This page has links to texts of topics suitable for hams to present on the air as-is, to help train each other
in various aspects of ham radio usage, best practices, emergency communication, and preparation. Feel free to
present any of the topics in any type of net or activity you think applies, regardless what heading they're
listed under here. Also, please feel free to change the wordage or word placement, especially if they seem
awkward for the way you normally speak.
Hover over a word in
to display additional information
Expect to find some information embedded in one topic repeated under another topic
Expand all sections
Training topics for nets
Radio-related training topics
Which radio to get [link
Let's cut to the chase, and then we'll start talking about options and possibililties.
You should purchase a
antenna, and an alkaline sled (battery case), then program it with the
frequencies you'll use most.
A handheld transceiver (HT)
When selecting a portable radio that you can quickly take with you when you need it, here
are some things to consider:
Will your choice of radio still be a good one if all the above criteria aren't met? Probably,
but there are some minor inconveniences you might have to live with.
It must be able to receive and transmit on 2 meters, which is where most local
communication takes place on repeaters and nets. Ideally, it should also be a
dual-band radio, supporting 70 cm, the second-most used frequency band.
It should be one for which you can purchase an alkaline sled for it, since many
models do not have that option. That is, an empty battery case that you can fill
with your own non-rechargeable batteries.
It should be one that many of your friends have. It's very convenient to have a
radio, for which you can ask for help from a friend, or compare notes, or bring
to club meetings and discuss.
It should be supported by
the free, online radio programming software, to get it programmed quickly, should you
need to add a new repeater or net frequency. (You'll need the programming cable that
goes to your particular radio model too.)
It should be able to receive FM broadcast radio, to allow you to hear news and
information from commercial radio stations during an incident.
It should be not only a dual-band radio, but also a dual-watch radio, which
can allow you to hear incoming communications on two different frequencies at the
It should be light-weight and small enough to slip onto your pocket or re-sealable
It should be inexpensive, to allow you to feel free enough to experiment with it and
wear it out, without the worry of replacement or repair cost. Some folks will purchase
an HT that's loaded with cool features, as their first radio, only to be too fearful
to take it hiking with them or do field experiments with it or involve it in events.
A mobile radio
For those looking to get something a little heftier, whether you install it in your vehicle,
set it on your desk, or (yikes!) pack it around on your back, a mobile unit might
be what you're looking for. Some of the above suggested criteria still apply, such as
dual-band, dual-watch, same model used by friends, CHIRP-supported, and low-cost. Obviously,
there are other things to consider when you get a mobile unit, such as:
There are other types of radios, such as portable and base units, but the
focus here is on training, and recommendations for reasonable deployment.
It needs a separate 13.8-volt power supply, such as a
It needs a good, portable antenna, such as a
mag-mount, or a
It needs 50-ohm coaxial cable that's long enough to reach from your radio to the
antenna, but of a model that minimizes the signal loss, such as RG-8X.
It should deliver (transmit) 25 watts on FM to make it worth your investment
Which antenna to get [link
Similar to those in the real estate business, we radio amateurs have three basic rules:
antenna, antenna, location. Being interpreted, your location will play a part in your
ability to get your signal out to others, but your antenna is the important focus by far.
And notice that radio is not mentioned in that mantra at all.
Obviously, without your radio, you won't be able to transmit any signals, but without
a doubt, your antenna is one of the most important components of your amateur station. An
appropriate antenna can connect you with the world, or render your station as useless as a
vehicle without fuel. But, which antenna is right for your particular application? Let's
categorize them by function and see.
When you first purchased your radio, it came with a stubby, little antenna we affectionately
call a rubber duck. That tiny creature wasn't really meant for you to use
seriously, but for testing your new transceiver, to make sure it works. And now that you're
sure, it's time to get a real antenna.
In the comfort of your residence, you're going to need an antenna that will get your signal
out of your walls and into the air. For that, you should get a
and either mount it on your roof outside or lean it up against the wall inside near a window.
To connect to the antenna, you're going to need some RG-8X coaxial cable (coax) terminated in
a PL-259 connector on the antenna end.
If you're using a mobile radio at home, you'll need the coax terminated in a PL-259 connector
on the radio end. If you're using an HT (handheld transceiver), you'll need to either terminate
the radio end of the coax with an SMA connector, or terminate the radio end with a PL-259
connector, plus a pigtail.
When you need to walk around with your radio either attached to your body or in your hand,
you should get hold of a whip-type antenna, either a
You might also find that your long antenna sometimes gets in the way. To help keep it out of
the way, you can purchase a
that has an antenna connection, which in most cases will keep your antenna up and away from
If you're out driving around, you'll need to use an antenna that's mounted on your vehicle;
that is, your antenna is installed on a mount, which is attached to your car
body. That could typically mean either a hole-mount, magnetic-mount, or lip-mount. A
hole-mount is one that requires you to drill a hole in your car's metal body. A
lip-mount attaches to the lip or edge of your flat body piece, such as your trunk or
hood. A magnetic-mount or *mag-mount* simply magnetically attaches to your car's metal
body. Glass mounts have not shown to be as effective as the other three types.
Is it possible to mix two of the above situations, like using a telescopic antenna while
you're driving? Sure it is, but that might take a little experimenting on your part, to see
what works for you. Any kind of antenna inside your vehicle will be shielded by some of your
car's metal body (for most vehicles), and so people outside your vehicle might not hear you
well. Then again, some hams use a mobile antenna, one that's made for a vehicle, but inside
the home, to get more of their signal out of the house. They often do this by getting an
antenna with a mag-mount, placing the mag-mount on a cookie sheet or the fridge, and adapt
the coax with a pigtail for their HT.
As a side note, it's alright to leave your radio powered on while you change your antenna;
just don't press your PTT button with your antenna removed.
What frequencies should be programmed in your radio [link
Most of today's radios are able to hold many frequencies in their memories, but should you
fill them, just because they're there? I recommend you only program into your radio what
you need, so that you won't get overwhelmed or confused if you find you need to communicate
right away. Ok, so which frequencies should you program? That'll depend on where you'll be
at the moment you need them.
Where you're likely to be
If you spend most of your awake time at home or at work, it'll be wise to take that proximity
into account, especially if you plan to communicate between home and work. But you might also
need to go downtown shopping, to the doctor's office, or visit a friend, and if those take
you far away from home, those locations might require some additional frequencies to think
Know what channel to change to, if necessary
If you have already programmed your radio with a number of useful frequencies, you're
probably prepared to talk on whichever one you need at the moment. But if you have them
programmed by name, are you familiar with what the names mean, as in which frequencies, or
at least which areas they cover? And when it comes time to switching frequencies, are you
able to do that on the spot?
Know how to manually change frequencies at a moment's notice
Be familiar enough with your radio that you can manually enter a new frequency at any
time. You might be required to manually enter a frequency you've not already programmed in,
because you need to get off a repeater or move off a simplex frequency that's already in use.
This'll require you to know how to enter the frequency (Frequency Mode), the offset
(OFFSET), the shift direction (SFT-D, plus or minus, or off for simplex), and
Programming your radio on-the-fly while you're traveling is very useful, but often quite
cumbersome. So, taking your laptop and an appropriate programming cable along for the ride
can prove indispensable. Do you know how to use the cable and the software to do the
programming? You can download charts of programming frequencies, listed by radio
model and general location from
Noji's programming page.
Request a signal report before starting [link
It doesn't help a whole lot if we attempt to get on the air, and nobody hears us. Even if I
have the very best equipment that money can buy, including a great antenna, and even though
I'm certain everybody this side of the Wasatch Front can hear me, is it still possible that
they can't? If I'm talking on simplex, my antenna could be oriented incorrectly, I have a
loose connection, I have a corroded connection, I'm not speaking close enough to the microphone,
or my battery is on its last breath. If I'm trying to talk through a repeater, maybe my tone
or offset isn't set, maybe I'm too far from the repeater to hold it open for proper communication,
maybe I've bumped my button and I'm a little off-frequency, or maybe I just need to get out of
When you need to get on the air, especially in a hurry, it seems there are a number of obstacles
that could hinder your otherwise perfect transmission. For that reason, one of the first things
you should do before a net or a drill is to request a signal report. Maybe say,
This is KI7ABC. Could I please get a signal check?
and you'll find one or more listening hams who'll be happy to help
you out by telling you how you sound.
You're typically looking for three things as feedback to your transmission: the quality
of your sound, your loudness, and whether your audio is accompanied by any static or
other noise. A responding operator who can report these three sound properties is
probably the most helpful. By the same token, you can offer the most help by reporting these
same three qualities to people who are asking for a report. On the other hand, those who say,
"You sound fine" mean well, but are just a bit too brief, and don't give you a lot to go on,
although it's still kind of them to try and give you some sort of feedback. The brief
exception is when a ham operator simply reports,
which, in a nutshell, means crystal clear audio, loud audio, and
no perceptible background noise.
Once you do this, you're relatively confident that the rest of your transmissions could easily
be heard by those who need to hear them. Even after that, you could still deviate from that once great
report by moving around, changing your antenna direction, or your battery failing. But, at least you've
taken that initial step to ensure a smoothly running net or drill.
How to communicate through a repeater [link
First, you need to find out the four basic parameters and set them up in your radio. They are
Once you have these parameters, program them (manually or by computer) into your radio,
and you're ready to go. If the repeater is for 2 meters, the offset amount is 0.600 MHz
(600 kHz). If the 2-meter repeater has a nominal (output) frequency of 147.000 MHz or less,
the offset direction will be minus (-); otherwise, it will be plus (+). Set the tone for
all repeaters to 100.0 Hz, unless a particular repeater requires something different.
If the repeater is for 70 cm, the offset amount is 5.000 MHz, and the offset direction
will always be minus. 220 MHz repeaters are a different story.
Once you've determined the repeater's not in use, press the PTT button, wait a half-second,
then begin speaking. You can simply say one of the following:
Once somebody answers you, go ahead and carry on a normal conversation, remembering to say
your call sign every ten minutes and at the end. If nobody answers, it might be helpful to
ask whether your signal is reaching the repeater, by asking
This is KI7ABC, monitoring.
This is KI7ABC. Anybody want to talk with a new ham?
This is KI7ABC. May I please get a signal check?
But in response, you should only expect a signal check, and not engage the other person in
conversation. Simply thank him and end with your call sign. Luring another ham into a
conversation by requesting a signal check can leave a sour taste in the person's mouth.
Finally, after you finish speaking during your turn, continue holding down the PTT button for
a half second before releasing it. This will ensure your last syllable will be heard by the
other ham. Furthermore, if you're communicating by a linked repeater, like one on the
Intermountain Intertie or the Sinbad System, wait two whole seconds before begin speaking
and wait an entire second after your last syllable before releasing the PTT button.
When the other person has stopped transmitting, listen for the right time to press your PTT
button and begin speaking, to play well with the other hams. Here's what you're going
the other station stops transmitting
the repeater beeps (known as a courtesy tone)
after four seconds (known as the hang time), the repeater stops transmitting
you hear a short, loud crash (known as the squelch tail)
all goes quiet
The time you should press your PTT button is ideally about one or two seconds after step 2;
that is, after you hear the repeater beep. That gives others plenty of time to break into your
conversation to join it or announce an emergency. It also gives the repeater a break, so
that it doesn't wear out its relays to drop its carrier (step 4) before you key up. So,
once you hear the repeater beep, wait one or two seconds, then press your PTT. Every
repeater is different, so prepare to be flexible if the repeater you're communicating with
doesn't behave exactly this way.
Communicating on reverse [link
In our ever-charitable desire to be helpful to other hams, we sometimes encounter those who
have a difficult time getting into or even reaching the repeater. When we hear somebody
struggling like this, it might be worth our while to help out by communicating with the
person directly rather than through the repeater. But if he's tuned to the repeater, and you
don't know his cell number, how can you alert him, so that you can help him?
One way is to switch to what we call reverse mode, which most radios support.
The reverse function merely switches the repeater input and output frequencies on your radio.
Normally, when communicating through a repeater, you use your radio to talk into the repeater
input frequency and listen on the repeater output frequency. On reverse, you talk into the
repeater output frequency, so that your friend can hear you, and listen on the repeater input
frequency, so that you can hear him.
But communicating on reverse like this only works if the other person can reach you better
than he can reach the repeater, because the repeater is out of his range on one side (to the
north of him, for example), but you're within his range on the other side (to the south of him,
for example). Or this might work when your friend is being obstructed from the repeater because
of a mountain or tall building, but you have a clear shot of both him and the repeater.
So, how do you use this reverse function? Many mobile units and some HTs have a button labeled
REV. Just press that button once, and your radio switches its repeater input and
output frequencies, then press it again to get out of reverse, and back to normal repeater
communication. If you're on a Baofeng or Wouxun, simply press the
* (star) button for reverse. If you have a Yaesu
FT-60R or VX-7R, simply press
C. Then press the same key to exit reverse mode.
There's no need for your friend to go into reverse mode.
Once you're in communication with the other ham by reverse, kindly let him know that his signal
is not making it into the repeater. Offer helpful, non-critical suggestions on what he could do
to improve his transmission, like move to a different location, point his antenna straight up,
speak closer or louder into his microphone, increase his radio power output, and so forth.
It's possible that his battery is running low or that his antenna has come loose. I always
believe my signal sounds wonderful, but one time people were telling me I was sounding terrible,
even when I was staring right at the repeater antenna. Turns out I had forgotten to put my
antenna back on after cleaning it off. So obviously, installing an antenna might help some of us!
The last thing to keep in mind when communicating in reverse is that you might want to let
others know you're in reverse mode, since even though you're not technically using the repeater,
you're tying up the repeater, because you're preventing others from using the repeater output.
You might get a lot of you're not in the repeater reports from others. Another thing is
that switching to reverse is no guarantee that you can reach him better; in fact, it might be
worse, but it's something you can try, in your quest to be a helpful ham.
Baofeng radios are legal to use [link
There's been quite a lot of discussion and concern lately about certain
announcements made by the FCC
regarding some models of Chinese radios. Bottom line is that they are all legit, and can be
used legally by licensed amateurs, as long as you're using them on amateur frequencies.
The controversy arose because many Chinese radios have the ability to transmit on frequencies
outside amateur bands. Ok, that's not so bad, because we amateurs know the rules, so that notice
doesn't really bother us, because we follow the rules. Then along came some marketers who not
only advertised that these radios can transmit on those non-amateur frequencies, but encouraged
people to transmit on them without a license. That's what got them into trouble, and prompted
the FCC to make the announcements.
Because of the confusing wordage of the announcements, coupled with mis-interpretations by an
FCC attorney, many hams felt that they could no longer use their cheap, little handhelds legally.
But after a series of clarifications, prompted in part by objections from the ARRL, we have
been re-assured that our Baofengs and other Chinese radios are perfectly legal to use. And can
you sell them? Yes, you can, personally. That means to one ham from another.
So, I repeat: it's completely legal for you to use any Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or even Martian
radios, as long as you use them on ham frequencies.
More details are spelled out in the club newsletter, the
November 2018 issue of the UVARC Shack p. 22,
about the legality of using Chinese radios.
You might want to purchase a mobile radio some day [link
You might have discovered that your little handheld radio is a wonder of science, enabling you
to communicate with friends, loved ones, and others, for fun or in a moment of need. But if
you've used it enough, you've also discovered that the little guy has a few limitations. Some
of these limitations can be resolved by a change in your transmitting location or a better
antenna. But there are times when it would be nice to have a little more juice behind that
signal of yours. If this extra signal boost is on your mind, then purchasing a mobile
radio might just be what you're looking for.
