Operating Techniques
and Examples


Overview Comments.

The dictionary defines Amateur as: "A person who engages in some art, science, sport, etc. for pleasure rather than as a profession." To paraphrase that, we participate in ARES to provide a public service and because we like what we are doing. Is there anything wrong with our conducting ourselves as professionals even without the title? I think not.

We as a group can easily strive for a level of professionalism that rivals any paid served agency. In fact, the closer we come to their level of conduct and efficiency the easier it is for our served agencies to look upon us as co-workers rather than volunteers. When we attain that level of conduct and efficiency, who is to say we are not actually unpaid professionals. Why would we want to do this? That's easy, the true "unpaid professional" multiplies our efficiency, makes it far easier to work with our served agencies and opens up opportunities we would not otherwise have.

The first item here is an article written by Padre Bova, WØWPD, EC for Colorado Section, District 6. It has a good bit of information for everyone. Please start with this article before going down to the "Top Twenty".

Latest update: 03/03/04



This article is meant for ALL READERS, whether a member of ARES or not.

During the Hayman fire, the largest (138,000 acres) in the states' history, while Hams were still intensely involved, the need was great for operators at many sites. Hams were involved at the Red Cross Shelters, the Salvation Army food stations, the ICP, "roving" with the canteens, and in many other duties.

In some districts, including our own D-SIX, resources ran thin. One ARES member in another district contacted Net Control, to offer his own, and the services of a non ARES member. NCS replied that at this point they needed "almost anyone" who was licensed, and knew how to operate a radio. He did say "almost anyone..."

This is to emphasize that as Hams emergency communication has top priority, and everyone ought to be able to help in some capacity when needed. Every one ought to know the very basic fundamentals of operating. Even if one is not ARES trained, listening over a period of time will serve as something of a course in fundamentals, and a knowledge of what is expected.

Generally this is true. However, there were some instances of poor operating procedure by even ARES members. A few examples, not a complete list, will illustrate my point.

I heard every one of these frequently over the period of the last four fires. It was distressing to me, but even more, it was often creating serious problems for those who "needed to know." Besides, it wasted valuable time during very stressful operating conditions.

It certainly was not the best Hams have to offer, despite good intentions and a willing spirit. But, in an emergency, the latter don't go far enough. What is needed is good procedure.

Top Twenty

These are the current "top twenty" flubs we have observed. They are NOT in priority sequence. If you have any suggestions or additions, please let me know. Pat Lambert, W0IPL

The intent with this is to take examples that are clearly out of everyone's realm of reality, that actually happened, and show a better way to handle them. Does that mean or imply that the method presented is the only correct way to handle it? No. Only that this is a better way to keep the information flowing. Can the explanations be improved? Doubtless, but when those improvements are the most serious operating problem we have, then this page can be eliminated.

  1. Worst flub of all: Volunteer to work an event, confirm your interest / pending participation and then not show up AND not tell the coordinator.

  2. Overheard on an event net:

    Sag4 - "Net, this is Sag4"
    Net - "Go ahead"
    Sag4 - "SagBoss this is Sag4"
    - conversation followed

    ******* Note how the first station initiated a call to a third station without telling
    NCS his intent and without asking first.

    Better solution:

    Sag4 - "Sag4, traffic for SagBoss"
    Net - "SagBoss call Sag4 for traffic"
    - conversation follows

    ******* Minimum words, minimum time, maximum efficiency

  3. Overheard on a fire net:

    Oper1 - "Net, this is Oper1"
    Net - "Oper1 go ahead"
    Oper1 - "I just overheard from a fire fighter that he thinks the fire is moving North East and will probably be in the town of xxxxxx in the next hour"
    Net - "OK, then the fire will be in xxxxxx in the next hour. Thanks"
    Oper1 - "Oper1 back to net"

    ******* There are so many things wrong with this one it's hard to list them all. Not the least are:

    1. Broadcasting speculation
      • Transmitting information not specifically authorized by a served agency.
      • Not having a specific recipient for the information (broadcasting)
    2. NCS rebroadcasting speculation as fact.
    3. Not following formal message procedures when applicable.
    4. Not identifying properly. When Oper1 thinks he is done he/she should end the exchange with their FCC issued call. This tells NCS you think your are done with the exchange AND fulfills the FCCs identification requirements.

  4. Overheard on the same fire net as the example above:

    Oper1 - "Net, this is Oper1. I just heard on Channel X that the fire is moving toward xxxxxx at four to six miles an hour. They think it will be in xxxxxx in thirty minutes and they are really concerned about (bla bla bla bla bla bla)"

    ******* Don't rebroadcast information from a media source unless specifically requested by a served agency AND don't start a one sided conversation (broadcast).

