidelines

Waller County ARES training article
written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk)

Let’s face it, there are hundreds of people that can talk and talk and when they finally finish you ask yourself “what did they actually say?”

Within Emergency Communication you will have TWO different levels of communication. The first is in passing traffic on behalf of a served agency. This is known as formal traffic. Under those conditions you pass traffic EXACTLY as written. You change nothing. In some instances you will not understand what the message means. That is fine. Your job is to get the message to the destination as quickly as possible – not to understand it.

When you receive a message from a served agency, read it. If there is any part you cannot read, ask for clarification before accepting the message. You can’t accurately transcribe what you cannot read. When you transcribe a message from a served agency, MAKE NO CHANGES! It does not matter if you do not understand the technical meaning. It DOES matter that you pass traffic exactly as written.

Let’s revisit the last sentence. PASS TRAFFIC EXACTLY AS WRITTEN! If you are the author, make your corrections before you are ready to send. If ANYONE else initiated the message, MAKE NO CHANGES!

The second type of communication is where YOU originate the message, it is not written and where a written response is not required. This is commonly known as informal traffic. In that situation you control what the text of the message will be. Therefore phrasing is up to you. Plan your communications at least as well as you plan what you say when you know you will be quoted. When ever reasonable, write down what you will say before you say it.

In Emergency communication it is important to say as little as possible, yet convey all of the meaning. How can we do this?

1. Brevity and Clarity
The standing “rule of thumb” is – if you can leave a word out without changing the meaning, leave it out. If a description of an item will not add to the understanding of the subject of the message, leave it out. Do NOT use contractions within your messages. Words like “don’t” and “isn’t” are far too easy to confuse. Add to that the stress and confusion during an emergency and they WILL create problems.

2. Slow Down!
Hams in general tend to handle communications as quickly as they can. It has been proven again and again that a three or four second break between transmissions will actually result in information being passed more quickly. If this seems strange to you, take the time to listen to Police, Sheriff’s Office or Fire dispatch. They are able to convey large amounts of information very quickly because they maintain a slow, measured pace. In addition, the three or four second break between transmissions insures priority and emergency traffic can gain access to the net without requiring the largest signal on that frequency.

3. Do not editorialize
Literally hours can be lost by people inserting their opinion on unrelated subjects. What someone thinks about a ball game or the weather is irrelevant unless weather or the ball game is the subject being discussed.

4. Listen
The first requirement for communication is the ability to listen. But, you say, I can tell someone what is required without listening. Not really. Communication is the – two way – exchange of thoughts, ideas or information. Two way. That requires listening. An old timer once told me “A ham has two ears and one mouth. Therefore he should listen twice as much as he talks”. Makes sense. Communication will be acknowledged.

5. Standard ITU Phonetics
While it may take less effort to speak into a microphone and listen than to operate CW, it does take some care to quickly and accurately convey exact information. Speak distinctly at all times. If information is to be written, pace your speech accordingly. For critical information or under noisy conditions, spell words with standard ITU phonetics. ITU phonetics were chosen so that each word sounds completely different from all others. A list of ITU phonetics is available in the ARRL handbook and in the ARRL logbooks.

6. Numbers
Numbers are pronounced as individual digits. The number 509 is pronounced five – zero – nine, not five hundred nine and NOT five oh nine.

7. Formal written traffic

Insure you have asked all questions necessary to obtain the following information:

  • Who is requesting and from whom?
  • What is the requester’s full name/title/agency & location?
  • What is the recipients full name/title/agency & location?
  • What are they requesting and how many do they want/need?
  • Is it a list or single item?
  • If it’s a list, do all items come from the same place?
  • If multiple sources then use multiple messages.
  • Is the subject the transportation of an item, or the acquisition of that item, or both?
  • Where will it come from (not always the same as the location of the person receiving the request)?
  • Where will it go to (not always the same as the location of the person requesting the item(s))?
  • When is it needed?
  • Time/date as applicable

8. Getting the message through
To improve communications you need to improve the difference between the signal and the noise levels (signal to noise ratio) to achieve reliable communications. For our purposes here, noise is defined as any impediment to transmission or reception of information (messages). What form can this “noise” take? Some of the more common ones are:

  • Static and background noise on the air
  • Equipment or voice sounds around you
  • Inappropriate amount of light
  • “Loose cannon” tempers

That concludes tonight’s training. Are there any questions, comments or suggested additions to this material?

Thanks, this is (callsign) clear to net control.