A mobile radio is a transceiver that's typically larger in physical size than most HTs
(handheld radios), and normally has the ability to transmit on a higher power level than most
HTs. Most require an external power supply and an external antenna, and most come with an
external hand microphone. And most hams use mobile radios in any of three ways: in a vehicle,
at home, or portable.
In a vehicle
Because of its namesake, it's obvious that a mobile radio was designed to be installed and used
in your car, truck, or RV, which offers the convenience of having great communication ability
from the comfort of your vehicle. If your mobile radio and antenna are installed more or less
permanently, all you need to do is pick up your mic and push the PTT; no need to carry the radio,
fiddle with cords, or get poked by your antenna. Also, if your service is needed at a location
away from your home or work, your mobile can help you communicate and stay updated while you
Can you do this with an HT? Yes, you can, if you can work without the extra transmit power. In
fact, you can connect your HT to an outside-mounted antenna (mag-mount, lip-mount, or hole-mount)
and your signal will be heard much better and farther than it could with any whip or duck antenna.
Furthermore, unlike a true mobile radio, which is tethered by connections to the car's antenna
and battery, you can easily remove your HT and take it with you when you get out of your vehicle,
because it carries its own *power supply* and antenna.
Many hams have a mobile radio at home as their *base* unit; that is, their main home radio,
where they transmit for nets, for emergency, and for ragchewing. Keep in mind that a home
base like this requires an external power supply, an external antenna, and coaxial cable.
I highly recommend your power supply for this home mobile radio be able to supply 30 amps,
even though your radio specifications state that it requires much lower. For the antenna,
I recommend a Pockrus J-pole. For
coax, I recommend RG-8X, terminated on both ends with PL-259 connectors.
In the context of mobile radio, the term *portable* means the ability to quickly grab a radio
that's more powerful than an HT, but yet available enough for you to collect it (along with its
battery, antenna, and coaxial cable), and head out the door. Portable can also refer to the
ability to carry a radio more powerful than an HT (plus the battery, antenna, and coax) with
you on a hike or a bike trip.
Any way you use one, a mobile can provide you with a little more power, to get your signal
out farther, or at least stronger. Most HTs can transmit a maximum of 4 to 8 watts, depending
on the model. Most mobiles can transmit 5 watts at their lowest setting. There are times when
the extra power is helpful to get around those buildings (knife-edging), get down the
canyon, and be heard on that distant repeater, and a mobile can often do the trick.
Please understand that this training topic is not meant to tell you that you need to
rush out and spend your hard-earned cash on new hardware. It's only meant to offer you an
option, in case you're getting tired of bad signal reports and the need to constantly repeat
your statements over the air.
The Japanese language is interesting in more ways than one, and one of those ways
is that their words don't have emphasized syllables like we do in English. For example,
when I say the word collection,
instead of saying all three syllables monotonically, with the same emphasis and pitch,
as is done with a Japanese word, I emphasize the second syllable by raising the pitch
a little, as in col-LEK-shun.
This works well for us Americans, but emphasizing syllables comes at a price when we use
the same speaking pattern on the air.
Especially when we communicate in a noisy environment, or by single-sideband like we do on HF,
the background noise can hide important syllables if they're spoken quietly. If we ever find
ourselves needing to communicate when it's more critical to be heard well, we might learn quickly
that speaking normally might get in the way. Instead, try emphasizing all the syllables you
For example, if I try and say the call sign
K-I-7-A-B-C in phonetics,
it might sound like
to the person trying to hear me, because all my non-emphasized syllables might fall below
the noise level. Instead, try saying
emphasizing ALL the syllables equally. This might seem a little un-natural to you, but might also
prevent you from having to repeat yourself so often.
An easy way to practice equal syllabic emphasis is by starting with the number seven and
the letter november. Say SEH-VEN
and NO-VEM-BURR instead of
no-VEM-burr. I can't tell
you how many times I've heard people confuse
ZOO-loo. If instead
the person said ZOO-LOO,
that would have helped a lot.
So, this is yet another example of how you can be heard a little better, without raising
your voice or increasing your output power or microphone gain. It's more about sounding
How to use a microphone [link
People love hearing you when you come through sounding loud and clear. Sometimes, anything
less might be out of your control at the moment, such as your location or your radio power
level or a better antenna. But one thing that you usually have control of, to help you sound
better, is the way you speak into your microphone. And the way you speak into your 'mic'
(pronounced mike) often depends on the type you're using and its features.
A ham radio microphone is built a little differently than one for a cell phone, because it's
designed to pick up a somewhat different frequency set and sound quality than a cell mic is.
Locate your little microphone hole, if that's what your radio presents to you, like with most
built-in and hand mics. Most desk mics have a much more obvious interface.
A typical HT has a microphone implanted somewhere in its face. Get your mouth as close to the
mic hole as you can get it, then speak with a slightly louder-than normal volume. Also, speak
across the mic, instead of blowing directly into it, to prevent puffing. If you're using
a Baofeng radio and are feeling brave, remove the face of the HT body and drill out the mic
hole to about an eighth of an inch.
Keep your mouth one to three inches away from your mic, then speak with normal loudness. Speak
across the mic, instead of blowing directly into to. If you're using a Baofeng or TYT hand mic,
you might want to take the mic apart and drill out the mic hole to about an eighth of an inch,
then surround the little mic with a couple of cotton balls. Also, try and keep still while you
speak. It's easy to fidget while transmitting, which can result in sending everybody an annoying
crackling, crunching sound.
Keep your mouth one to three inches away from your mic, then speak with normal loudness. You're
free to speak directly into to the mic, because most have a built-in puff shield. Even so,
avoid blowing air into the mic as much as you can. Avoid picking up a desk mic while you're
transmitting, which can result in everybody hearing the annoying stretching and rubbing of your
Many microphones have settings and other features that let you control the quality of your audio,
by they are typically confined to hand and desk microphones. Here are some, along with suggested
settings, that might apply to your mic:
VOX (voice-activated transmit) : turn it off, unless you're certain you want to
use it, and know how
mic gain : keep it turned down below 35%
speech precessor or compressor : disable this feature unless you're on SSB
(single sideband) and know how to use it to your advantage
AGC (automatic gain control) : keep this control set to SLOW
volume control and squelch have no effect on how you sound to others
No matter what kind of mic you're using, there are ways to improve your sound quality by
remembering a few simple tips. Make sure you sound as good as you should, by requesting an
audio check on the air. Honest feedback on your audio will often provide the best results,
and might even contradict some of the guidelines just listed here. And get a second opinion;
two sets of objective ears are sometimes better than one from a biased friend. Just keep in
mind that their ears are not your ears, and so your own assessment or preferences might
differ from theirs.
Probably one of the best ways to know how you sound is for somebody to record your transmission,
then send you the audio file. Or you can get on the WebSDR and listen for yourself, although the
timing on that can be a bit tricky. Finally, don't talk with your mouth full or while shuffling
papers or with music playing in the background.
Personal training topics
You might want to use an ear piece or head phones [link
Admit it...your spouse doesn't like it when she has to listen to your friends call out to you on
your little HT with that irritating, government-sounding audio. So you take it into the next
room, where the signal might be sketchy, or outside where it's freezing cold. But to communicate,
you need to hear the other person talk to you. And if that other person has a soft voice, is
talking too far from his microphone, or has a staticky signal, you find yourself turning up the
volume and running your family out of your house.
What you need is something that will let you hear the other person, but that silences your radio
so that your family can't hear the people on the other end. There are several things you can
purchase, that will fit the bill, like headphones, earphones, a head-piece, and earbuds.
Problem is, unlike regular stereo equipment, you can't always go to Walmart and purchase what
you need. More often than not, you need to get an ear piece that has a plug, maybe even a
double-plug, that fits only your radio model.
Ok, so if others don't want to hear you, simply take it outside, right? Well, if you're able to
brave the shivering cold, the better signal will help the other person hear you, but you might
have a more difficult time hearing him, because of all the outdoor noise, from cars on the street,
from people, and from the breeze. An ear piece can focus all the audio you want to hear from your
radio into your head, often in spite of surrounding noise, while still taking advantage of a
But just as importantly, you really should get an ear piece for your radio, to help free up your
hands if you're serving during an incident. With an ear piece, you can usually hear the other
person on the radio pretty well, without forcing you to get the unit close enough to your ear
to hear it, possibly dropping it on the sidewalk. Just attach your radio by a belt clip to your
pants, your vest, or backpack, and then you can move the weight of your unit from your hand to
Some ear piece options to consider include those with a speaker and microphone combination,
those with a handy PTT switch, maybe near your head, or those that support VOX, or voice-activated
transmit. One I like is a speaker-microphone that also has an antenna connection, placing my
antenna above my shoulders, and the speaker-microphone on my lapel. Of course, the drawback to
speaker-microphones is that people around you can still hear the other person, and you might
still be plagued by street noise if you take it outside.
Purchase an ear piece that has a plug or connector made for your particular radio. Clip your
radio to your clothing or vest. Route the ear piece wiring under your vest and over to your
radio, such that your head is able to move freely, and your hands can move around without
getting tangled in the wiring. Test it, then test it again. With this kind of setup, you'll
feel a little more free to help injured victims, while being able to communicate.
Ham radio best practices [link
The wide world of ham radio might still be somewhat new to you, and you want to jump into it
with both feet, so you're bound to make a few mistakes here and there, but that's alright.
Still, to play nicely with everybody else, here are a few tips, good habits, and even
unwritten rules, to help you avoid little pitfalls and maybe some embarrassment:
After pressing your PTT button, wait about ½ second before speaking, especially
if you're communicating through a repeater
When speaking into your microphone, try talking across its face, rather than blowing
directly into it (some call that puffing)
Place your hand microphone about two or three inches from your mouth when
transmitting, but stay within an inch of your built-in microphone
When using a handheld radio with a whip or rubber duck antenna, try and keep the
antenna pointed upward when you're transmitting
When announcing your call sign along with that of another ham, the rule is
to put yourself last, as in
KR5LYS, this is
KI7ABC if your call sign is KI7ABC
While it's customary to call out CQ on
on the 2-meter and 70-cm bands to announce your call sign instead, especially on a
If another ham points out a problem with your transmission ("you're sounding a
little scratchy"), always assume the problem is with you (location,
orientation, power too low, etc.) or your equipment first, and always
admit your mistakes
If you'd like to jump into an ongoing conversation,
avoid using the word break;
instead, say your call sign between their transmissions
After your contact releases his PTT button, allow one to two seconds before you press yours,
in case another person wants to join the conversation or has an emergency
Avoid kerchunking, which is repeatedly pressing and releasing your PTT
button without announcing your call sign; it's not only illegal, but irritating to
others, especially those listening on a repeater
When speaking through a repeater, try and keep your conversations to under a few
While it's not always possible, try and make your conversations positive and upbeat;
sounding positive attracts friends, while negative comments tend to turn other hams
away from you, even if you mean well
Don't react like you're offended just because another ham can't remember your name
or call sign
If another ham does offend you, let it go; don't retaliate or try and belittle
the other ham for it; be the adult in the encounter, even if you're a kid
Be considerate of your contact's time, and minimize
by at least thinking of what you're going to say before you key up; and while it's
fun to use your PTT button, don't forget that it's also an RTL (release-to-listen)
Avoid making insulting or disparaging remarks about others on the air; what people
hear you say about others, they'll also believe you'll say about them
Within reason, avoid burping, coughing, sniffing, clearing your throat, smacking your
lips, and making other bodily or disgusting noises on the air
When storing your HT for later use, like in a go-kit or bin, use alkaline instead
of rechargeable batteries, and keep the battery case removed from the radio until
you need to use it
Make sure your radio is programmed with an appropriate frequency list before you stash
it away, but be sure to accompany it with a card or sheet to remind you of what the
frequencies or channel names are for
Learn how to manually program your radio; you might not know when you need to travel
through a location where there is no cell signal available for your phone or tablet
A final word about these best practices: when you hear mistakes made by another ham, it's not
your job to jump on the air and correct the person. Just let it go. If you feel that he or
she really ought to know, however, try and reach out by cell or email, instead of
dressing the person down in front of three hundred others.
When you're approached by people who say something contrary to what you want to hear,
or do something that doesn't precisely meet your approval, it's often easier to point
out their seemingly incorrect thinking than to try and see things from their perspective.
Instead, agree with others at every opportunity. Avoid telling them they're wrong, if at
all possible. For example,
Person asks, Should I go to Center Street
to help them?
Rather than say, No, I need you over at
100 N instead.
Instead say, Yes, good idea.
I could use your help more on 100 N, if you can go there.
Person asks, Is my radio offset correct?
Rather than say, No, it needs to be on
Instead say, Try working it
on 600 kHz.
(Turn your answer into a positive comment by avoiding a Yes or No answer)
Person asks, Do you need any help?
Rather than say, No, but thanks for asking.
Instead say, Thanks for asking!
I believe I've got it under control.
(Be grateful for the help or idea and avoid using the word but to
point out additional facts. People are quick to pick up on your but exceptions,
as this next extreme and silly example illustrates)
Person asks, Do you like me?
Rather than say, I do, but you have
something in your teeth right here.
Instead say, I do like you!
By the way, you have something in your teeth right here.
(In this silly example, complete the affirmation without reservation,
I do like you!
Then, start another, unrelated topic if you need to,
You have something in your
Yes language seldom comes naturally,
and often takes some practice. Family members, friends, and hams, tend to be good,
well-meaning people who want to feel like their part of the discussion or situation is
valuable and worthwhile. Your acknowledgment of that contribution can mean the difference
between them feeling very small and worthless, and them feeling motivated to further help
and improve, and contribute even more.
When we assume that people are intelligent, and recognize that they're trying to do
good things and mean well, it becomes a little easier to see their perspective and acknowledge
their contribution to the situation. This applies to emergency communication, radio
talk, and everyday conversation. The more non-negative you sound, the more others
are attracted to you and want to be around you or listen to you.
Help others improve their signal [link
There are times when you're running a net, or you're trying to communicate with somebody by radio,
and he's difficult to hear, for whatever reason. On one hand, you don't want to sound too
critical of the person; after all, he's a new ham, and at least he's trying to get his signal
out there. But, assuming he's open to ideas and help (most new hams are), what kinds of helpful
suggestions can you offer? Depends on what the issues are and other factors. Here's a list of
things you can pick-and-choose from, that might be helpful.
Things that can make his audio difficult-to-hear:
His little radio might not be set on high power
He might have a rubber duck or some other poor antenna
His batteries might be running low
Things you can help his with now:
He's in a poor location — ask him to try moving a couple of feet to one side or
the other, or go outside or at least get out of the basement
He might be blocked by his house walls — ask him to move near a window
He might sound as though his signal is repeatedly strong and then scratchy —
ask him to not move around quite so much, if possible
His antenna orientation might be wrong — ask him to point it upward
He might sound garbled or distorted — ask him to back his mouth away from his
microphone an inch or two
He might sound too quiet — ask him to get as close to the microphone as possible,
then speak louder, clearer, and to not allow his voice volume to trail off at the end
of the sentence
He might be transmitting a loud alternator whine — if the whine is loud enough
to compete with his audio, ask him to turn off the engine, if possible
Does he know where his microphone hole is?
