Communication Principles

Types of Emergency Nets

Tactical Net - The Tactical Net is the front line net employed during an incident, usually used by a single government agency to coordinate with Amateur Radio operations within their jurisdiction. There may be several tactical nets in operation for a single incident depending on the volume of traffic and number of agencies involved. Communications include traffic handling and resource recruiting.

Resource Net - For larger-scale incidents, a Resource Net is used to recruit operators and equipment in support of operations on the Tactical Nets. As an incident requires more operators or equipment, the Resource Net evolves as a check-in place for volunteers to register and receive assignments.

Command Net - As the size of an incident increases and more jurisdictions become involved in the incident, a Command Net may become necessary. This net allows the incident managers to communicate with each other to resolve inter- or intra-agency problems, particularly between cities or within larger jurisdictional areas. It is conceivable that this net could become cluttered with a high volume of traffic. It may also be necessary to create multiple command nets to promote efficiency.

Open and Closed Nets - A net may operate as an open or "free form" net, or as a closed net where a net control station (NCS) is used to control the flow of transmissions on the channel. Typically, when the amount of traffic is low or sporadic, a net control isn't required and an open net is used. Stations merely listen before they transmit. When a net is declared a "closed" net, then all transmissions must be directed by the NCS.

Principles of Repeater Operation

  • Use minimum power. Otherwise, especially in heavily populated areas, you run the risk of keying more than one repeater, thus causing unnecessary interference. Low power also conserves batteries.
  • Use simplex, whenever possible. ARRL recommends 146.52 MHz, but it's a good idea to have at least one other simplex channel available. Use a gain antenna at fixed locations for simplex operation.
  • Observe the "pause" procedure between exchanges. When it is your turn to transmit, after the transmitting station stands by, count to two or three before pressing your transmit switch. This gives others with urgent traffic a chance to check in.
  • Listen much, transmit little. Announce your presence on a repeater when you are certain of being able to assist in an emergency, and don't tie it up with idle chatter.
  • Monitor your local ARES net frequency when you are not otherwise busy.
  • Think before you talk. Stick to facts, control your emotions. Remember, during an emergency is the time when you are most apt to act and speak rashly. Anyone with an inexpensive public service band receiver can monitor.
  • Articulate, don't slur or use slang. Speak closely to your mike, but talk across it, not into it. Keep your voice down. In an emergency situation you may get excited and tend to shout. Talk slowly, calmly - this is the mark of an experienced communicator.

Principles of Disaster Communications

  • Keep transmissions to a minimum. In a disaster, crucial stations may be weak. All other stations should remain silent unless they are called upon. If you're not sure you should transmit, don't.
  • Monitor established disaster frequencies. Many ARES localities and some geographical areas have established disaster frequencies where someone is always (or nearly always) monitoring for possible calls.
  • Avoid spreading rumors. During and after a disaster situation, especially on the phone bands, you may hear almost anything. Unfortunately, much misinformation is transmitted. Rumors are started by expansion, deletion, amplification or modification of words, and by exaggeration or interpretation. All addressed transmissions should be officially authenticated as to their source. These transmissions should be repeated word for word, if at all, and only when specifically authorized.
  • Authenticate all messages. Every message which purports to be of an official nature should be written and signed. Whenever possible, amateurs should avoid initiating disaster or emergency traffic themselves. We do the communicating; the agency officials we serve supply the content of the communications.
  • Strive for efficiency. Whatever happens in an emergency, you will find hysteria and some amateurs who are activated by the thought that they must be sleepless heroes. Instead of operating your own station full time at the expense of your health and efficiency, it is much better to serve a shift at one of the best-located and best-equipped stations, suitable for the work at hand, manned by relief shifts of the best-qualified operators. This reduces interference and secures well-operated stations.
  • Select the mode and band to suit the need. It is a characteristic of all amateurs to believe that their favorite mode and band is superior to all others. The merits of a particular band or mode in a communications emergency should be evaluated impartially with a view to the appropriate use of bands and modes. There is, of course, no alternative to using what happens to be available, but there are ways to optimize available resources.
  • Use all communications channels intelligently. While the prime object of emergency communications is to save lives and property (anything else is incidental), Amateur Radio is a secondary communications means. Normal channels are primary and should be used if available. Amateurs should be willing and able to use any appropriate emergency channels - Amateur Radio or otherwise - in the interest of getting the message through.
  • Don't "broadcast". Some stations in an emergency situation have a tendency to emulate broadcast techniques. While it is true that the general public may be listening, our transmissions are not and should not be made for that purpose.
  • NTS and ARES leadership coordination. Within the disaster area itself, the ARES is primarily responsible for emergency communications support. The first priority of those NTS operators who live in or near the disaster area is to make their expertise available to their Emergency Coordinator (EC) where and when needed. For timely and effective response, this means that NTS operators should talk to their ECs before the time of need so that they will know how to best respond.