Radio Station VE3EMO
Provincial Emergency Operations Centre
Radio Station VA3EOT
Toronto Emergency Operations Centre
Toronto EmComm Group
Emergency Radio Operator Training Manual
September 17 2009
- Background ------------------------------------------------------------------- 4 - 6
- Amateur Radio Emergency Service
- Historical Operations
- Organizational Structure
- Mutual Assistance
- Alternative Groups
- Toronto Amateur Radio Emergency Service
- Toronto ARES Group
- Toronto EmComm Group
- Training and why it is important ----------------------------------------------- 6 - 16
- The Training Plan
- General Procedures
- Basic Rules for Emergency Communications
- Do’s and Don’ts of Public Service Communications
- Radiogram Procedures ---------------------------------------------------------- 17 - 21
- ARL Numbered Text
- Logging – Record Keeping ------------------------------------------------------ 22 - 23
- Communications Networks ------------------------------------------------------ 24 - 26
- Provincial Level Networks
- Toronto Local Level Network
- Net Control Station Training ---------------------------------------------------- 27 - 41
Amateur Radio Emergency Service
In the United States and Canada, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is a
corps of trained amateur radio operator volunteers organized to assist in public
service and emergency communications. It is organized and sponsored by the
American Radio Relay League and the Radio Amateurs of Canada.
Amateur radio operators belonging to ARES (and its predecessor, the Amateur Radio
Emergency Corps [AREC]) have responded to local and regional disasters since the
1930s, including the attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. Amateur
radio provides a means of communication when all others fail; for example, after
Katrina Hancock County, Mississippi had lost all contact with the outside world,
except through ARES operators who served as 911 dispatchers and message
relayers. ARES has deployed for a variety of other emergencies and disasters,
including the 2003 North America blackout, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, and
the Kelowna/Okanagan wildfire of 2003 in British Columbia, Canada
ARES groups are volunteer amateur radio operators who come together for the
common purpose of providing emergency and/or auxiliary communications service to
public safety and public service organizations. Most individual ARES units are
autonomous and operate locally. Although the Amateur Radio Emergency Service is
program (and trademark) of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the structure
is more supportive than directive in nature, providing mostly for mutual aid in the
event of large-scale emergencies. As long as local units are operating in the best
interests of Amateur Radio in general and the ARRL in particular, intervention from
the national organization is minimal.
ARES groups are generally organized by city or county and are made up of
volunteers from the local area. The only requirements to join ARES are a willingness
to serve and a valid amateur radio license.
Groups are organized locally by the person holding the position of Emergency
Coordinator (EC). The EC maintains full responsibility for organizing the local groups
and serving as their leader during operations. The EC is an ARRL or RAC member,
and is generally the point of contact for those wishing to perform Emergency
Communications in their local area. He/She may appoint one or several AECs
(Assistant Emergency Coordinator) to oversee certain geographical areas, or he/she
may appoint by function such as the SKYWARN severe weather spotting network, Net
Managing, Training Direction, or Public Information, or maybe a mix of the above
(i.e. whatever works locally). Some members may be appointed as Official
Emergency Stations and are trained to serve specific duties such as being a net
controller during emergencies.
The next higher level of coordination is the optional District Emergency Coordinator
(DEC). This person coordinates the operation of several local county or city ARES
groups and reports to the Section Emergency Coordinator in those sections where
the span of control would be too large.
Leading the structure is the Section Emergency Coordinator, or SEC. This person is
appointed by the elected Section Manager and is responsible for emergency
communications in his/her section. In the U.S., a Section is one of 71 geographic
administrative areas of the ARRL. It is either a state (or province in Canada), or in
more densely populated areas of the U.S., a portion of a state.
ARES in the U.S. has Memorandums of Understanding with organizations including
the American Red Cross, National Weather Service, Department of Homeland
Security, Citizen Corps, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-
International, National Communications System, National Association of Radio and
Telecommunications Engineers Inc., Salvation Army, Society of Broadcast Engineers,
and the Quarter Century Wireless Association Inc.
Often these memorandums illustrate a common and united sense of purpose
between ARES and another organization. However, Memorandums of Understanding
with the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service, the Salvation Army and
others lay out the general guidelines for organization and coordination between
agencies in times of emergency.
ARES of the Radio Amateurs of Canada have MOUs with the Canadian Red Cross
Society and PERCS, the British Columbia Provincial Emergency Radio Communication
Frequently, members of local ARES groups in the U.S. are registered with local
government Emergency Management agencies to permit operations under the RACES
rules, if ever needed. This allows continuation of operation during times of declared
emergency when normal amateur operations might be prohibited. Today, ARES has
operators and officials at local, county, and state levels and most potential RACES
operations are generally integrated within ARES organizations.