He might be puffing or blowing into his microphone — ask him to speak at the side
of the radio or microphone
He might sound as though he's got a loose connection — ask him to make sure his
antenna is securely connected
Things he can do later:
Get a better antenna
Get a better microphone
Install a tiger tail
Get a longer-lasting battery
If you believe another ham can hear him better than you can, you might want to ask for a relay
of his message. As they say in amateur radio, if you can't hear 'em, you can't work
'em, meaning you need to be heard by others, so that they can communicate with you. By
the way, asking people to modify their microphone gain will actually have little effect on making
them sound louder or better for several reasons, especially if they're on an HT.
Be brief when it's your turn [link
Let's face it...you probably love the sound of your own voice, and can listen to it for hours.
Unfortunately, not everybody shares your love for your voice. For many of us, it's easy to get
a bit long-winded and start rambling, especially when we're not sure what to say, how to say it,
or when to ask for some help on a thought. In short, be brief, but within reason.
Unlike with cell phones, when you're on the radio, you have a captive audience. I mean, as long
as you're talking, there's no way for the others listening to interrupt you or stop you. Are you
certain that what you have to say is that much more important than what the other
person is saying? Yes, you have a lot to share, but practice common courtesy, and allow others a
chance to speak their minds as well.
If you ever notice that the person (or the others in your group) you're talking with, take a
lot less time when it's their turn, than you do when it's
yours, chances are they're less interested in what you have
to say than you think they are. In other words, that might be your clue to either change
the subject or take less time when it's your turn.
This is not to say you need to limit your turn at the mic to two-word sentences; in fact, you should
feel free to speak. Just think about what you're going to say, then try and consolidate it to a
concise sentence, that's all. Sometimes it's just not practical to cut your statement shorter,
and that's alright too. The point is to use good judgment and be considerate
of other people's time.
Most radios include a feature known as a time-out timer (or transmit overtime on some
transceivers), often labeled TOT, and is typically set for 60 to 120 seconds. Its purpose is
to prevent your signal from being transmitted for longer than it should. One reason to limit your
transmission time is to prevent "timing out the repeater" or exceeding the repeater's own
time-out timer, which is typically set to between three and ten minutes.
If you should ever time out the repeater, the repeater will reset, and possibly reboot its
controller, which can take several minutes to revive, preventing everybody from accessing the
repeater during that time. If your station has a "stuck mic" or a microphone whose PTT does not
release, the repeater might reset repeatedly. If this should happen two or more times within a
short period, the repeater could remain "down" until the control operator can revive it remotely.
(A hand microphone PTT can get stuck in the "on" position if it's accidentally wedged between the
vehicle seat folds, for example.)
If you're involved in an emergency service, like ARES, it's good to practice being concise and to
the point anyway. During a callout or even a drill, your communication needs to pack more meaning
in a few words than the way you normally speak. People's lives can be at stake if you take too long
to make your point.
Here are a few tips that might help you to be brief on the radio:
Try and keep your transmissions down to about thirty seconds, give or take
If you think you're getting close to your thirty seconds, release the PTT for a second and resume
speaking, if you're telling a story or a long joke
If you can't think of what to say, release the PTT
Similar to the previous point, if you find yourself saying "and, uh..........um.........um....."
a lot, that's also a good time to release the PTT
By the way, here's a little-known fact: your PTT button doubles as an RTL button. RTL stands
for release to listen, so while you can press it to talk, you can also release it to
And from an old Chinese proverb,
He that speaketh little, thinketh much. And he that thinketh little, speaketh much.
Protocol training topics
Once in awhile people ask just how to properly run a net. There's no *correct* way to run
a net, within reason. For most nets, both new and experienced hams can organize and operate
a net by simply reading through a script. As the NCS (Net Control Station, or simply
Net Control) if you repeat the script a few times, you'll come to know it well enough
to engage a group of hams when a real net need arises. Still, every net is different, and we
might be able to outline the common ingredients that make up an effective net that any ham
can control without much training or special knowledge.
Before the net even begins, however, your group needs to decide on a 1) net day, 2) net
time, and 3) net frequency (especially whether the net should be held on a repeater or by
simplex.) Furthermore, it's appropriate to define the net boundaries, such as geographic
etc.), interest (as in hobby, vocation, ethnicity, political, etc.), and circle (who's
allowed to check in, like all hams, only women, under 18, any human being. etc.) Normally,
these have already been decided, and all that's left now is to hold and run the net.
Greeting and preamble
Announce to the world that you are starting a net, and briefly explain the net's purpose,
then tell everybody who you are. Welcome your listeners and participants. The term *QST*
is not necessary, but is a customary procedure to get the attention of hams who are scanning
for active signals. A net *preamble* is a short paragraph that explains the net participation
procedure, such as check in only when your residential area is called or
announce your call sign in phonetics, followed by your name.
Nets typically request operators to check in by either roll-call or at random. A roll-call
means that Net Control is reading off some list of operators who check in regularly or who
have registered with the net in some way. Random means that Net Control will ask anybody
to check in, with possibly some restrictions, such as all operators north of a particular city.
If your net is being held on simplex, it's a good habit to ask for relays every
Following the regular check-in, Net Control might ask for guest check-ins. It's also a courtesy
for Net Control to ask for late or missed check-ins about mid-net.
Net Control might announce upcoming events, amateur radio news, or other information of interest
to the group.
Nets often invite one of their participants to present a moment of appropriate training or
education, to help inform the group on a particular topic. It's good to invite group members
to ask questions or make comments following the training.
The term traffic refers to a rather formalized manner of conveying a message from
one ham to another. In the case of most nets, however, that message is communicated the same way
we do any other. So, when an operator announces that he or she has traffic for the net,
that's merely an indication that the person has a special announcement to make to the group.
Completely at the discretion of Net Control, net participants might be asked to optionally share
a personal thought or life happening with the net, often, but not necessarily related to the net
or training topic.
If there's enough time, Net Control might invite anybody who has a question, comment, or concern,
to address the net and engage everybody in a discussion or forum. This might be useful for asking
a difficult question regarding amateur radio, or for simply deciding who wants to volunteer the
dessert at the upcoming outdoor event.
It's often courteous to thank the repeater owners and trustees for the use of the repeater on the
net, if indeed you're using an actual repeater. After that, thank everybody who checked in or even
just listened. Say 73, you're returning the frequency to regular amateur
use, then end with your call sign.
And there you have it. Even though we've listed eight sections here, the local 6-meter Net, for
example, uses only the Greeting, Check-ins, Individual comments, and Closing, but they also add
a section for signal reports. Still other nets, such as the Information Net, add a section on
General announcements, which might involve or extend to folks outside the net or intended
At any rate, these are only guidelines, and it's up to Net Control to run his or her net any
way that's appropriate. One final thing: it's very easy to get caught up in the step-by-step
process, so remember to announce your call sign every ten minutes.
Spoken by you
When you need to pause your message or communication, you're probably used to saying
"Hold on" or "Hang on for just a minute," in the interest of using plain English. For
most communication, that's perfectly acceptable. However, I encourage you to get in the
habit of saying "Stand by" instead. This phrase is brief and is well-understood in many
circles, especially those that are part of emergency management, public safety, and
There are other phrases we use, to mean the same thing, such as "Please wait" or "Just a
sec." A popular one is "Let me reset," for those who are aware that they tend to talk
long enough to "time out" their radio, so they un-key momentarily to allow the radio
timeout timer to reset. Or worse yet, they simply un-key without saying anything, hoping
nobody hijacks the frequency while they've momentarily un-keyed to reset. Are any of these
phrases illegal or bad practice? Absolutely not, but it might be better to get in the habit
of saying "Stand by" because it's almost universally understood, and has a specific meaning.
Spoken by Net Control
When you hear the phrase "Stand by" from Net Control or an official, such as the Incident
Command shadow, it's telling you two things of importance, that should grab your attention:
When asked to "Stand by," we're often tempted to leave the net or go away long enough to
make ourselves a ham sandwich. An even less tactful action is to check-in, request a signal
check, or attempt to communicate with another person on the net after Net Control has
announced "Stand by." When you hear, "Stand by," do not transmit, but do listen closely for
the next thing that Net Control has to say.
you must not transmit during this time
you must listen closely for further instructions
During one of our training nets, we might ask operators to "Stand by" out of habit so often,
that its significance might get lost in sheer usage. But that's a good problem to have. It's
better to get used to saying and hearing the phrase than to use it so infrequently that we
forget what it means and how to respond to it.
What to say at the end of your QSO [link
If there's one thing that new hams find awkward, is what to say at the end of the QSO, or
conversation. The answer is, your call sign is all you need.
But most people find that rather impersonal or incomplete, and feel compelled to say things
like clear or over or something else that sounds official or police-like. For
example, the following is what some hams run into:
Ham 1 : Well, I've got to go now,
so I'll see you later.
Ham 2 : Ok, I'll catch you later.
Ham 1 : 7-3 KI7ABC from KI7DEF.
I'll be clear on your final.
Ham 2 : Ok, 7-3 KI7DEX, I mean
KI7DES. No, wait KI7DEF from KI7ABC, clear.
Ham 1 : Ok, KI7DEF, over and out.
These two hams are doing their best to follow the rules, but feel awkward simplifying their
closing, possibly believing the other ham will feel snubbed by his directness. Furthermore,
Ham 2 is struggling to remember Ham 1's call sign. To help this, I recommend two things at
the end of your QSO:
Don't worry about giving the other person's call sign
Say your own call sign when it's the only thing left to say, except maybe 7-3
These are not rules, but suggestions. Here's an example, using the same two hams above:
Ham 1 : Well, I've got to go now, so I'll see you later. 7-3.
Ham 2 : Ok, I'll catch you later. 7-3.
Ham 1 : KI7DEF.
Ham 2 : KI7ABC.
And they're done. Neither said any call signs until it was time to hang up the mic (pronounced
mike) and neither felt that the other ham was being offensive, because both experienced
hams understood the guidelines. You never need to remember or say another person's call sign
during your QSO. It's often customary to say the other person's call sign when calling for him,
but still not necessary. So, you can say either,
Hey, Jim, are you there? This is Tony
And if you say only call signs, it's understood whose call sign is which, because of the
gentlemen's agreement of putting yourself last, which means the person talking in this
case is most likely KI7DEF.
And no need to say clear or over or out or any similar military-sounding word.
Is it alright to say these extra words? Sure. Nobody's going to chastise you for saying them,
but these tips just might make it a bit easier to conclude your radio conversation.
Don't over-use phonetics [link
A few weeks ago I was driving up in Davis County, and had my mobile radio trained on an
Ogden repeater. I heard a ham get on clearly and with great audio, saying that he was mobile,
and announced his call sign something like
I decided to engage him and gave my
call sign, but then asked him to repeat his call sign. Once again, he repeated
and that his name is
or something. I asked him to say it once
more, but a little slower. By this time, he was getting a little upset, and asked whether
I was a new ham who had not quite mastered memorizing the Phonetic Alphabet.
So, what was my problem? Was my brain just not running as quickly as his mouth? Or am
I unknowingly dyslexic, requiring extra repetition to get incoming data straight? Well, I
know that I can understand A-B-C a little better than alfa-bravo-charlie,
because my native language is A-B-C, not alfa-bravo-charlie.
In fact, when I hear alfa-bravo-charlie, I have to stop for a millisecond and
mentally translate each word to its corresponding letter. And if the phonetic words are spoken
fast enough, by the time I get to the sixth letter, I've already forgotten the first two,
since my concentration was on the final one or two.
What it boils down to is this: if the other person could hear you reasonably well, there's
no reason to state your call sign, or anything else, using phonetics. The exception is when
you're on a net, and Net Control asks you to say your call sign or name that
way, even if he or she could hear you perfectly. When you're communicating within the noisy
environment of HF, you'll often be asked for your call sign in phonetics.
Other noisy situations that might require a more regular announcement of your name or call
sign phonetically include operating outdoors, or in a crowd, or near loud equipment or music.
To use phonetics when people can hear you clearly is not illegal by any means, but often makes
you appear somewhat elitist or just showing off. That being said, it's still good practice to
practice, so use good judgment too.
When you do give your call sign using the Phonetic Alphabet, slow down, even if you've
given it a hundred times:
More often than not on a repeater, however, people will understand K-I-7-A-B-C
and Dave much easier.
and the same with your name
So, please only use phonetics if asked, or if you know you're surrounded by a lot of noise.
Even when your signal is difficult to hear, because of your location or antenna, if people
want to hear your call sign or name phonetically, they'll often ask for it.
Using alternate phonetics [link
Late one night during a Field Day, an unlicensed young lady called CQ at the GOTA
(Get-On-The-Air) station while I sat next to her, logging her contacts. A club station located
in Boise, Idaho, was trying and re-trying to decipher the little girl's announcement of
gossara-leema, which was her way of pronouncing golf-sierra-leema,
but they just couldn't make out the call sign. After five or six frustrating tries, she was in
near-tears and ready to call it quits, so I whispered "great salt lake" to her, and into the
microphone she shouted, "great-salt-lake!" Immediately, the Boise station
acknowledged the GOTA station's call sign, made the proper exchange, and logged the entry.
The little lady was all grins after that.
The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) has devised the English version of the
ITU Phonetic Alphabet to help clarify communication between radio stations. Depending
on your communication mode or how noisy your environment is, some of the words in the Phonetic
Alphabet can be less than helpful. Also, it's sometimes difficult to hear some of the ITU
words from a person with a mild speech impediment or whose native language is not English.
For these reasons and more, it's often helpful to use phonetic words that are not part of
the ITU list in the interest of clarity. Here's a list of commonly used
alternate or substitute phonetic words:
Can you use phonetic words outside of this list? Of course, such as michigan
instead of mexico, if it helps with clarity. These are only common substitutes.
Just keep in mind that most hams are used to hearing the ITU phonetic words, so you might need
to slow down when using alternates. Also, there are times when it's appropriate to speak
multiple-word phonetics, for even further clarification. One often-used multi-word phrase
is king-henry for K-H, the first two letters in the call signs of many Hawaiian
hams. The one used in our above example, great-salt-lake is another.
Finally, be fore-warned that there are some older hams who berate those who use alternate
phonetics, out of some religious or otherwise fanatic allegiance to the ITU list. Please rest
assured that using alternate phonetics is not illegal, and is in fact highly encouraged
to promote clarity in communication. And the little girl at the GOTA station? Two months
after that Field Day, she became KI7RES, the youngest ham in Utah at the time.
Follow the band plan [link
While helping a new ham couple with their radio issues one day, I noticed that their HTs (handheld
transceivers) were set to 147.3325 MHz. I asked them why they chose that frequency, and they proudly
announced that it's well within the 2-meter band, as allocated by the FCC and displayed on the ARRL
band chart for Technician licensees, and that one seemed to work for them.
I told them they were correct in selecting a frequency within their Technician privileges, and
congratulated them on that. I then asked whether they were familiar with the Utah Band Plan,
and they said they weren't, but that they had heard there was such a thing. I explained that the band
plan further clarified which frequencies were permitted by amateurs on each band.