  5. Heard too often

    Oper1 - "Net Control, this is Sam, Oper1 KG0XYZ.
    Net - "Oper1, go ahead Sam, how are things?"
    Oper1 - "Let's see here ...... I think that I need .... no the person here wants to know if we can get him some (pause with mic. keyed) yes, ok, (pause with mic. keyed) yea, Oh! we would really like to have some more ice at rest stop three (pause with mic. keyed) yea, ok, Oh! we really need that ice"
    Net - "OK Sam, ...... I can really see where you could need more ice out there ........ it's really hot and it looks like it will get even hotter before we finish this afternoon. Do you know where I can get some extra ice for you? Let's see here ....... I have that note somewhere ......... I know it's here ......... where did I put it? I don't remember. Oper1, do you know where we can get some ice for you?"
    Oper1 - "Well, I'm not sure... did I hear from Truck1 that they were ....... let's see ...... I think they said they were headed..... yea, they were headed for (blah blah blah blah blah blah)"

    ******* Summarize! Chit-chat mode is not applicable for an event net!
    Decide what you need to say BEFORE you key the mic.

    If you were the NCS here, find someone else to handle the net! This NCS didn't know his job, or seem to care.

    Better solution:

    Oper1 - "Oper1"
    Net - "Oper1 go"
    Oper1 - Per Rest-Stop3 coordinator, we need six more bags of ice within the next hour"
    Net - "Copy 6 bags of ice for Rest-Stop3 in the next hour - break - Truck1, can you get 6 more bags of ice to Rest-Stop3 within an hour?
    ****** On completion everyone identifies with their tactical call and FCC issued call.

  6. Heard far too often on Weather nets:

    Oper2 - "NET, THIS IS OPER2!!!"
    Net - "Oper2 go ahead."
    Net - "Ok, what is your location and can you be more specific on the size?"
    Net - "Ok, what is your location and can you be more specific on the size? Is there one close enough to you that you could measure it without being in danger?"
    Oper2 - "WOW! THEY ARE REALLY BIG! Let's see ....... yea, I've got one here ....... yea IT'S ALMOST 3/4" IN DIAMETER!"

    ******* Accuracy! When you are reporting ANYTHING, be sure you quantify your statements and are as accurate as possible and answer NCS' questions!

  7. Local Net(?) without an NCS

    Heard lately on a public service net.
    male voice Camera1, can you pan a little left?
    Camera1: Ok, how's that?
    male voice Fine.
    (several minutes pass)
    male voice Camera2, are you in night shot mode?
    Camera2: Yes we are.
    male voice Thanks
    female voice Camera1, can you go to closeup on the tent?
    Camera1: Will do. Camera1, WD0XYZ

    ******* At Last! Someone identified. We still do not know who NCS is but at least one of the people finally identified. A few minutes later everyone had identified (darned camera1 woke everyone up) and after about thirty minutes the female voice said she was NCS. The worst part was that the male voice kept interjecting commands and giving directions as if he were the NCS but the female repeated that she was the NCS for the remainder of the event.

    Procedure calls for a formal net to be established for EVERY public service event or emergency as soon as there are three (or more) participants, NOT when you happen to think about it or when it is convenient! Once an NCS is established, there is ONE person running the net. Technical direction can easily come from other persons but there is one NCS at any given time.

  8. Stations that relay what they think is correct, as fact.

    ** Personal account, sent in ** Thank you! - pl

    Example: During a recent event involving a downed aircraft, a station jumped on frequency claiming to have talked directly up upstream stations, and they said the NTSB would be enroute not to touch anything.

    Well this was not the case. As it was, the aircraft was privately owned, and no one was hurt, therefore the NTSB doesn't cover it. This station also never contacted upstream stations. Instead he just said what he thought was correct.

    ******* ACCURACY! DO NOT speak on behalf of a served agency! You are there to relay the served agency words as they tell you to, not create them. Or, in other words, do not speculate.

  9. Overly wordy NCS. We've all heard them. They comment on every piece of traffic, not adding anything to the content. Help them find a job they can be happy and productive at, because they obviously have forgotten (if they ever knew) what NCS is there for.

  10. NCS that doesn't listen before transmitting. Yet another example of someone that needs help in finding a job they can be happy and productive in.

  11. Operator that doesn't listen. We've all listened to nets that have one or more operator that need everything repeated. Or worse yet has to have the acknowledgment of their check in repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Individual counseling is in order here. Help them understand that we are practicing for emergencies. During emergencies repeats are appropriate if you had background noise you could not control, NOT for everything that is said.