A few U.S. and Canadian Amateur Radio emergency communications groups have
decided, for one reason or another, not to affiliate with the ARRL or RAC. However,
their essential purpose remains the same, and in times of need, they often work
side-by-side with ARES groups. Radio clubs independent of the ARRL, RAC and ARES
also participate in emergency communications activities in some areas.
Many ARES operators are also part of storm spotter networks, e.g., SKYWARN (a
program organized by the U.S. National Weather Service) and CANWARN
(coordinated by Environment Canada).
In many cases, the ARES Emergency Coordinator for a county coordinates all local
Emergency Communication (EmComm) organization and training.
Toronto Amateur Radio Emergency Service
In Toronto there are two groups, the ‘Toronto ARES Group’ and the ‘Toronto
Toronto ARES oversees the coordination of local area communications networks,
home and mobile stations, Red Cross, Social Services and public service events.
Toronto EmComm Group
Toronto EmComm is responsible for the coordination and operation of the two
Emergency Operations Centre’s Amateur Radio Stations located in the GTA, the
Provincial Emergency Operations Centre VE3EMO (Emergency Management Ontario)
and the Toronto Emergency Operations Centre VA3EOT (Toronto Office of Emergency
Toronto EmComm also produces and oversees all training and training related
materials, coordinates exercises, maintains a provincial level communications
network and works directly with Emergency Management Ontario and the City of
Toronto Office of Emergency Management.
Note: Many operators are members of both groups. Toronto ARES and Toronto
EmComm work in cooperation in the interest of providing a unified auxiliary
emergency communications plan in the interest of public safety and service.
Training and Why it is Important
Yes, training is the most important part of ARES Communications. Without it, the
organization will not be able to meet its responsibilities.
ARES Communications has the responsibility to handle traffic in a fast, efficient and
accurate manner. This requires practice. Practice takes time. And time seems to be
the one thing everyone is short of.
The leaders of an ARES Communication organization must use all of their abilities to
insure that the lack of time for training on the air, or the member's part does not
cripple their effectiveness.
A Training Officer can be the key to a good training program. This person must be an
amateur radio emergency communications expert. Now, not everyone can know
everything about everything ARES requires. A good training plan can help put
everything into perspective.
THE TRAINING PLAN
Every public service organization does not require a training plan. Of course, not
every public service organization can, and does, affect the outcome of an incident
where property and lives depend on the abilities of the volunteer public servant.
Especially if the service performed requires a high degree of technical and
A solid training plan covers every position in the organization. The Emergency
Coordinator, Packet Manager, Operator... every position requires training. Everyone
should have a job to do and a source of information to assist in the learning of that
Effective disaster response in a large-scale emergency requires immediate and
sustained coordination between organizations for the duration of the emergency.
Preparing your ARES group for this type of coordination through effective training
and planning is your responsibility. Remember the Boy Scout Motto: "Be Prepared!"
1. To transmit in the voice mode, always remember to TALK ACROSS THE FACE OF
THE MICROPHONE! It is unfortunate that TV shows don't use this technique when
they present, for example, detective shows. Actually that mike the cop/actor appears
to use is dead--they record him on a high fidelity system with a different mike. So to
make the picture appealing, the actor holds the mike six inches away and talks
directly into it. This is how bad habits are picked up! If you are using a push-to-talk
mike, put your lips right at the edge of the mike and talk across it. If you have a
D-104 or similar fixed station microphone, it is still a good way to get crisp, clean
speech across. Talking across the mike cuts down on sibilants, breath sounds, the
"popping" of "P's" and similar sounds. This technique makes the communication
2. Speak slowly, distinctly, clearly, and do not let your voice trail off at the end of
words or sentences.
3. On FM, hold the transmit button down for at least a second before beginning your
message. This will assure that the first part of the message is not cut off by a slow
4. Know what you are going to say before you push the mike button. Don't clutter
the air up with: "Net Control, uh, this is VE, uh, three, uh, xyz, and, uh will you call
Mister, uh, uh, Black to uh, the radio uh, for Mister Green, uh, over?" It is very easy
to confuse the whole transmission if the operator does not have the facts right on the
tip of the tongue and ready to put out the message in a crisp and orderly fashion.
5. Make sure you are not on the air with someone else. Listen before transmitting--
the pause you hear from the Net Control Station (NCS) may be deliberate to allow
two other stations to complete a transmission.
6. Chewing gum, eating, and other similar activities tend to clutter up the clarity of
your speech. Don't.
7. On 2-meter and other VHF frequencies, look for a receiving "hot-spot" site and
use it, particularly when on the fringes of communications. Don't walk around talking
while in communications fringe areas. Repeaters have much more power than your
handheld. Even if you have a good signal from the machine, it does not mean you
are good into the machine.