According to the ARRL band chart (which reflects the corresponding Part 97 rules), anybody with a
valid Technician license is indeed permitted to use any frequency in the 2-meter band, which spans
144.000 to 148.000 MHz. However, our local band plan states that certain sub-bands, or subsets of this
span, are allocated for specific types of usage. The Utah Band Plan is laid out online at
From the online list, you can see that the frequency the couple was using, 147.3325 MHz, falls within
one of the sections allocated to repeater operation, and so their selected frequency did not meet the
Utah Band Plan for simplex usage. They needed to choose a frequency from within one of the three
sub-bands designated for simplex operation to be compliant.
But wait, there's more. Further examination of the Utah Band Plan shows that simplex frequencies must
be selected by odd-numbered 20 kHz frequency separations in the 145.500 to 145.800 MHz
list, and even-numbered 20 kHz frequency separations in the other two. This means, for
example, you can use 145.510, 145.530, 145.550 MHz, etc., from the first list, and 146.480, 146.500,
146.520, etc., from the second list, and so forth. Therefore, a selection of 146.490 MHz for your
simplex operation goes contrary to the Band Plan.
Finally, a band plan is not the law, but it is a set of strongly suggested
agreements that help us all play nicely with each other, in that they prevent chaos and minimize
interference between stations. The band plan is set in place by the Frequency Coordinator, and in
Utah is supported by the Utah VHF Society. Keep in mind that not all band plans betwen different
states follow the same guidelines. So, if you travel to another state, don't assume the band plan
there is the same as what you're used to; a little research can save you some heart ache.
Emergency training topics
How to help when you're on the road [link
While you're traveling by road, if you're interested in contacting local hams through their
repeaters, one thing you can do is download a list of repeaters along your route, and program
them into your radio ahead of time. Where can you get that list? From
Just look up the state or the interstate route, and you can see all the repeaters available.
Copy the repeater info to
and program your radio accordingly. Of course, that requires a laptop and an appropriate
cable to interface with your radio, to program it.
What you can do alternatively is download the app from RepeaterBook.com and activate it.
Then, while you're traveling, the app will display nearby repeaters, based on your GPS
location. You can then manually program the repeaters into your radio, or download it to
your laptop and program as you go. Of course, that can be a real pain, which is why knowing
how to program your radio manually is a good skill to learn.
So, if you travel, you're all set to go, but to do what? To help yourself and others.
Here are some possibilities:
You encounter an incident and want to help
If you travel in an area, and learn it's been struck by an incident, such as a tornado,
wildfire, chemical spill, or terrorist attack, turn to the National Calling Frequency
(146.520 MHz simplex) and listen. If you don't hear anything, either call out on that
frequency every 15 minutes,
This is KI7ABC, monitoring
It's possible that somebody will respond, and ask for help, and you'll be there to answer the
call. Or start scanning (all frequencies, instead of just memory channels). And yes, scanning
is another good skill to learn.
You're the one who needs help
If you travel in an incident area, and find yourself in need of assistance, start
calling out on the National Calling Frequency every few minutes,
This is KI7ABC, and I need help
Hams who are familiar with the
will be monitoring for those in need of help, and might be able to give you the
help you need.
Start a conversation on a local repeater
Finally, you're not aware of any local incident, but you never know. So, strike up a conversation
with a complete stranger on a local repeater. Find out when he or she first got licensed. Ask
about their family, how many kids and dogs, their favorite foods, their hobbies, the breadwinner's
occupation, etc. But be sure to leave a one-second break between each un-key and key-up, to allow
those with an actual issue or emergency to break in. The mere constant chatter will help put other
listeners more at ease, and assure them that the amateur system is still available, should they
need help or have a question. Don't worry that you're tying up the repeater because that's
what it's there for.
For whom you will really be transmitting [link
Many of us have spent a great deal of effort, training to set up and operate our radios during
a time of emergency or disaster, and that's terrific. And if you're part of an emergency
radio team, such as ARES, RACES, or AUXCOMM, you might find yourself getting called out or
activated during an incident, to help out with communication, as part of an organized
team of radio volunteers. In spite of your training, however, during an actual emergency, you
might discover that your radio skills will be needed much less in an official capacity than
you would like to believe. So, for whom will you be doing all that radio communicating?
The answer is, for yourself or your family. If an earthquake should hit, it's
alright to believe that you're prepared to pull out your radio, start a net, and save the world.
But it's much more likely that you'll be listening in on a net that's already in progress,
then checking in or staying in touch on behalf of your own family. And that's alright too,
because being self-sufficient is one of the reasons you got into ham radio.
In the event of a disaster, and both you and your family are safe, and maybe not directly
affected by the incident, you can still help with communication without being an official
relay or shadow. First, listen to multiple frequencies on your dual-watch radio. Next, check
into any net in progress you believe is appropriate, such as a local area net (often organized
by a neighborhood ore nearby religious collective) or city net or ARES net. This way, you can
make your radio services available, if they become needed, especially as a relay.
So, as you continue to improve your skills and gather your equipment to prepare for a possible
emergency, keep in mind that you're putting these together primarily for you and your family.
That's because during a true incident, your primary goal is the safety of your family. And
if help is unavailable, unreachable, or otherwise occupied by an ongoing relief effort, it's
a little peace of mind to know that you might have some sort of communication
line to a listening ear.
You might want to upgrade your license [link
I know a nearby ham who's a wonderful and competent radio operator, and she's completely content
with her Technician license, and has no plans to upgrade. That's perfectly fine, since her skills
will be the ones most sought for, in our family, our neighborhood, and our area, should they be
needed. In other words, in any given emergency, all the communication operation and equipment
likely to be required, can be performed by somebody with a Technician license.
In the event of a much more catastrophic or large-scale emergency, such as an earthquake or
terrorist strike, the power, cell towers, and other parts of our infrastructure could suddenly
become unavailable for a rather large geographic area. In that case, transmitting by your mobile
unit, and especially your handheld, can only get you so far. And if you need to reach outside,
say, 200 miles, to get help, you'll need to rely on HF. It's possible to transmit this far by
tropospheric ducting, by 6-meter single-sideband, or sporadic E, all of which require only a
Tech license, but the likelihood of getting anybody's attention this way is very slim.
So, that leaves HF. It's true that a Technician licensee can use a 200-kHz section of the 10-meter
band on HF, so they have that much going for them, if they have the equipment and know how to use
it. But wait a minute, you ask, Isn't it true that, during a true emergency, any means of
communication necessary can be used in the protection of life or property? Yes, that's true,
but there's a catch.
Let's say that you and a friend, both Tech licensees, are driving across the Utah desert, transporting
some belongings to a third friend. Among your cargo is an HF station, complete with antenna and
coax. While you're driving, your car breaks down, outside the reach of any cell towers or even ham
radio repeaters. And while walking around looking for signs, your passenger falls and impales an
artery on a sage branch. This sure sounds like an emergency to me. Since it dawns on you that you
have a complete HF setup, you conclude that you can save your friend's life and call for help on
any frequency you need. Well, I believe you're right, but I have a few questions for you.
Do you know how to set up an HF station and turn it on? Alright, it's not rocket science,
and you're pretty smart, so you manage to figure it out. Will you know how to use it? On what
band? On which frequencies? Using what mode? What's the protocol? And what's that awful noise
you're hearing, and how do you make it go away? Do you know whether your setup is going to
need a tuner? You'd know how to answer those questions if you had trained and practiced using HF.
And you won't have been able to get that training and practice without a General license.
Yes, it's possible for a Technician licensee to get *some* training and practice on HF, but I just
don't know many who can justify getting an expensive HF rig, just for a small, 200-kHz section of
the spectrum. And at this point in the sunspot cycle, nobody will hear you there anyway.
Finally, if you've already got a General class or higher license, you won't need to upgrade.
Instead, why not mentor, or at least encourage, Technician licensees to upgrade, by explaining
the benefits you heard here. Just keep in mind that, after you explain the reasons to them,
and they don't care to upgrade, that's their choice, there's no need to hound them, and they're
free to pursue ham radio they way they see fit.
Please tell me your thoughts. I hope nobody will feel truly pressured to upgrade their Tech license
to a General, just because of a training item. But I did want to give you some food for thought.
Incident and CERT training topics
Radio-related training topics
Tactical call signs [link
One thing hams, as well as police, fire, military, government, and EMS personnel find useful
while communicating during an incident is the use of tactical call signs. A tactical
call sign represents a group name, function, or geographical location, such as Medical 3,
Lookout Point, or Grid 27. It's not the same as your FCC-issued call sign, and
does not replace it, but can be used as a shortcut or abbreviation during an exercise or
They help keep things simple
During an actual call-out it can get really tedious, if not confusing and frustrating, for all
parties involved, if you had to remember or read back a series of call signs, fumbling with
dyslexic numerals and letters as you try and get some important information to a far-away team.
Team 2, this is Incident Command
and then whomever is Incident Command replies with,
Incident Command, go ahead
That's a little easier easier than,
KG7ZSC, I mean KC7ZSZ, this is KB7BVP
only to have the other party say,
Was that KC7ZSZ or KC7ZFZ?
and then you say,
Kilo-charlie-seven-zulu-sierra-zulu, this is kilo-bravo-seven-bravo-victor-papa
By the time you've figured out the call sign, the patient has died.
They keep station locations organized
Another advantage to tactical call signs is that there is no need to keep track of which call
sign is where. Imagine Incident Command needing to get an update on a forest fire line advance.
with a reply of,
This is N7YHU, KC7ZSZ had to leave
Incident Command then asks,
with a reply of,
Incident Command then says,
Well, who's still there, who can give me an update?
What a time-wasting mess! Instead, try this:
Hilltop Overlook, this is Incident Command
with a reply from Hilltop Overlook of,
Hilltop Overlook, go ahead
Could you please give me a fire-line status?
In this case, Incident Command doesn't know, but more importantly doesn't care,
who's at Hilltop Overlook; he just wants an update from somebody there who's qualified to
deliver the update.
They're assigned by NCS
So, whose job is it to assign tactical call signs? It's the responsibility of Incident Command.
If IC doesn't care, or has delegated it, it's the responsibility of Net Control, who is typically
the Incident Command shadow, but Net Control must then communicate them to IC, so that IC
can keep an overall picture of the incident by location or group name. If IC starts calling a
group Hospital Deck, that might be a good clue that you should also call it by that name,
because that's familiar to him. And if you're the person making up these tactical call signs,
please make them as short as you meaningfully can. Instead of giving one team a name of Samuel
Thornton Fluke Memorial Site 3 maybe simply Site 3 is good enough.
Now, all that being said, every ham is still required to transmit the FCC-issued call sign every
ten minutes and at the end of the communication, regardless of tactical call signs. One way to do
this during a drill, exercise, or incident, is by adding to the confusion and stating your actual
call sign every time you speak, which is not recommended, because you need to say less, not more.
The recommended approach is for Net Control to ask everybody to say their call signs every ten
minutes, all at the same time. Yes, you'll be doubling with thirty other people, but you've
satisfied the rule, to transmit your call sign; there is no requirement that anybody actually
hear your call sign.
Setting up a relay station [link
During an actual incident, what's often needed is a relay station to transfer messages between
two stations who couldn't reach each other by repeater (because it's down or unavailable) or
by simplex (too many obstructions). You can accomplish this several ways, but probably the two
most common ways is by local control and automatic control.
Local control means you're the relay station, and you need to travel to a location
between the two most critical communication stations that are having trouble hearing each other.
All three of your stations are using the same simplex frequency. You hear messages from one
station, then repeat the same message on the same frequency, so that both stations can hear you.
You then hear responses from the other station, and once again repeat the responses on the same
frequency, so that both stations can hear you.
Automatic control means you're responsible for setting up a repeater station, possibly a
cross-band repeater (XBR),
between the two most critical communication stations that are having trouble hearing each other.
You set your XBR to a 2-meter simplex and a 70-cm frequency, then ask one of the two distant
stations to set their frequency to the 2-meter frequency and the other distant station to the
Things to take into account with either method include location, power needs, and access. The
location of your relay station could be in your home, a school, or out in a field if the weather
is cooperating, as long as your surroundings don't obstruct your signal, making your relays
worthless. If you're away from home, you're going to need to plug into an outlet if the power
is on and reachable.
If AC power is not available, you might need a trusty battery, whose size will depend on your
radio and usage. If you're going to be out for long, setting up a solar panel might be a good
idea, if you have one. Finally, make sure you have immediate access to your station if at all
possible, especially if you're running an XBR, in case the battery dies or if the station
frequencies needs to readjusted, to avoid interference, for example.
How to relay messages [link
There are times when you're on a net, and it seems that Net Control just couldn't hear
the check-in from a weak or distant station, even if you're holding the net by repeater. (Maybe
the unheard station is not in the repeater because his radio isn't programmed properly
or isn't programmed with this particular repeater.) In that case, if you're able to hear the
distant station, cut into the check-ins between transmissions by saying relay,
and Net Control will know that you're hearing somebody he or she isn't, and say, Go ahead,
relay. You then say, keelo-bravo station go ahead, if you heard "KB" from
the distant station in the midst of giving its call sign, for example.
After that, your responsibility is to relay the check-in, including call sign, name, location,
and any message (traffic) that the distant station needs you to pass along to Net Control.
As you might guess, this is good practice, because during an incident, you might need to relay
for an injured operator who's trapped in a basement, when Net Control is unable to hear him or
Relaying a message between an unheard station and Net Control is not the time to give long-winded
descriptions or explanations, even in the interest of accuracy. Relay the information as
completely as you heard it, but allow Net Control to dictate just how much and how accurate
your information should be. And being brief does not mean repeating everything in rapid-fire
speech. If you normally take three seconds to say something, but compress it into two seconds,
you might need to repeat it, requiring six seconds, including the time it requires for Net
Control to ask you to repeat it. So, slow down and say it in four seconds the first time.
A relay between radio operators means official A is asking operator A to relay a message to
official B. Operator B then communicates the relayed message to official B. This ham-to-ham
(more correctly station-to-station) communication involves only licensed amateur radio
operators using the radio equipment, with the officials simply giving and receiving orders.
A relay between an official and a radio operator means operator A has handed his or her
microphone to official A, allowing the official to communicate directly to operator B, due
to the complexity or urgency of the situation or the need at the moment. And even though
official A is not a licensed ham radio operator, by third-party rules, operator A can legally
allow that, provided operator A is awake and remains in the same room as official A for the
duration of the communication.
In either case, you become more or less a piece of furniture that simply passes messages between
one party and another. But that's alright, because thet's what you signed up for, by offering
your radio station in the service of others.
Radio equipment for shadowing [link
The equipment you're going to need for shadowing an official during an incident can
be summed up for two situations: stationary or on foot. And in each case, you have radio equipment
and support equipment to consider. It'll be up to your good judgment which of these
items you should actually use, but here are my recommendations.
Being stationary gives you two advantages: you have a place where you might actually be able
to sit down, and you don't have to lug all your radio equipment around. Also, people find comfort
in being able to refer or resort to a particular location for communication needs.
When you're shadowing an official (or even when you're alone during an incident), it's often
necessary to move quickly from one place to another on foot, because of uneven or obstructed terrain,
building entry for light search-and-rescue, or a disaster that covers a wide area.
Know how to manually operate your radio [link
One day, before the time of GPS technology, a man was driving all over an upscale section of
New York City, until he decided to ask for directions. He flagged down a pedestrian and rolled
down his window. "Excuse me, sir, could you please tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?"
The pedestrian answered, "Practice, practice, practice."
