NET-120 Communication training review


Modified from a Waller County ARES training article
Written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk)

Over the past couple months we have covered topics ranging from basic communications principles to preparing for deployment. Within the next month there may be an opportunity for us to put our skills we have been learning to the test. Let’s review…

To begin, we want to remember when on a repeater to be sure to key up the microphone for a second or two before we start communicating, let’s give the repeater itself time to “key up.” We always want to listen first, make sure we are not interrupting unless we have emergency traffic that just can’t wait and if so we want to identify the traffic as such so the net control operator understands our situation.

We always want to speak slowly and speak clearly so it will be intelligible to the net control operator. Don’t forget if passing messages the person at the other end is trying to write down what you are saying. It doesn’t hurt to imagine that you are trying to write it down as you are speaking.

Avoid contractions. Let’s not say “can’t”, try using “can not” or “unable”. Also something like “affirmative” and “negative” rather than “yes” or “no” will be much clearer.

When you are involved in Public Service or emergency nets, you might be assigned a tactical call sign. Don’t forget that the FCC requires you to transmit your legal call sign every ten minutes and at the end of your transmission. “Shelter One” (a possible tactical call sign) makes it much easier for the net control station to determine who you are, but the FCC still wants to know also!

When transmitting numbers, be sure to speak them individually. “26895” should be spoken as “two six eight nine five” not “twenty six eight ninety five.” This makes the message much easier for the other person to write it correctly.

To review, there are different types of net. In a real situation, we might have a “resource net” on one frequency. This net will be your initial contact when responding to a call out. This is where you tell the net control operator that you are responding and where you are. If you don’t already have this information, this net will provide instructions such as your tactical call sign and the assignment of where you are to go. You might be instructed to go to a “staging area”, to a shelter, to the EOC, etc. When you arrive and are prepared, you should notify this net control operator and you will be given instructions to switch frequencies to a different net – probably a course, progress or operations net. Then you will be part of what is known as a “tactical net”. This is where the real time coordination of activities will be taking place. If you have messages to be relayed, this is the NCO you would notify. If the net is quite busy with much activity, the NCO may advise that you and the person you are passing the traffic to should switch to another specified frequency. There may be a ‘traffic net’ set up, or you might just move to a simplex frequency of your choice or another repeater that both parties can communicate on. This frees up the tactical net for net related traffic.

If you have to leave your station for any length of time, be sure to notify the NCO of your intentions and the approximate duration of your down time. We don’t want the NCO to waste time trying to call you when you have stepped away from the station.

Remember that law enforcement may be at your location; if you are asked to stop transmitting – DO SO IMMEDIATELY. There might be a very good reason. If this happens and you can move to a safe location, then let the NCO know as soon as possible. Also if you are asked to move DO SO IMMEDIATELY.

Go back through the message handling training that we have covered, you might want to create a little “cheat sheet” with some information that might be needed when sending formal messages. It would not hurt to have some notations regarding what the different precedence types are as well as the handling instructions. I know I don’t pass enough traffic to remember these codes and I doubt if you will either when the time comes.

You want to be sure to have a log form and you should log all messages with the time sent/received and to/from whom sent. This information may be needed at a later date and you need to have this. Some folks will actually write notations on the message form itself and then transfer over to the log after. This is really your preference as long as the messages are kept in an orderly fashion and transferred to the log in a timely manner.

Don’t forget that normally you will not be the “author” of the message. These should be in written form, should be transmitted exactly as they are given to you, and must be signed off by an official. The other situation might be messages that you would “author” such as request for supplies, relief operators, etc. In that instance you would want to log these for your record with time delivered and to whom but they would not generally be a written message or need an official sign-off.

Successful communications depends on everything from spare batteries or fuel for your generator to a “good copy” response from the recipient. For that to happen, it is critical that you go prepared. You should take binders or clip boards to hold forms, logs and on which to write. You should take copies of message forms, log forms, after action reports and other paperwork covered in this and other training articles. Be sure you have pencils and pens, radio manuals (just the pages that covers things like how to set band, frequency, tone, offset, crossband repeat mode, etc) with you.

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

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