8. Under stress, many operators have a tendency to talk fast. Even if you are in the
midst of the action, remember to talk slowly and clearly in order to get the message
across correctly. ACCURACY FIRST, SPEED SECOND.
9. Avoid angry comments on the air at all costs. Also, obscene statements can reflect
on the Amateur Radio fraternity. Remember there are many "scanners" in use by
unlicensed but interested people and, as such, your operating techniques are under
observation all the time.
10. If you are relaying a message for another person, be sure you repeat the
message exactly, word-for-word, as it is given to you. If it makes no sense to you,
get an explanation before you put it on the air. Refer the message back to the
originator for clarification.
11. Sound alert. Nothing destroys confidence as much as a bored or weary-sounding
radio operator does. If you are tired, get a relief operator.
12. Forget humour on the air during drills and obviously in real emergencies. A radio
system suffers enough confusion without wisecracks and jokes. Amateur Radio may
be a hobby to enjoy, but the ARES function is serious business and should be treated
as such at all times.
13. Watch certain words. They sound almost like the opposite meaning. For
example, "can't" almost sounds like "can," and with a poor signal--who knows.
"Unable" is a better choice. Use "affirmative" instead of "yes." Use "negative" instead
of "no." "Roger" is a good word. It means "message received," implying that it is
understood. It does not mean "affirmative" or "yes." The use of Q signals on ARES
voice circuits is not advisable! They are too easily misunderstood, rarely save time,
and often result in errors.
14. Identification of units in a multi-station ARES function is a requirement by IC.
However, if the NCS and each of the outlying ARES stations give a complete
identification at least once in a thirty-minute period during the contact, the use of
abbreviated call-sign identification or tactical ID is acceptable. As an example,
VE3XYZ can use "3XYZ" or "First-Aid 1" or "Command Central" as long as the
complete call is given by VE3XYZ at 30 minute intervals during the contact and at
the end of the communication.
15. Always identify your unit at the beginning of each transmission. The NCS, or
anyone else for that matter, needs to know who is calling because voice identification
may be difficult. Identify your unit again when the message exchange is completed,
as required by IC rules.
16. The word "break" is never used UNLESS there is an emergency. Otherwise, use
your call letters to gain access to the net. Although some groups use the word
“BREAK” for emergency net contact the recommend method is to use the word
17. Remember that the strongest signal "captures" the receiver on FM. When two or
more stations are on the air at the same time, confusion can result. Check to see
that you are not overriding someone or blanking out his or her communications with
18. Do not act as a "relay station" unless the NCS, or another radio station, asks for
a relay--and you can fulfill the requirement at your station.
19. When transmitting numbers (house numbers, street numbers, and telephone
numbers) always transmit the number sequences as a series of individual numbers).
Never say numbers in combinations. Example: "12345 SW 148 Ave." is given as a
series "one, two, three, four, five, south west, one, four, eight Avenue." Do not say:
"Twelve three forty-five south west A-hundred forty-eight Avenue." There is much
confusion when sending combinations of numbers.
20. There is no such thing as "common spelling" in ARES work. If there is a proper
name to be transmitted, always spell it out using the ITU (International
Telecommunication Union) phonetic alphabet. Do not improvise a phonetic alphabet;
if you don't know the recommended phonetics, now is a good time to learn it and use
it in your daily operations.
21. Always acknowledge calls and instructions. You can acknowledge by just giving
your unit identification or tactical call sign. Nothing is more disruptive to the smooth
flow of communications than dead silence in response to a message. If you cannot
copy, or respond to the call immediately, then tell the caller to repeat or stand by.
Otherwise, acknowledge each call immediately.
22. Never acknowledge calls and instructions unless you understand the call or
instructions perfectly. If you do not understand, ask for a repeat. Make sure you
have the instruction right before acknowledgment.
23. NCS stations frequently are very busy with work that is not on the air. If you call
the NCS and do not get a reply, be patient and call again in a minute or two. If it is
an emergency, call more often and so state; otherwise, just space the calls to the
NCS until they answer. You may be in a dead spot; try moving your position slightly
until acknowledged. Above all, be patient.
24. ONLY TRANSMIT FACTS. If your message is a question, deduction, educated
guesses, or hearsay, identify it as such. Do not clutter up the air with non-essential
information. Particularly important is information regarding ARES emergency work
where rumors can be started from overhearing a transmission on a scanner or other
non-ARES receiver. Be careful what you say on the air!
25. Always know where you are located. If you are mobile or portable and moving
around, always keep a sharp lookout for location identification. The NCS and many
others may need to know exactly where you are physically located, so keep a sharp
eye on surroundings. If called upon, you can accurately describe your location at any
time. This is particularly important if you are with a search team or other mobile
26. Always keep a monitor on the net frequency. If you must leave the frequency,
ask permission from the NCS to change. Advise the NCS of the change and always
report back to the NCS when you have returned to the net frequency. It is vital that
the NCS knows the whereabouts of each station in the net, and it is up to you to
keep the NCS advised.