You've got your ham radio license, you took a CERT course, and now you have a nice little radio
that you've grown to like. In fact, to take your readiness a step farther, you had your little
unit programmed with 200 channels of something or other. Furthermore, you use your radio by
participating in the New Ham Net, the 76ers Net, and even your stake net. Terrific! But if
worse comes to worse, have you done what it takes to be radio-ready for an actual incident?
During an emergency, do you know what frequencies to use? Because of the nets you participate
in, maybe so. But what if your programmed frequencies are busy, and you need to move to a
frequency that's not programmed in your radio. Will you know how to manually set that? At
a moment's notice, you might need to find a simplex frequency, or change to one that your
net control has dictated. Will you know how to do that manually, in seconds? How about if
he or she asks you to change to a repeater that you don't have set in your radio? Will you
know how to set the offset and tone?
Assuming you have all of that, depending on the emergency, will your hands be free enough to
help people, or will they be occupied by a handheld radio? Wouldn't it be better to put a
belt clip on the back of your radio, then attach it to your pants or pants pocket? And then,
wouldn't it be convenient to attach a speaker-microphone from your radio to your lapel? Then
your hands will be free, except when one hand is pressing the button on your lapel.
And after doing all of that, suddenly your battery dies. Wouldn't it be convenient to have a
freshly charged battery, or a sled of alkalines that you can slide onto your radio? And what
if people complain that they couldn't hear you very well? Do you have an extra antenna,
either a flexible
or a telescopic one,
or at least a whip, that you can replace your rubber duck with?
Finally, use your net as your personal "emergency" by practicing these things during the net.
While your net is going, 1) switch to VFO Mode ("Frequency Mode") and punch in your net frequency
manually, 2) clip your radio to your pants pocket and attach your speaker-mic to the radio,
3) turn off your radio and replace the battery, and 4) replace your antenna with a better one.
Now, repeat that during the net again next week.
Getting your license was a great first step, but now it's time to do more than just stash your
radio away until there's an emergency. Because when an incident arises, and you aren't used to
using your radio effectively, you'll suddenly create your own emergency, rendering your license
useless. For real estate agents, the motto is "Location, location, location." For those of us
trying to prepare for the unthinkable and yet be helpful, it's "Practice, practice, practice."
Have alternate simplex frequencies at your disposal [link
During an incident, your local (area, neighborhood, city) net will likely be operated over a
simplex frequency. That's good, because dependency on a repeater or the internet can cripple
you during a widespread incident, which you're training to prepare for. However, there might
be times when your agreed-upon frequency will be unavailable, like when it's already in use
by another group, when it causes interference to a group outside your county, or when you're
asked to vacate the frequency for some reason. In those cases, it's convenient to have two or
three alternate simplex frequencies you can quickly move to.
Given the demand and the population, finding a few alternate frequencies might not always be
easy, so here are some suggestions. These ideas are based on using simplex frequencies within
the 2-meter band and the 70-centimeter band, which means you need to have a radio that supports
those bands. It also means that you need to have your radio pre-programmed with those simplex
frequencies, and be familiar enough with your radio to turn to them at a moment's notice.
You need to purchase a dual-band radio
Your radio must support both the 2-meter band and the 70-centimeter band at a minimum. That
is, 144 to 148 MHz, and 420 to 450 MHz. This makes a whole range of little-known or seldom-used
simplex operation available to you. (Keep in mind that a few dual-band radios support
1.25 meters [220 MHz] instead of 70 cm, but you're going to need 70 cm.) Also, please understand
that, even though your license gives you transmit privileges on most of the frequencies covered
by these bands, your state or region
dictates which frequencies you can actually use on simplex, and how, as in mode, bandwidth,
separation, and tones.
You should have available two or three alternate simplex frequencies you can use
In one Orem area, those folks have agreed on four simplex frequencies that they've
researched, and plan to use for emergency nets. Their primary frequency is 147.480 MHz, which
they use each Sunday night on an area training net. Their main backup frequency is 147.440
MHz, which is the frequency used by their neighboring area, whose net they can join if they
need to vacate their primary frequency. That same Orem area has also decided on 439.225 MHz
as an alternate if they aren't able to use either of the above 2-meter frequencies. Finally,
they've decided on 439.425 as yet another alternate, should all the others become unavailable.
Program your radio with these simplex frequencies
Store all of these simplex frequencies in your radio memory, then make a note of which
channel contains which frequency, so that you can quickly turn to any one of them. In the case
of many Chinese VHF / UHF radios, change to Channel mode and select the channel number.
For other radios, change to Memory to access the channels in which you stored your
Know how to manually change to them at a moment's notice
Be familiar enough with your radio that you know how to change to one of the alternate
frequencies. For many Chinese VHF / UHF radios, if they're not stored in your radio's memory,
change to Frequency mode, then punch in the frequency by hand, remembering to set the
shift direction (SFT-D) to OFF. For most non-Chinese VHF / UHF radios, change to
VFO, then enter the frequency.
During chaotic moments, it might be necessary to establish or check into a net or other
communication using a frequency that you don't use regularly. Having some alternate
frequencies can be a life-saver, and knowing how to turn to them can be a time-saver.
Remember that nobody owns a frequency, and it shouldn't surprise you if another
group is using your frequency when you need it, so being flexible enough to have
options goes a long way.
Personal training topics
Helping somebody in distress [link
We've talked previously about how to aid somebody who's calling for help. That is, how to
discern their needs, whom you should call, and how you can personally assist in the way of
equipment or relaying emergency messages. But there's another side to helping a person who
is calling for anybody out there to come to their aid, and that's the personal side. In
other words, is there something helpful you can actually say to them on the radio?
During an actual crisis, not only will your caller be frantic, but believe it or not, you're
going to start freaking out too. The caller will be in great danger, or will be calling for
a loved one who's screaming out in pain, and that person will most likely not have his or her
mind together during the communication. And in spite of all your training, your bloodstream
will be flowing with a half-gallon of adrenaline, causing you to speak very quickly, in a
high-pitched voice, and begin to hyperventilate.
So, what can you say to somebody who desperately needs your help, when your own heart is
racing? First, let's mention a few things you should NOT say:
Ok, so you know a few things you should not say. So, what could you say to
this person who is under such stress? First, take a deep breath before speaking. Second, slow
down and lower your pitch. Here are a few things you can say:
Do not lie to them by telling them that you understand how they feel,
or that help is on the way, or that they're going to be alright. Yes, you've called
911, and police dispatch has assured you they'll get there soon, but you really have
no idea if or when. And you have no clue as to how they feel or whether they'll be
Don't tell them to stay calm or to not worry. It's alright to worry.
We're human and are born to worry, as a defense mechanism.
Don't tell them not to cry or that they shouldn't feel bad. They have
every right to feel bad, and that bad feeling, especially crying, can actually be
their own mind's way of dealing with the situation.
Do not tell them it's God's will that these things happened the way
they did. You have no idea that's true, and it's often insulting to arbitrarily
assign some sort of religious meaning to the situation, and can anger them.
Don't tell them that they're strong and that they'll get through this.
You don't know they're strong, and many will seriously question whether they'll actually
survive the event.
Ask them their name. As much as you can, refer to them by their name. That's their
most favorite word and sound in the world. It's calming and reassuring, and tells
them that you're listening and are interested.
Don't overwhelm them with a hundred questions, but ask questions as you would in a
regular conversation. Find out what happened, who is injured, and how severe the
injuries are. Often, people are looking more for a listening ear than an ambulance.
Assure them that you're doing whatever you can to help. Tell them you're not a doctor
or a policeman, but that you know how to work a radio, and will try and get them the
help they need.
Keep them talking. Again, not to overwhelm them, but ask them about their family,
where they live, what their father does for a living. They want to talk about
themselves, and it helps distract them from the problem at hand for a little while.
The best way to keep them calm is by you setting the tone and the example, hard as it might be.
It's ok to be surprised, but keep your cool, even when the other person says something shocking
or unexpected. Don't get angry or upset, don't raise your voice unless you're in a noisy environment,
and don't use profanity. Use a calm and deliberate voice, and before long, they'll subconsciously
start imitating your tone.
Wear a vest during training or an incident [link
A couple of years ago, I was called out to an activation by UCARES (Utah County Amateur Radio
Emergency Service) to help out with communication during the Tank Hollow fire up in Spanish
Fork Canyon. As is my habit, I grabbed my go-kit, my helmet, and my bright yellow vest. I
tossed my go-kit and helmet in the front seat passenger side, but put my vest on, figuring
that was one less thing I needed to carry in my hand. Soon, I arrived at the command post,
where other hams were communicating with one fire team or another.
After about ten minutes, a fireman rushed into the command post, came up to me, and started
asking questions about locations and status, and of course I had no idea how to answer him.
The team leader, another ham friend at the command post, told the fireman he was in charge
of giving status updates, and proceeded to help the officer. The fire fighter was a bit
confused at first, but turned his full attention to the team leader. About an hour later,
four of us went outside the command post during a break in the day, and right away I was
accosted by a Utah County Sheriff deputy with questions. Once again, I had to defer all
questions to our team leader, who was still inside our command post.
In just over an hour, these two gentlemen had taught me something valuable. They both
assumed that I, the only person wearing an official-looking vest, was in charge. The fact
was just the opposite, but the point is, the vest meant something to them, and it got me
thinking that these vests likely mean something to a lot of people, like ordinary citizens.
It turns out that, on one hand, vests might portray a facade (fake view) of who I really am.
On the other hand, it tells people that the situation is (at least a little) under control,
and that people who know what they're doing, are helping to make a bad situation more tolerable
for the rest of us, whether those are facts or not. It offers them a small peace of mind, and
helps to calm otherwise frantic folks who are worried or in shock.
So, who is authorized to wear one of these official-looking things? You are, if you're helping
with communication, first-aid, or another incident-related exercise, drill, or actual emergency.
The next time you participate in an ARES or RACES net, volunteer at an ultra-marathon aid station,
or help out in a city drill, wear your vest proudly, and make your presence known. At first, you
might feel like you're pretending to be somebody or something you're not, but the more experienced
among us will congratulate you for taking the initiative to make yourself visible to the public,
as part of your training.
If you're interested in getting hold of an amateur radio vest, for example, you can purchase one
for $16 from ARRL.
Once you get it, I encourage you to wear it during drills, training, and other radio communication
exercises, to get accustomed to wearing one. Yes, they might look a little pretentious, and maybe
even a bit silly. But if you can overcome those feelings by using your vest periodically, you might
also come to realize that people will view you as somebody who has some answers, and can help them
in their hour of need.
The most important person in the world [link
Who IS the most important person in the world?
You personally might not feel you're all that important, especially compared with, say, the
President of the United States, or the leader of a highly respected religious organization,
or even your daughter. But if your immediate task is to keep any of those people safe, and
your own safety has been compromised to the point where you're injured, unconscious, or
deceased, how will you accomplish that task? You're not going to do them much good if you've
placed your own health or life in danger.
As difficult as it might be for many of us to face, our own safety is our first priority,
above that of everybody else. Most of us are born with an internal moral compass that seems
to contradict that priority, out of duty or love, and we might even secretly tell ourselves
that we intend to obey that compass, no matter the circumstances. But remember that you might
also do so at the peril of the very ones you're hoping to protect.
Even though you likely have a lot of radio skill in your back pocket, be sure that it's safe
for you to climb the stairs following an earthquake, or to help an unconscious person lying
near a downed power line, or enter a room full of coughing people. Be alert for danger signs
that warn you of an unsafe situation, so that you don't become one of the victims, possibly
rendering your aid and skills useless. Look for standing water, broken glass, the smell of
gas, arcing or flashing lights, and creeking building structures. If there's ever any doubt,
either get another person's opinion (you shouldn't be alone anyway, if at all possible), or
don't approach the situation.
You want to help; after all, that's why you're listening to this. Just make sure you
do what you reasonably can for your own safety first, so that you can effectively
help others. Once your own safety is assured, you can be the means of helping or saving
Protocol training topics
Emergency training topics
What kind of grab-and-go bag [link
When you need to leave your home in a hurry, you'll also need to take with you as much as you
can reasonably carry in a grab-and-go backpack, to free up your arms to do other tasks.
But the kind of backpack you get might not help you as much as you'd like if you select one
that doesn't have the features to accommodate your needs. The two biggest backpack concerns
are typically size and utility.
You'll want your backpack to be large enough to hold everything you need in a grab-and-go bag,
such as clothing, food, water, first-aid, toiletries, flashlight, batteries, and hundreds of
other things that are important to you. But if you get one that's too large, you might be
tempted to over-fill it, and the pack can become awkward and difficult to carry. One thing to
think about is whether your backpack is large enough to expand outward from your body, rather
than just upward (taller.)
The word utility refers to your pack's usefulness. If possible, your backpack should
contain multiple full-sized storage spaces and plenty of large and small pockets. It should also
have plenty of hooks, straps, or other means of attaching items to the exterior of your pack,
such as those on a
or tactical style backpack.
Other useful features you might want to consider in a grab-and-go backpack are hydration bladder
and hose, plastic (rather than metal) zippers, carrying handle, adjustable straps, strap hooks,
chest straps, rubber or plastic feet (to set it down without wearing it out), in-pack frame,
back padding, bottom hooks or straps (to attach underneath, like a tent or sleeping bag / pad),
water resistance, cover or hood, outer webbing or mesh pockets, side pockets (for your water
bottle or other), hidden pockets, locking waistband, double-stitching, and zippered expansion.
Finally, you'll need to decide where to store your grab-and-go backpack, which might actually help
you decide what kind to get. Place your pack in a coat closet near your front door or other exit,
where you believe you'll most likely leave from your home if you need to. This allows you the
convenience of checking and re-stocking your bag regularly right in your home. Some place it in
their garages for the same reason, because they plan to escape by vehicle. Still others keep their
backpacks inside their vehicles at all times. Just some food for thought.
What should belong in your grab-and-go bag [link
Every person should have two things they have stashed near an exit-way in the event of a true
disaster during which they might need to evacuate: a 72-hour kit and a grab-and-go bag. Some
folks are resourceful enough to figure out how to combine these, but most of us are not. The
72-hour kit should contain everything we need to sustain life away from home for
72 hours, including water, water purifier, food, medicine, toiletries, TP, blankets, first-aid
kit, flashlight, headlamp, batteries, candles, lighter, raincoat, and dry change of clothing.
The grab-and-go bag should contain your CERT vest, CERT helmet, radio, antenna,
radio, batteries, tools, paper forms, pens, markers, non-latex gloves, work gloves, emergency
tent, emergency sleeping bag, and wipes. One thing that can make all of this easier to haul is
a collapsible wagon, assuming your disaster terrain is flat enough for one. And if you do have
a wagon, I would add a portable toilet.
With all of this, you're minimally prepared to serve your community in a CERT capacity. But
let's take a look at the radio you've packed in your grab-and-go bag. First, is your radio
already programmed with useful frequencies? These should include the following:
Finally, your radio batteries needs to be alkaline, not rechargeable. Store your pre-programmed
radio with a disconnected sled of alkaline batteries and a disconnected
or telescopic antenna.
your area simplex frequency (mine is 147.480 MHz)
your city simplex frequency (mine is 145.770 MHz)
several local ragchew repeater frequencies (ours are 146.760- MHz, 146.780- MHz)
your local ARES repeater frequencies (ours is 147.340+ MHz)
your ERC repeater frequency (mine is 147.020+ MHz)
146.520 MHz, the National 2-meter Simplex frequency
a local weather frequency (ours is 162.550 MHz)
KSL-FM 102.7 (the designated state emergency broadcast frequency)
many like to program local police frequencies, but no real need for that, especially since most radios can't be programmed to them.