  12. "Olde timer" (not necessarily senior citizen) that is quick to chastize others for transgressions, real or imagined, yet they fail to follow their own advise. This is a tough one because this person has usually gotten themselves wedged into the organization tightly enough that they do, when they remember to, provide a service to the group. Individual counseling is in order for a few times. After that, perhaps being taken to task in the manner they take others to task might help. Probably not, but you have the choice of removing them from the organization or ignoring them at the expense of others.

  13. Overheard lately - ON A TRAFFIC NET!

    NCS: This is KG0XYG for the XYZ Colorado Traffic Net (pause) We are about to start the XYZ Colorado Traffic net. If anyone needs to use the repeater system for a brief contact, please do that now.
    (5 second pause)
    NCS: This is KG0XYG for the XYZ Colorado Traffic Net (pause for the repeater to go down)
    NCS: This net meets here, at this time each evening, to handle formal NTS traffic for the area served by this repeater system
    (pause for the repeater to go down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYG for the XYZ Colorado Traffic Net (pause for the repeater to go down)
    NCS: When we start checkins, please list your traffic by city and state or if it is for TWN. (pause for the repeater to go down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYG for the XYZ Colorado Traffic Net (pause for the repeater to go down)
    blah blah blah blah blah

    ******* Really bad! This NCS identified SEVEN times in the first two minutes OF A TRAFFIC NET. That translates to more than a 50% waste of time! Help this person understand that she is working with traffic handlers. People that know what they are doing. Help her find an assignment that she can handle.

  14. Overheard on a FIRE net

    EOC-op: "Net, EOC"
    Net: "EOC go"
    EOC-op: "We need .. (list of items).. at EOC"
    Net: "Copy"
    EOC-op: "EOC back to net"

    ******* Hello! You end an exchange with your tactical call AND your FCC issued call. Just because it is an "emergency" does NOT excuse you from proper identification!

    Second item: If you DO identify with your tactical and FCC issued call, this tells NCS you are done - - WITHOUT having to say so. Saves air time, complies with all regulations AND eliminates that stupid "back to net", which is the ONLY place you turn it over to anyway.

  15. Heard more often that we would like

    NCS: This is KG0XYZ, Welcome to the XXXXX night YYYY ARES net
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYZ. This net meets each XXXXX night to provide training in net operations
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYZ. Is there any emergency or priority traffic?
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYZ, nothing heard. Do we have any NTS traffic?
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYZ, nothing heard. (blah blah blah blah)
    (pause while the repeater goes down)

    ******* Anyone home?! This person is usually using a lousy script (the next week you will hear someone else doing the same lousy job). Get with the net manager and re-write the script. There is no need for redundant identification AND the repeater probably has a time-out timer longer than fifteen seconds that are being used.

    One local district did just that and cut five minutes off of each weekly net. That's five minutes available for actual training.

  16. Unfortunately, heard from two of our local ECs, each running their weekly nets

    NCS: This is KG0XYZ, (huff pufft) Welcome to the XXXXX night YYYY ARES net
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This net meets each XXXXX night to provide training in net operations and to provide a forum for mummmfftpfhtmmn.
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYZ, (huff puff) is there any emergency or priority traffic?
    (pause while the repeater goes down)
    NCS: This is KG0XYZ, (hiss fufft) nothing heard. Do we have any NTS traffic?
    (pause while the repeater goes down)

    ******* Enough! The EC should lead by example. Learn to use your microphone and control your voice. Either that or provide each of us enough money to install a fast acting AGC on our net radio. By the way, is there a filter to cut out the huff and puff of talking straight into the microphone rather than across the face of it? OBTW (that's Oh By The Way - for you non acronym fans), does that same filter exclude the breath sounds as you exhale into the mic?

  17. Brand new NCS (in the first three times as NCS) running an event.

    All I can say is SIGH!. How about mentoring? What has happened to that process? Dumping someone into the pool so they can learn to swim is archaic at best and can have catestrophic results. Why can't we take new NCS op's and pair them with experienced NCS op's for their first few nets?! That provides the best for everyone. The newbie NCS has someone there that is friendly, helpful and pleasant to work with, to help the newbie become an accomplished NCS. This saves pain and agony for the other net participants, helps everyone learn and expedites the net without rushing anyone. Let's get with the program!

  18. County "Net Manager" that has never run a net!

    ****** WHAT?! Sounds like we need a new EC there.

  19. NCS that repeats all check in information.

    ****** Hello? Ever hear of procedures?
    When acknowledging check-ins, acknowledge with the call only (said as letters not phoneticly) and nothing else.

  20. The absolute bottom of the "Top Twenty" is someone that is in an ARES net, forgets they are no longer on 11 Meters and drops into CB-isms. One heard just the other day was an operator talking about the "home 20". Give us all a "break". Either remember you are in Amateur Radio or stay on 11 Meters.