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.
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Expect to find some information embedded in one topic repeated under another topic
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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.
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.
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
Protocol training topics
Emergency training topics
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. Tactical call signs
represent group names, functions, or geographical locations, such as Medical 3, or
Lookout Point, or Grid 27. They're not the same as your FCC-issued call signs,
and do not replace them, but can be used as shortcuts during an exercise or emergency.
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 have the other party repeat,
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 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."
Personal training topics
Protocol training topics
Emergency training topics
What kind of grab-N-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-N-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-N-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-N-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-N-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 go belong your grab-N-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-n-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-n-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-n-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 and
assured when you repeat his name often.
Third, find out about his environment, whether he's in a safe place. How about others nearby,
or is he alone? 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) enough 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, her privacy is probably not the first priority.
Other training topics
Radio-related training topics
Personal training topics
Protocol training topics
Emergency training topics
Questions? Ask Noji (KNØJI)