How to answer a call for help [link
As a CERT member, you know that your community service is very needed when there's an incident
or emergency. You've been trained on really valuable skills, like Triage, Minor Medical,
Light Search and Rescue, and the Incident Command System, all of which can help save lives
when your help is needed. One thing we don't always get much training on, however, is how to
answer a call for help.
First, when you hear a request for assistance, you might not recognize it as a call for help.
That's because you're listening for a smooth, trained voice who's used to talking on ham radio.
The person on the other end might actually sound frantic, high-pitched, and hyperventilated.
It'll take everything you've got to remain calm, even if the other person isn't.
Second, the other person might not have ever heard of a call sign, let alone have a license.
It'll be up to you to ask the other person a few questions, to help keep him focused, to keep
him talking to you as long as you could, until help arrives, if it does. Ask what his or her
name is, call him by his name every chance you get. A person tends to feel more calm, assured,
and like you're really listening, when you repeat his or her name often.
Third, find out about his environment, whether he's in a safe place. Is he alone, or are there
others nearby? Are they alright? How old is he or she? If it's a child, where are the parents?
Are there power lines down near him? Does he smell gas? Is there broken glass on the floor near
him? Is there water on the floor or spraying in the air? Are the lights on?
Finding out as much information as you can will help in three ways: it'll provide the caretakers
(like police or fire or parents) more info to assess, it'll help calm the other person, and
surprisingly, it'll help calm you as well. There's often a lot of talk about protecting privacy,
but when a child's life is in danger, the child's privacy is probably not the first priority.
Your emergency gathering place [link
When disaster strikes, it's helpful to know that you can gather with others at a temporary
physical location, for help with your needs, to help with their needs, for information, and
for moral support, even when it's not necessary to evacuate. There's comfort in knowing that
others nearby understand what you're going through, and might be able to vocalize what you
yourself are thinking. Depending on the situation, it might not always be practical or even
possible for a group of people to gather at one specific location, but if it is, you
should. Of course, that opens up a lot of questions, like where you should gather,
where to go if your meeting place is no longer accessible, and who determines all of that.
Predetermined gathering place
To keep things simple, you should have a place to gather near your home, and another near
your work place or school.
For your home location, approach somebody in a neighborhood leadership position,
such as your bishopric if you're LDS, or your Association if you live in an HOA.
Ask them where you could gather during an emergency. Many will never have thought
about it until you've brought it up.
If neither of these apply to your situation, you take the leadership role,
designate a reasonable gathering place, and inform those in your neighborhood. The
Block Captian program provides some suggestions for grouping, but they're primarily
for the accounting of people, and they tend to favor sheltering in place rather than
gathering as neighbors.
Approach your employer or school official, and ask about an emergency evacuation plan,
including an outside location where people can gather.
Unplanned place to gather
Some situations require some quick thinking and a little pre-planning on your part, such as
when you're shopping or traveling. When a disaster strikes, it might be up to you to designate
a safe place to gather. People will find a little peace-of-mind, knowing that somebody
has taken the initiative to do something for their safety. If another person steps up
and devises a plan or location different from the one you had proposed, unless it's clearly
dangerous, use your leadership skills in a different way by supporting the other person,
instead of insisting that your way is the right way or the only way to
Make a contingency plan
In the event that your primary home, work, or school gathering place becomes inaccessible for
one reason or another, it's often wise to ask about or pursue a secondary meeting location.
Downed tree limbs or power lines, broken-up roads, flooded landscapes, or even pathways that
have been barricaded for emergency vehicles, might prevent you and your neighbors from collecting
at your predetermined meeting place. Have a Plan B in mind, just in case.
What to take with you
Keeping in mind that this gathering place is temporary, but somewhat close to home or work
or school, there are a few things you might want with you, but you don't want to go overboard
either. Here are some ideas (smartphone and keys to your home and vehicle are assumed):
Your grab-and-go bag, which might include bandages, water, toilet paper,
lighter, headlamp, and batteries
Warm clothing and jacket
Laptop with important documents and passwords
Your handheld radio, programmed with important frequencies, such as your
and the most popular local
If you have the time and luxury, toys and games for the little ones, mementos (such
as photographs, jewelry, and sentimental keepsakes), snacks to tie you over for awhile
Your two-minute warning [link
You hear a loud knock at your door, Fire department...you have two minutes to leave
your house! In the November 2019 issue of Reader's Digest, several homeowners
those very words
during the devastation of the July 2018 fire that ravaged houses in a suburb of Redding,
California, in which more than 38,000 were forced to evacuate their homes. If you had only
two minutes to leave your home and property, what would you take with you?
People and animals first
Your first concern is for the people in your household, and then your animals. Your animals
can be domesticated pets, work animals, or livestock. Plan a way for people and animals to
escape quickly. Take into account age and disabilities, and how long it will take to evacuate
people who might need extra assistance.
A grab-and-go bag is essential
Stored in a closet right by your front door is your grab-and-go bag, which contains
all the personal and family items you had planned for an evacuation just like this, long
ahead of time. You've stored away bandages, water, toilet paper, over-the-counter medicine,
lighter, headlamp, batteries, clothing, ham radio, and other things you and your family need.
The convenience of such a bag cannot be overstated, since all your essentials can be picked
up in that bag and taken with you in seconds. Remember to rotate out expired medicines and
perishables every six or so months.
Maintain a communication method
Taking your smartphone with you goes without saying; it's going to be your primary lifeline
to the rest of the world. In a widespread disaster, however, cell towers become easily
overloaded, so you need to have a backup plan, which should include ham radio. Be sure to
take a handheld ham radio with you as you evacuate your property. And if you've already
stashed one in your grab-and-go bag, that's one less thing to think about taking with you.
Other important items to take along
Here are some things to think about:
Keys to your house and vehicle
Warm clothing and jacket
Laptop with important documents and passwords
Cash, credit cards, other forms of payment
If you have the time and luxury, toys and games for the little ones, mementos (such
as photographs, jewelry, and sentimental keepsakes), snacks to tie you over for awhile
You'll probably have a lot more than two minutes
In a widespread disaster, such as the California wildfire just mentioned, you and your
family will most likely have known about the quickly moving flames, how close they were to
your place, and the ensuing general evacuation order, long before the two-minute warning is
sounded. If you haven't already collected the things you need for your evacuation, those
warnings alone should give you a chance to re-adjust your priorities and start gathering
your needed items. And if this training topic will do any good at all, it'll help you get
a start on that list of items today, plenty of time before any such disaster has occurred.
Make use of the ERC [link
No matter where you live in the US and many other parts of the world, you'll often find that a
local religious body has organized aid for its members and their neighbors in the event of a
widespread disaster. Nearly all of these include a communication plan, known as Emergency
Response Communications, which allows for two-way information gathering and reporting
with local citizens, regardless of religious affiliation.
In the event of an actual emergency or wide-scale disaster, the ERC might activate
its emergency protocol, connecting local religious leaders with those at a more general or global
level. Their purpose is to report status and accounting of members within the religious
organization, but to also communicate information for those affected within the boundaries of
the ERC reach.
The ERC Net
Most of these ERC groups establish a regular net you can check into, for practice, for
training, and to familiarize you with them by maintaining an open channel of communication. The
predominant faith in the state of Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has set
up ERC nets by roughly county boundaries, centered on what's known as Bishops' Storehouses. The
one for Utah County is the Lindon Bishops' Storehouse, and they've established a regular net
Tuesdays at 8:00 pm on the 147.020+ MHz (100.0 Hz tone) repeater. The ERC also runs an HF net,
but I'm going to omit that one in this discussion, to keep things simple.
How to use the ERC
You can take advantage of the opportunity to use the ERC by asking whether you can check into
their emergency net, or participate in some way. If you're able to participate, inform others
about the net, and check into it yourself and listen for information bulletins, updates, and
instructions. Keep in mind that the team that runs the ERC does not necessarily stock supplies
for you or your neighbors, but they can communicate your need to a leader or team who does.
Find out whether your local ERC is planning to hold a net during a particular drill or simulated
emergency. If you find that they will not activate, try contacting their leadership offline, and
ask them if there's a reason they don't activate during drills. It's possible that they don't have
the manpower, or their equipment is in disrepair, or that they were simply unaware of a particular
exercise. Inform them of the exercise, and invite them to participate, as another avenue of contact,
simulated for an actual event.
The ERC can help
It's very possible that the ERC has connections to relief materials and supplies that the
government might have exhausted, such as food, water, medicine, bedding, living quarters, and light.
In addition, the ERC might be able to get you in contact with a unique source of help: a spiritual
leader. To many, a word of comfort, an ordinance or ritual, or even a scripture or prayer, can go
a long way to help many remain calm in an otherwise chaotic time.
Your primary communication line [link
Unless you're face-to-face with the person you need, your primary line of communication should
be your smartphone. Yes, ours is a craft, a net, and a training that concentrates on ham radio,
but with all of that focus, it's easy to sideline the most important tool at our disposal. Your
smartphone should be the first device you turn to, for communication during an incident.
A smartphone contains features, apps, and built-in abilities that are unrivaled in any other
device, and I'd like to mention a few of them, as they apply to emergency communication. These
include a phone book, a note pad, a flashlight, GPS, and so much more. The trick is knowing how
to use them at a moment's notice.
Try calling first
Once disaster strikes, and it's convenient, use your smartphone to call somebody. If you or a
person nearby is injured or in immediate danger, call 911. If you're not in immediate danger,
call a friend or a co-worker or a clergy member. After that, call your out-of-state contact, if
you believe the incident is large enough, like an earthquake or flood or chemical spill. Your
call might not go through, but you need to try.
Try texting next
You might find that twenty thousand others are trying to use the cell towers in your city the
same time as you. Even though you show five full bars, your fully charged phone might seem to be
dead. If it does, your next step is to resort to texting those same people. Your voice call
requires quite a lot of bandwidth, and cellular systems will quickly limit connections if they
get overloaded, and they tend to get overloaded quite easily. Your text message will often get
through when voice calls cannot.
Learn to take notes with your smartphone
Your smartphone will typically have a built-in app for taking notes. Learn how to quickly bring
up the app and begin jotting down information. You might want to record the date, the time, any
injuries, people's names and phone numbers, contact information, and more. If you need to
communicate this to EMS, they might ask you about vitals, such as bleeding, breathing, heart rate,
and awareness. The information you note can be stored on your smartphone for quite a long time.
Those of us who have had training in ARES, CERT, and AUXCOMM know of the numerous forms that need
to be filled out and submitted for one reason or another. Chances are, you won't have any of those
paper forms when an incident happens, but you can still note the same information on your
Take notes by email
One handy way to take notes on your smartphone is by opening an email app, as though you're
composing an email to somebody, like to yourself. As long as you've got the email app open, it'll
automatically save the information you've entered so far, even if you don't actually send the email.
This way, if your smartphone battery dies, all your notes are safely stored.
Just like with ham radio, all of this takes practice. Ok, you probably have plenty of practice
making calls and texting, but do you have your out-of-state contact in your phone book? Can you
bring up your notes or email app quickly, and are you pretty handy at using the editors on them? Do
you have a backup battery charger for your smartphone? And finally, be sure you know how to use
your ham radio if you aren't able to get a call or text through.
Other training topics
Radio-related training topics
Setting up a net
at your work place [link
With all the nets that people have, it might be nice to set up a net at work. This way, our
work place could become better prepared for an incident, it might make a good daytime
distraction, and it could be a vehicle to invite others to get licensed. But, like with any
other amateur endeavor, there are rules.
You can indeed hold a weekly net at work, and even invite licensed co-workers to check in, and
even non-licensed folks to look on. But during a drill or an incident, you won't be able to
use ham radio to communicate, because you're getting paid to do so. Not even if you're a
policeman, a fireman, a medic, or even the governor. After hours, there's not a problem,
because you're not getting paid to do ham.
The one exception is if you're teaching ham radio as a paid professional educator. The rules
permit teachers to teach ham radio and get on the air with their students, and still get paid
to do all of this. This falls under incident to classroom instruction and can apply to
other professions if they are also teaching ham radio in a classroom setting during working
So, setting up a regular net at work is good practice, as long as you and your co-participants
understand that the object is not so you can do ham radio during working hours, unless life
or property is at risk.
Exercise: manually changing frequencies on demand [link
Note to Net Control (or whomever is presenting this training): before your net starts,
research two frequencies that you can use for this training. Locate one that's
coordinated as a simplex frequency
(this training uses 147.600 MHz as a placeholder) but not
scheduled to be used
during the time of your net. Locate another frequency, one that's
coordinated as a repeater output frequency
(this training uses 147.220 MHz as a placeholder), but not being used by a repeater accessible
in your area.
Every so often, you might find out that you need to change frequencies on your radio,
especially to one that's not already programmed into it. This can happen because you're
traveling to an unexpected location, because all the stations you have programmed are
busy, or because Net Control has asked you to change to a particular frequency during a
drill or incident. For these and other reasons, it's good practice to know how to manually
change to an unprogrammed frequency.
Now that check-ins have been taken on this net, I'm going to ask everybody to change to
another frequency, then I'll ask for you to check in again. Once check-ins are completed
on that frequency, we'll return to this one, our home frequency, where I'll ask
for you to check in once more. I'll then ask you repeat that process on yet another frequency
that might cause some to stumble. At the end, we'll all return to our home frequency and
take a final check-in and conclude the training.
On your home frequency : Everybody please change frequency to
147.600 MHz simplex. KI7ABC, QSY to 147.600.
On 147.600 MHz : This is KI7ABC, Net Control for the blah
net. Please go ahead and check in now.
On 147.600 MHz, once check-ins are complete : Thanks, everybody,
for your check-ins. Please now change back to the net frequency. This is KI7ABC,
QSY to blah.
On your home frequency : This is KI7ABC, Net Control for the blah
net. Please go ahead and check in now.
On your home frequency, once check-ins are complete : Thanks, everybody,
for your check-ins. Please now change frequency to 147.220 MHz simplex. Note that this
is recognized by many radios as a repeater frequency, which might require you to force
your radio into simplex mode when you change to this frequency. This is KI7ABC,
QSY to 147.220.
On 147.220 MHz : This is KI7ABC, Net Control for the blah
net. Please go ahead and check in now.
On 147.220 MHz, once check-ins are complete : Thanks, everybody,
for your check-ins. Please now change back to the net frequency. This is KI7ABC,
QSY to blah.
On your home frequency : This is KI7ABC, Net Control for the blah
net. Please go ahead and check in now, one last time.
On your home frequency, once check-ins are complete : Thanks, everybody,
for your check-ins.
This training item was not meant to humiliate you, but to give you a little practice on
manually changing frequencies at a moment's notice. If you find yourself in a difficult
situation that requires radio contact, knowing how to manipulate your radio can keep you in
contact, or maybe even be a life-saver.
Keeping your devices cool in summer [link
One day last summer the temperature outside hit a hundred degrees again. And as the
mercury rose, I started to think about the poor devices cooking in my car. Even with
the windows cracked and shades over my dash, it's a veritable oven in there. So,
when summer creeps up on us, how can we keep our sensitive electronic devices safe
from the heat?
