Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog. I hope that you have enjoyed what you have read in my previous posts, and I hope that you have shared them with your friends. Last post we talked about Go Packs. That post is going to kind of lead us into our next series of posts where we will be talking about what I feel should be a minimum standard of training that every ham should have before they help out in any kind of event, be it an emergency event like a tornado or hurricane to a local event like a parade or bike race. Some of the stuff we will be talking about is geared more towards the emergency side of things, but it is still good information to know on the local events.
Over the next few posts we will be talking about things like National Incident Management System(NIMS), Net Operating procedures, message handling, How to talk on the radio, storm spotting, and maybe a couple more things. All these things are good information to have so that you know what to expect when you are helping out. Some of this stuff is required before you CAN help out during an emergency. For example, you have to take a storm spotting class before you can help out during a storm, or you have to take a couple NIMS classes before you can help out during a large scale event. DISCLAIMER: Some of this information is only valid for US hams and even then some clubs/counties/organizations, may not require some of this training before helping. That being said, even if some of this training is not required, it can contain very good information that, in my opinion, every ham should know.
I think to start us off on this series, we will talk about general guidelines about how to talk on the radio. These guidelines that I am going to be talking about are general guidelines that we have come up with during our participation in events in our county.
Listening is probably the most important thing that you can do while helping out in any event. This is actually two fold maybe even three. Listening to your radio can answer a lot of questions that you might have. It is possible that someone asked the same question that you are fixing to ask. If you weren’t listening and didn’t hear it, you will be tieing up the net to ask the same question again. Not only does this make you look bad to everyone else on the net but if someone else has traffic that they need to get through and cant because you are using the frequency.
Another way that you need to listen is Listen before you talk. Not only have I been a ham radio operator for nearly 15 years, but I am also a 911 dispatcher for nearly 8 years. I can’t tell you how often I hear one person talking or ask a question and before I can key up someone else says something to me. Most of the time it is because they aren’t listening before they key up not because they have emergency/priority traffic. Sometimes I hear people that will be having a conversation or something on the radio and another station will just key up and say something or try and call someone. A lot of times, and I admit I have done this myself, someone will get into their car and turn on their radio and key up to call someone without listening for a few seconds to make sure that someone else isn’t talking on that frequency already. I use to be bad at this, and I still to this day catch myself doing it every now and then.
Wait before you talk
Another thing that I run into a lot during my time talking on the radio is people quick keying. If you don’t know what this is, it is when you start talking before you press the PTT button or before the repeater kicks in. For example, if I say my callsign on the radio and don’t wait a second or two before you start talking after you press the PTT everyone else will only hear like CLM instead of K5CLM. It isn’t as bad when you are talking on a simplex frequency but if you are talking on a repeater there is an added second or two delay before everyone else will hear you talking. Here is the reasoning behind all this. It takes about half a second for you radio to engaged the transmit of your radio after you press the ptt button, it then sends your signal to the repeater. The repeater receives the signal on the antenna, it travels down however long of a coax, into a duplexer then into the radio, the radio has to do it’s thing of keying its transmitter then back into the duplexer and back up the long coax to the antenna and back out. All this travels at a very high speed so even though it sounds like a lot it really isn’t but there is still a second or two delay before the repeater keys up and it transmits you signal. So a good practice to get into when you talk is to press the PTT and silently count a second or 2 before you start talking.
Here is what I do. If I am driving in my vehicle and I’m talking to someone on the local repeater. As they are talking my mic is down at lap level in case I need to drop it to drive or something. When its my turn to talk, I will press the PTT button while it is still at lap level and bring the mic up to my mouth to talk. This gives me the second or two that it takes to key up the repeater. If it takes longer for me to get it to my mouth than it does to key up the repeater there is just a little bit of silence before everyone else hears me talking so no big deal.
When talking on the radio there are several things that you should remember. When you are talking into your microphone, make sure that you are not over driving your radio. What I mean by this is that don’t talk to close to your mic or talk to loudly. Try to hold you your mic normally about two inches from your mouth when you talk into it also for most radios on the market today you want to talk more across it instead of directly into it. If you talk directly into it, the other end could hear more popping sounds that your mouth makes when pronouncing some letters, like the letter P or T. The more your talk on your radio the better you will know the how your mic works and where to position it to be heard the best, make sure that you do this before an event though.
When you are talking make sure that you are talking clearly and calmly. Raising your voice or shouting can result in in over-modulation and distortion and will not increase volume at the receiving end. Also remember to speak at a normal pace, speaking quickly can result in slurred or unintelligible speech.
Always know where you are!
This is something that you should always know whether you are helping in a disaster or you are calling 911(yea I know, not ham related but since I’m a 911 dispatcher, I got to spread the word about this anyway I can right?). If something happens to you and you need help, but you don’t know where you are, then help doesn’t know where to go to help you.
Also along this line, if you change your location, make sure that you let net control know that you are moving locations. Also at the end of the net or whenever you have to leave the net, make sure that you let someone know. I have had a couple times during my net control experience that I have had someone check into the net and never checked out. Fortunately both times they were found rather quickly. One of those times, it was a deputy that I worked with at the time who is also a ham. He checked into the net but didn’t check out. At the end of the net when we were securing everyone we couldn’t get a hold of him. We finally found him, he was sound asleep in his bed at home.
Think before you speak
This is a good practice to always do but especially during a emergency situation. Always think about what you are going to say before you key up the radio to say it. Also, keep your transmission short and to the point. An emergency net or event isn’t the time to “chew the fat”, say what you need to say and get off the radio. I say this is the nicest way possible. The reason I say this is because you never know if someone else has emergency traffic while you are talking. If you hold the channel open, they cant get through to net control to get the help they need.
Use Plain Language
One thing that has been pushed a lot since 9/11 and the formation of Homeland Security and the NIMS system is the use of plain language. The use of plain language insures that whoever you are talking to understands your meaning. Try not to use slang, 10 codes, q signals or anything like that during an emergency.
Avoid using words and phrases that carry strong emotions. An emergency situation is already emotional by itself. Rather than giving a damage report of “horrific damage and people torn to bits” you might say “significant property damage and serious personal damage.”
I think I will end this post here. I would like to thank yall for reading my blog and please share it with your friends. Also, like my facebook page and/or follow me on twitter, links to both are on the top right of this page. Please check back to the next post in this series. We will be talking about Emergency Net Operations. We will be going into a more detail about the emergency side of nets, click here to view the first post about nets. Thanks again for your support.
73 de K5CLM