One obvious way to keep our radios, GPSs, phones, MP3 and DVD players, and other
gear from roasting is by removing them and taking them inside, where it's typically
a lot cooler. But that's not always practical, especially if you have a lot of stuff
in your car, and especially if some of it's installed permanently. What if I run my
A/C the entire time I'm out of the car? I don't think so.
I used to carry handheld radios in my car, and then put them under my seat when I
left my vehicle, but remembering to do that's a chore, and I often forgot. These days
I no longer stow handy-talkies in my car, because I have a mobile radio. And my mobile
radio has a separated control head, so that most of my radio is in back, out of direct
sunlight, while my control head is mounted up front on my dash. I still have to keep
the control head cool, so I need to remember and put up my sunshield when I get out
of the car.
But not everybody can afford a mobile radio, especially one that comes with a detachable
control head, although most new models do have that feature nowadays. So, what's the
best solution? I suspect there are as many good ideas as there are listeners, so I'd
like to hear your thoughts. How do you keep your electronic gear safe from the
Keeping your equipment clean [link
About three Field Days ago, I learned a valuable lesson. It was very warm and a little dusty,
so that when a breeze kicked up, some of the dust blew into the screen tent I set up for our
GOTA (Get On The Air) station. Didn't think it was much of a problem at the time; I just wiped
down whatever dust landed on my rig, tuner, power supply, the table, and our station was good
to go. That is, until I got home.
At first, the big VFO (tuning) knob on my HF rig seemed to grind just a bit, then it became more
difficult to turn, and finally it froze altogether. After taking the knob apart, I discovered
that the bearings had become full of dust, so I cleaned it out. But my cleaning job wasn't very
professional, and after several laborious days and $40 later, I ended up replacing the knob.
I had learned my lesson, expensive in terms of both time and money.
Dirt and oils
Most of us don't spend a lot of time cleaning our radio equipment, which is not normally a problem.
But over time, dust, oils from our hands, dirt, and other unsavory substances collect on our
equipment due to use, which is a good problem to have; I would rather see my radios get dirty
from being operated, than collect dust by sitting on some shelf. So, try and protect your radio
gear from excessive exposure to dusty environments, if possible. Within reason, clean your hands
before picking up your microphone.
I wouldn't actually say I'm a germophobe, but I'm a little leary of using other people's cell
phones and placing my hand on restroom door handles. You likely believe that you're relatively
germ-free, but others might not share your belief, and would rather not touch your equipment
until they feel it's been wiped down a bit. Back to Field Day, I kept a canister of disinfecting
wipes near my GOTA station equipment, in case people want to wipe the microphone or mic stand
or even the face of my rig, before they started using it.
One day I purchased a used desk microphone, only to open the box and fill my room with smells of
bourbon, gin, and beer. When Billy Joel said his microphone smelled like a beer, I now know what
he was talking about. That made for an interesting guessing game, but it was no fun to clean,
having to take it apart and even throw the metallic housing and base into the dishwasher. You
might not think that you actually spit on (or into) your microphone, but in fact you do that and
more. It's another good reason to talk across your mic face rather than puff directly into it.
One word of caution, however. Most equipment manuals state that you should only use water with
mild soap to clean your hardware You might want to test a spot of your display, for example,
before cleaning the entire rig with some disinfecting wipes or harsh chemical.
Personal training topics
Protocol training topics
Announce that you're portable
when traveling [link
Eventually, you're going to find yourself traveling. And when you do, I hope you find the
occasion to bring along a little ham. As in, radio. Whether that's a handy-talkie or a mobile
unit, it's a good idea to take something with you. Turns out that, most of the time, people who
bring their radios with them on vacation never use them. But you never know when one might come
In another training topic, we discussed how to locate and connect to various repeaters as
you're traveling from one place to another. And we want to connect with repeaters because
that's where the majority of active hams hang out. But now, let's mention something that might
get the attention of people who are monitoring
these repeaters. And you want to get their attention because, for every ham who's
actively monitoring or using the repeater, there are dozens of others listening in.
These good folks just leave their radios on and tuned to the local repeater, while they eat,
work, exercise, clean, or even watch TV. A few even keep their radios on when they sleep,
which I don't recommend, because of how it might disrupt your deep sleep cycle. At that moment,
when many might be listening, but nobody's talking on the repeater, say your call sign,
followed by portable 7 and see what happens, as in
This is KI7ABC, portable 7
Experienced hams might be tempted to pick up their microphones and respond, asking whether
you're traveling, and where you're from. Most new hams have never heard of this, and might
ask you what the heck you're talking about. (Because when you travel near home, like within
your own county, you typically say, This is KI7ABC, mobile)
The term portable simply means that you're traveling away from home, that you're
transmitting with a portable radio. The 7 means you're from the 7 Calling Area,
which is none other than the contiguous states of Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada,
Oregon, and Washington. The 7 Calling Area means that, when you first get licensed, and you register
a mailing address with the FCC from within one of these eight states, you'll automatically be
assigned a call sign with the numeral 7 in it, like KI7ABC.
So, announcing portable 7 on the air is kind of fun. If you're traveling outside
the 7 Calling Area, people can recognize that you're from out of town. Yet if you're
traveling within the 7 Calling Area, it might seem pointless, but you'll find that it's
still a fun QSO-starter. Besides, if you ever get in trouble where there's no cell, grabbing
the attention of a few friends might come in real handy.
How to handle a bootlegger, and more [link
One day you might be listening on a repeater, and hear somebody come on the air, possibly
announcing that he wants to know if this thing works, and whether there is anybody listening.
It might become obvious that the person is unlicensed. Back in *the day* this unlicensed person
using a ham radio frequency was called a bootlegger. So, how do you answer a call like
that? And, should you?
According to the rules, it's clear that we're prohibited from communicating with anybody on
an amateur frequency if we know the other party is unlicensed. Still, there are exceptions.
Such as, when the other person's life is in danger, or he's involved in some other emergency.
We can communicate with an unlicensed person if he's in the presence of a person who does
have a license, like we do during Field Day. Also, we're authorized to communicate with him
for the purpose of explaining how to get licensed, or directing him to a club meeting. In
any case, you should still be kind and respectful, and not jump to any conclusions.
One way to answer a bootlegger is by being friendly, and asking for his call sign. And if
he doesn't have one, that's not the time to berate him or rehearse the rules. Let him know
that you and he are using a ham radio, and that you have a license to use such a
device. Then tell him he can easily get a license of his own, and that you'd be happy to help
him learn how to get one, if he's interested.
Bootlegger : Hello. Is anybody out there?
You : Hello, my name is Nancy. What's yours?
Bootlegger : My name is Harold. I got this walkie-talkie from my grandpa, and I thought
I would try it out.
You : Well, that's really nice of your grandpa to give it to you. We call it ham radio,
and I have a license to use one of these. My call sign is KI7ABC. What's your call sign?
Bootlegger : Um, I'm not sure.
You : If you're interested in getting a license to use this radio, I'd be happy to help
you find out more about a good website and how to take the exam, to get licensed.
At that point, the unlicensed person will either get the clue that he needs to get off the
air, or pursue a license. Either way, you've explained how he could get licensed if he wanted
to go that direction, you've satisfied the rules, and you were a terrific example of how
friendly a typical ham radio operator is. Should the unlicensed person ever decide to get a
license, he'll most likely remember your positive and helpful conversation. Win-win-win.
Ok, there's more. How would you handle a deliberate or malicious kerchunker? Maybe somebody
who not only keys up momentarily, but might take an opportunity to play a short music clip
on the air, broadcast arbitrary animal sounds, or blurt out an obscenity? This kind of
interference tends to make our blood boil, but if we come on the air and chew out the person
or tell him he's doing something illegal, he'll most likely have achieved his cheap thrills
from provoking you into making an angry outburst. So, what can you do about that one?
Probably the best thing you can do is ignore him; change to a different frequency or turn
off the radio. Sometimes he's difficult to ignore, especially if he constantly attempts to
key up over your conversation with somebody. But if you really want to engage him, you should
still remain friendly and be the mature one. Don't criticize his behavior, don't call him names,
and don't lie to him, by telling him that the police is coming after him, for example. You can
Bootlegger : <buzz>...<pop>...<kerchunk>
You : Hello, this is Nancy, KI7ABC. Can I help you with anything?
Bootlegger : <kerchunk>
You : Just so you'll know, this is called ham radio, and I can tell you how you can get
licensed to use one of these things.
Bootlegger : <thhhptptpt>
You : Well, just let me know. We have friends who can help you get started, if you like.
Good luck. KI7ABC.
It's unfortunate that we sometimes have to face situations like these, but in every case,
keep your cool and be kind and friendly. You never know...it's possible that the person
making those weird sounds might actually be calling for help, and is simply experiencing a
How to handle somebody interrupting your net [link
You're in the middle of your weekly net, and somebody who's not participating in your net
decides to try engaging a friend of his on your net frequency, and calls out for him. Or worse,
during a real emergency, a person comes on your net frequency and asks what's going on, and
whether this is a net. What's the best way to handle such an intruder to your net?
This very thing occurred a couple of years ago during the Provo Freedom Festival parade, which
was already under way. The parade communication was well-organized, involving three dozen ham
operators and others. Then, during the parade net we all heard the following dialogue, as near
as we can recollect:
Outsider : This is KI7ABC, I hear people talking about asking for reports. Is everything
What a terrific example of understanding, helpfulness, and maturity! The participant didn't order
the outsider off the air, didn't scold him, and wasn't rude to him. Instead, he briefly
explained what the net was for, and how to learn more, and in a polite way.
Participant : Hello, I'm KI7XYZ, and this is a net for the Provo Freedom Festival parade.
May I help you with something?
Outsider : Oh, sorry, I didn't know. Can anybody check in to this net?
Participant : If you first report to Net Control at 950 N University Avenue, they can help
you with that.
Outsider : Oh, ok. KI7ABC
Participant : KI7XYZ
Always assume that the person who's interrupting your net, is doing so innocently. Most will
gladly vacate the frequency when told that a net is in progress. No matter what the intruder says
or how he says it, remain calm, kind, and unreactive to his comments.
So, what if the outsider doesn't vacate your net, after you've kindly informed him? As much as
possible, carry on with your net the same as you were previously. It's not your job to be the
net police, and you've already done what you could to help the outsider, politely. Finally,
keep in mind the possibility that the interrupting station might be asking for help, but is
nervous and doesn't know how.
How to make a general announcement without broadcasting [link
In amateur radio, each ham transmits a communication to one other person in a
two-way exchange between two people. Then again, there are occasions when one might want to
communicate a message to more than one person, and there are several legal ways to accomplish
that. Most of us know that the rules are clear about broadcasting, which is the
one-way transmission intended for the general public. What's not always clear, however,
are the exceptions to the broadcasting rule, and there are indeed exceptions.
This training topic is not intended to help you violate the rules, but to learn how to get
a message out to multiple people within amateur rules. For example, you're permitted to transmit
to the general public in an emergency, meaning that life or property is in
immediate danger. Here are other exceptions:
Calling out to make a contact
The rules say that it's permissible to call out to many others, if your intention
is to establish a one-on-one contact.
Hello, this is KI7ABC...is anybody available to chat?
or if you're on single sideband, like you would typically be on HF (please, not on FM,
like on a repeater)
CQ! CQ! CQ! This is KI7ABC. CQ!
Calling out to gather people for a net
It's also permissible to call out to many others, if you're getting their attention in
order to start a net or other on-air activity, like a contest, a QSO party, or special
QST! QST! QST! Attention all hams! The net will start in five minutes.
Redirecting listeners to another frequency
At times, it might be necessary to direct their attention to another frequency.
Attention all hams! Please change frequency to 146.520 MHz simplex for
or, if you're attempting to redirect a subset of listeners
Everybody who's part of the preparedness project, please change frequency
to 146.540 MHz simplex, to avoid interfering with the city net, which is
already in progress.
Making a public announcement or warning
It's not permissible to make public announcements, because your communication
must be one-on-one, so simply make the announcement to one person. In this example,
it's not actually known by the caller that KI7DEF is on the road; it's only necessary
that he or she is listening:
This is KI7DEF. Go ahead.
Just wanted to make sure you're aware of a crash on north-bound I-15
near Lehi Main Street. Looks like about a mile of delays, but you can
avoid that by getting off at Pleasant Grove.
Roger that. Thanks for the heads up! KI7DEF
So, while it's not legal to broadcast a non-emergent message to the general public,
there are legal ways to get a message out to more than one person on the air.
How to perform a Final 7-3
When a beloved ham passes away, many find it awkward to say something about the person on
the air, and so we tend to avoid mentioning anything about the now silent key. You
might instead want to honor him or her by a small ritual called the Final 7-3.
It's an on-air ceremony that's an imitation of the way police and public safety do it. Here's
a recommended version, all spoken by a single person (Net Control, who is KI7XYZ), often as
part of a roll-call net, or sometimes during an appropriate moment in a funeral
service (it's traditional for all to stand.)
Key up, and say the following slowly, clearly, and reverently (in
In honor of our good friend, John Doe KI7ABC, who is now silent key
<un-key, then pause three seconds>
KI7ABC, John Doe
<un-key, then pause three seconds>
KI7ABC, John Doe
<un-key, then pause three seconds>
No contact. John Doe, KI7ABC, silent key. May you rest in peace.
And that's it.
Emergency training topics
What frequency to listen to, when you're
the victim [link
You want to be as helpful as you can be when the need arises, to render some assistance to
others. But what if you were the person who needs the help? No doubt you've learned about
and prepared many things to be self-sufficient during a critical moment, including with
communication. So, what frequencies should you tune to during an incident, especially if cell
towers become damaged or otherwise unavailable? Here are some suggested ones, roughly in order:
Your Area frequency if you're near your home neighborhood. Your Area is
the geographical location defined by local religious leaders. And you know your Area
frequency because it's the one that's held weekly by the predominant faith, and you
don't have to be a member of the faith to participate. You should be able to locate
yours on noji.com/nets.
Your City frequency if you're within your home city, and is one of those
used by your city during a city-wide drill
Your ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) repeater frequency. For Utah
County, that's 147.340+ MHz (100.0 Hz tone).
your ERC (Emergency Response Communications) repeater frequency. For the Lindon
Bishops' Storehouse (Utah County), that's 147.020+ MHz (100.0 Hz tone).
The National Simplex Frequency, which is 146.520 MHz, and part of
(for the 70 cm band, it's 446.000 MHz)
The designatd statewide FM broadcast emergency channel, which for Utah
is KSL, 102.7 MHz and 1160 kHz
Any or all of several police, sheriff, fire, and EMS (emergency medical services)
frequencies, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
154.860 MHz : North Utah County Sheriff
156.135 MHz : South Utah County Sheriff
153.950 MHz : Utah County Public Safety
155.235 MHz : Utah County Search and Rescue
851.600 MHz : Utah Public Safety (fire, EMS, police, chopper, ambulance)
Finally, and possibly counter-intuitive, be sure to program your radios with a few ragchew
repeater frequencies. That is, frequencies of the nearest repeaters that are the most
often used. For Utah County those would likely be 146.760- MHz, 146.780- MHz
(100.0 Hz tone), and 146.620- MHz. If you're in need of help, and call out on one of
these repeaters, chances are fairly good that somebody will be monitoring and will answer your
call for help.
How to call out for help [link
When you're in real trouble, calling out for help could mean life or death for you or the people
with you. And knowing how to get people's attention to obtain that help isn't always obvious.
Use your phone to call for help
Your phone will be your primary lifeline in most cases. When you find your life, health, or
property in immediate danger, call 911. There are times when a phone call might not be available
to help you, because many others are calling for help the same time as you. In that case, try
texting for help; texts will often get through an overloaded cell tower when a call will not.
Use your radio to call for help
If your phone battery is dead, or cell service becomes unavailable, resort to radio. When you
really need help right away, hopefully you'll have your grab-and-go bag handy, and it'll contain
your ham radio. And if you've managed to escape by car, hopefully you'll have your ham radio
installed in your vehicle. Here are steps you can take to call for help by radio: (Except for
the call sign, the following are not limited to ham radio, and so can be used on
walkie-talkies, CB, and
radio types as well.)
Listen on your Area frequency (if you're near home), City frequency, and Emergency
frequency, for a net or communication already in progress. (Your Area frequency is typically
organized by your local religious body or geographic area of citizens. Your Emergency
frequency is organized by the county ARES group, but can also be the National Simplex
Frequency, if you're following the
At an appropriate moment, break into the ongoing net or conversation and announce that
you have a problem that needs to be addressed immediately
If you don't hear any communication taking place on any of your frequencies, set your radio
to scan all the frequencies in memory. When the radio stops on a valid conversation,
go back to Step 2.
If all else fails, change your radio to your Area, City, or Emergency frequency, and say
"This is KI7ABC, and I need help right away."
"This is KI7ABC. Could somebody help me right away?"
"This is KI7ABC. Could somebody get me an ambulance right away?"
Avoid using the words "emergency" or "break", since many hams are too used to equating these
words with drills or simulated exercises, even though they're reserved for true emergencies.
Use any means at your disposal to call for help
If you're experiencing a true emergency, you can do just about anything relatively safely to get
the attention of others, especially those who can access the help you need.
When deciding to use any means at your disposal, make sure you balance how much of a danger
you're in, with reason. Use your head, and keep safety first in your mind, in spite of the
adrenaline coursing through your veins.
Make a loud noise with these (three times, wait five seconds, then repeat)
banging metal, such as pots
anything else to grab attention, such as a loudspeaker
Post signs, ideally in large, red print
Send a runner to get help
If you're outdoors, clear the area, then set three fires spaced evenly apart in a line
Smoke signals (do you know how to do this? it has nothing to do with Morse code)
Anything else? Use your creativity safely.
What solar-powered solution is best for portable use [link
There might come a time when you'll need to leave the comforts of your home for longer than
just a day or two. And if you're caught up in a long-term incident, such as an earthquake,
you might not have easy access to electrical power for your radio and other (lighting, phone,
medical devices) needs for several days. It'll be very convenient, therefore, for you to be
able to rely on solar power during daylight hours, even when it's cloudy. So, let's explore
the kinds of equipment you'll need, to accommodate a basic solar setup.
Your solar equipment should be light-weight, sufficient, reliable, and easy to use. I'd like
to add inexpensive, but quality is often compromised as the price of your solar gear
goes down, so the best we can usually hope for is a happy medium we can live with. To best
achieve those goals, here are some solar solutions that might work for you:
Probably the most important parameter of a solar panel is its output wattage. Other factors,
such as weight and rigid or flexible frame are also important, but make sure you get a panel
or set of interconnected panels that can provide you with the power you need. For a basic VHF /
UHF radio, lighting, and cell phone needs, I recommend no less than a total of 80 watts,
preferably 100 watts. A high-quality solar panel will also maintain a high output during cloudy
or even overcast days.
A charge controller is a device that regulates the rate of current flow through
(and often the voltage level presented to) your battery, to prevent damaging your battery,
while providing sufficient charge rate for it. Many modern solar panels have charge controllers
built onto them. An MPPT
charge controller will charge your battery to its maximum capacity by automatically monitoring
that battery's charge level without the need of manual monitoring. Your charge controller
input voltage should match the range supplied by your panels, and its output voltage should
match the range specified by your battery. Also, I highly recommend one that's capable
of handling 20 amps.
Use a battery that's made for solar, especially a sealed battery for portable use. Because of
the daily charge-and-discharge routine, I highly recommend a 12 volt deep-cycle
battery. Be sure your battery voltage matches that of your charge controller output. Battery
capacity is noted by amp-hours (Ah), meaning that it can deliver a steady current for a limited
amount of time. I recommend one that is rated at a minimum of 35 Ah (meaning it can deliver
1 amp of current for 35 hours, or 5 amps for 7 hours, etc.), and preferably more, like 100 Ah.
Typically, however, the larger the battery capacity, the heavier it is, although lighter options
are being developed all the time.
On one hand, the connector of choice between large (home) solar panels is the
but your charge controller might simply require a bare wire for its input from the panel
or output to your battery. For easy and quick connection / disconnection, I recommend
Anderson Powepole™ connectors between your battery and everything it connects to, such as
your charge controller,
power distribution block,
and accessories, such as your USB converter, radio, and lighting.
Before jumping blindly into a solar solution, do some reading, watch some videos, and try
out some gear. Talk with friends who have gone the solar route, and find out what their experience
is, with type of gear, quality, portability, weight, and cost.
Become acquainted with your gear and its limitations. Repeatedly practice hauling it to some
reasonable location out of town, and setting it up. Try charging your phone, running your laptop,
or powering your mobile radio and asking for signal reports as you make contacts. Time yourself,
to see how quickly you can deploy and set it up in case you really need to. Actually using your
solar setup this way will help you understand what it can do and what it can't do,
which is exactly the feedback you need for future improvements.
How to handle a missing parent [link
It might seem more intuitive to ask how to handle a missing child, but that implies you're
searching for a child you haven't met, probably a topic for another day. But in this case,
you've encountered a child who's become separated from the parent, or a child has found you,
while in search of the parent. This means it's the parent who's missing, not the child. Also,
this can apply to an adult with diminished mental capacity. Ok, so, now what do you do?
This training is quite relevant, because we ham radio operators serve during many public events,
such as parades, festivals, marathons, and carnivals, and in each event, more than one child
gets separated from his parent in the crowd. Nearly all of these incidents have ended well,
with the child being successfully reunited with the missing parent. But what could we do, to
ensure a successful reunion?
Contact the authorities
Get on the phone or radio promptly, and let authorities or at least somebody else know that
you're with a child who's been separated from his parent. If it appears that searching for
the child's parents will take longer than a few minutes, and you aren't able to locate the
police just yet, focus on searching for the authorities rather than the parents; you'll waste
a lot more time and effort looking for individuals than for the police, fire, or EMS personnel.
Don't be alone with the child
As quickly as possible, get another person to accompany you with the child. Having multiple
adults in the company of the child helps protect both you and the child. Even the call you
make to the police is a big step toward not being alone with the child. At the same time,
make sure the child is not left alone.
Help reassure the child
As much as you know how, befriend the child. Find out his name, and call him by his name often.
Let him know that you're going to do everything you can, to find his parents or get help. Don't
make up things by saying that everything's going to be alright, or that he'll be with his
parents soon, because you don't know that. Ask him how he feels. One of the best talents you
can muster at a time like this is the ability to listen. Only hold or hug the child if he wants
to be touched; otherwise, avoid contact with him, except an occasional pat on the shoulder or
elbow. Playing a game in an open area with people nearby or with others involved can go a long
way to help calm the child.
Find out what you can from the child
Without pounding the scared youngster with a hundred questions, ask him what his mom's name is,
where he lives, what his favorite food is, what video game he likes to play, as it's appropriate
for his age. If possible, find out where he and his parents were, when they got separated,
and what they were doing at the time. Find out how old he is, what school he goes to, what his
teacher's name is. Take note of the child's age, size, and what he's wearing, his eye and hair
Turn over the child intelligently
Before handing the child to a complete stranger, look for clearly open clues that the child
recognizes the parent. Get the parent's name and address and number, then report all the
details you can, to the police or other proper authorities. You have no right to restrain
the child in the presence of his parents, and the parents have probably been worried sick
looking for him, so this moment can be a little awkward for all of you.
How all of this turns out will often result from you using good judgment, and every child
and situation is different from the next. The good news is that you were there, right when
a child needed you. Neither the child nor his parents will likely remember what you did for
them, but you probably will.
How to get involved with ARES [link
If you're interested in using both your radio and your brain to help out with local emergencies,
in a group that already has a training regimen and leadership organization in place,
ARES might be for you. They're willing to help you not only learn how to use your
radio and during an incident, but make use of skills you already have, and maybe learn some new
skills. Skills like emergency medical, snow and ice survival, backpacking for rescue, temporary
minimalist living, emergency power, and more.
ARES, or Amateur Radio Emergency Service, is a service organization program of the
ARRL, and consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications
and equipment for communication duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Any licensed
amateur can apply for ARES membership, and neither ARRL affiliation nor posession of special
equipment is required.
ARES members are trained to assist with emergency communication in behalf of local
government (such as the County Sheriff), public service (such as the Red Cross and hospitals),
and relief agencies (such as the LDS Church and Salvation Army), when requested. They can
serve according to their training level, as indicated by their certifications, which are
bestowed by the ARES leadership upon completion of specific training requirements.
An ARES team can become activated by order of the Public Safety or other emergency
personnel in charge, through the ARES leadership. Once activated, ARES members are notified
of their assignments and duties, but participation is voluntary. Those who are able and
willing to participate in an activation might be asked to provide specific items, such as a
a pickup truck, batteries, or gasoline, if it's available to you. The ARES leadership then
asks the volunteers to show up at a particular command post or Emergency Operations Center
for further instructions.
ARES typically recruits their members from within a geographical boundary, many of them within
a specific county. Any licensed amateur is eligible for ARES participation, and can apply for
membership with the local ARES leadership. To apply in Utah County, visit
and download the ARES Membership form, and submit the completed form to the local ARES leadership.
For Salt Lake County, visit
scroll down to Join ARES and click
Most ARES teams provide weekly training for their members, by holding nets, gatherings, and
simulated emergency exercises. Training topics are often discussed on the regular nets.
Communication and equipment handling proficiency are promoted through certification levels,
which can be achieved through increasing stages of training. Members are informed of special or
unique training opportunities by listening to the nets or attending intreface meetings.
In many locations, ARES teams hold monthly if not weekly nets. These regular on-air check-ins
not only inform members of news and events, but also provide training by presenting a relevant
topic of discussion, and encouraging members to run the net themselves. The Utah County ARES
team holds nets each Tuesday at 9:00 pm on the 147.340+ (100.0 Hz tone) repeater. The Salt Lake
County ARES team helds theirs each Wednesday at 8:30 pm on the 146.700- (100.0 Hz tone) repeater.
As mentioned, one way to learn of important training opportunities and skillset upgrades is by
attending the monthly interface meeting. In Utah County, these are held on the first
Tuesday monthly 7:00 pm at the Utah County Sheriff's Office North Annex in Spanish Fork on
even-numbered months, and the Lehi Fire Station #83 (3870 Traverse Mountain Blvd) on odd-numbered
months. In Salt Lake County, the same meetings are held on the fourth Wednesday monthly 6:30 pm
at the IHC facility (5121 S Cottonwood St) in Murray. Besides online manuals and instruction
materials, ARES also has specialized vehicles at their disposal, outfitted with radios for
different agencies, antennas, and other communication gear.
Once you reach a relatively proficient point in your ARES training and certification, you can
be assigned an appropriate liaison post, which is typically an EOC, or Emergency
Operations Center, located in a hospital, city building, or county facility. When disaster
strikes, and ARES is activated, you might be asked to attend to your voluntary assignment if
you and your family are safe, and it is safe in your judgment for you to travel there and serve.
How to get involved with RACES [link
Many modern forms of communication, including broadcast, two-way, wifi, cell phone, satellite,
television, and more, can trace their roots back to amateur radio. Due to innovations made by
amateurs through the past one hundred-plus years, government and military have been able to
communicate during times when it's most crucial, such as natural disasters, search-and-rescue,
and international conflict. Those sparks of creativity only prompted more experimentation by
amateurs, and the airwaves in the early days of radio became flooded with the trials and errors
of many projects.
At the onset of World War I, it quickly became apparent that the military could not compete
with the huge army of amateur hobbyists for the available radio frequency spectrum. In response,
the US Congress ordered all amateur radio operation to cease. After the end of the War, amateurs
had to fight to get back on the air, but operate they did. Then came World War II, and the
familiar but unfortunate scene happened all over again, with all amateur radio ordered shut down
What is RACES
It was during World War II that the US Congress drafted the War Powers Act of 1941, which
provided for an amateur radio service to continue operating, in spite of the invocation of
the Act and a resulting shutdown of amateur radio by the President of the United States.
Today, this service is known as RACES - the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, and
is governed primarily on the state level. Regular amateurs can apply for RACES credentials,
permitting them to continue operating, but in a RACES capacity, when the President activates
the War Powers Act.
RACES accredits amateurs, conducts nets, holds training, hosts conferences, and more. Its
purpose is to provide a body of proficient communication volunteers who can use their own
equipment, skill, and time to aid with communication during a crisis that's large enough to
warrant the activation of the War Powers Act or other large-scale disaster. Once a person is
accredited, RACES issues a unique number to the person, to be used along with the FCC-assigned
call sign, for identification. Should the War Powers Act become activated, only those with a
RACES number can transmit on amateur frequencies.
Presidential invocation of the Emergency War Powers Act is not the only trigger that can activate
RACES. State governors and Public Safety officials can also activate a RACES operation if they
deem the incident scope to be large enough to warrant the use of amateur communication, because
the official communication infrastructure is inadequate or damaged. During an activation,
Public Safety officials will send out a notification to RACES members, requesting their help
and explaining the scope of the need.
Any amateur whose license has never been suspended can apply to RACES to become accredited,
but they decide who can eventually earn the accreditation. To become part of RACES in the
state of Utah, you must visit the
Utah Department of Public Safety
website and download the
PDF. Fill out the form, sign it, and send it to the address provided. You must agree to a
background check, must not be a convicted felon, and must hold a valid amateur radio license.
Once you're assigned your RACES number, you can check into one of the monthly RACES Nets. In
Utah, the RACES VHF / UHF nets are held at 8 pm of the third Thursday of even-numbered months
on the Intermountain Intertie, Sinbad, Skyline, and other repeater systems, which become linked
together state-wide. The RACES Nets are also held at 8 am of the third Saturday of odd-numbered
months on 3.920 MHz, which is 80 meters, and therefore requires you to hold a General class
license unless you're accompanied by a General or higher licensee. Another aspect of the RACES
nets is that many official government agencies open their EOCs (Emergency Operation Centers)
to allow RACES members to check in from their physical locations.
The Utah Department of Public Safety typically holds brief RACES trainings during the monthly
nets. These are often topics you likely know well, but can also include new or updated
information intended for RACES members. More detailed and in-depth training is held annually
on the first Saturday of November at the State of Utah
and consumes much of the day. The conference training is free-of-charge, often hands-on,
engages most of the attendees, and is very worthwhile.
Your responsibility, your opportunity
On the RACES registration application, you assert that you will ...serve to the best of (your)
ability as requested..., but this is not a military commitment, or anything close. Your
volunteer service is welcome and appreciated, yet optional. Still, being one of a few who can
operate a radio during wartime or other crisis is big, and your service can mean saving lives.
Questions? Ask Noji (KNØJI) Like what you see? Consider a small donation