27. Stay off the air unless you are SURE you can be of assistance. It does no good to
offer advice, assistance, comments or other input to a net unless you can truly
provide clarification. It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open
your mouth and remove all doubt!
28. Many times radio conditions are poor and words must be over-exaggerated to be
understandable. In general, speak very slowly and distinctly to carry through static
or weak signals. The following list provides pronunciation of numbers in poor
29. If you do not understand the whole message given to you or if you missed a
word out of the transmission, reply with "Say again." Do not say, "Please repeat"
because it sounds too much like "Received" when conditions are poor.
30. When you have understood the message, acknowledge receipt with the words
"received" or "acknowledged." DO NOT use "QSL" since it may be misunderstood or
even missed under poor conditions. These few rules/suggestions are intended to help
you become a better operator whether in a ham contest or an ARES mission.
Above all, analyze your present operating methods and try to polish each element so
your contribution to ARES is worthwhile. The NCS may have final authority, but
good, crisp operating methods and procedures almost make a net run without an
Basic Rules for Emergency Operations
DO NOT act on your own to provide emergency communication. We must remember
that we are to ASSIST the various served agencies only when called for. An
unorganized, knee-jerk reaction to an emergency situation will create problems and
damage our good will. If you suspect that a potential emergency situation exists that
would require amateur radio communication, please monitor the various assigned net
frequencies for your area. If you suspect we may be needed, notify your local
Emergency Coordinator or Assistant EC.
When a served agency needs our assistance, they usually alert designated amateur
radio operators who are members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.
Typically, this is the local Emergency Coordinator who has registered himself and
other amateurs IN ADVANCE with the agencies seeking help. Once called in by the
served agency, the EC (or designated amateur) should notify the District Emergency
Coordinator. The DEC will then notify the Section Emergency Coordinator, who in
turn will notify the Section Manager. Use only enough operators to get the situation
Activation of nets in "Stand By Mode" to check on availability of amateurs in
anticipation of a response is always a judgment call and can sometimes be
worthwhile. Care should be exercised that no one 'jumps the gun" and confuses the
The EC will normally assign an NCS for control of the local net, which is to be
designated as the "key station." This station will be used extensively during a
communications emergency. Key station personnel should have full use of
emergency power capability with adequate relief operators assigned to ensure
continuous operation. When an officially activated emergency net is in session, the
NET CONTROL IS THE BOSS. Discipline is essential if operations are to go
smoothly. DO NOT TALK unless specifically asked to do so.
If the emergency should cover more than the local area, the EC in charge may, at
his/her option, ask for activation of additional traffic nets on a District or Section-
wide basis. He will assign liaison stations to and from these nets.
All messages must be written traffic in standard NTS Radiogram format. This will
give you a written, signed, and dated record of emergency traffic passed. This is
invaluable as an audit trail and for later critique sessions.
In making this statement we realize that there will be verbal communications, which
are not RADIOGRAMS! It is ridiculous to even consider the need for a radiogram to
advise of a tornado on the ground or funnel cloud sightings etc. during Skywarn and
other situations. Our reasoning is based on the idea that if the served agency asks
that an important message be transmitted it is worthwhile for the served agency
AND YOU to have a written record of the message and its origin, destination and
content. Radiograms are the quick way to accomplish this.
All emergency and priority messages must be SIGNED by the official who originates
them, with their title, taking responsibility for their contents. Message precedence of
(E)mergency, (P)riority, (W)elfare or (R)outine shall be used on ALL messages. The
filing time of (E)mergency and (P)riority traffic is important and must be shown.
During formal nets in disasters, stations do not transmit unless invited to do so by
the net control. The ONLY exception to this is for a station having EMERGENCY
traffic. When the emergency is over, the Emergency Coordinator, or the amateur in
charge, MUST file a report with the District Emergency Coordinator. The report
should include a description of the traffic handled, duration of the net, participants,
and agencies served. This will be invaluable during a critique session.
An emergency situation may take many forms. This could include minor
communications assistance to local Police Authorities in assisting with traffic or crowd
control to serving one or more agencies in a major province-wide disaster such as a
chemical spill or natural disaster.
Likewise, the emergency may be confined to an area of a few hundred feet to several
counties. ARES members must be able to respond to these situations in a timely and
efficient manner. Should an emergency situation arise which may require the
assistance of ARES Ontario members, the following must be kept in mind:
1. In most situations, the affected area will be local in nature, confined to a local
community or part of a community. For local communications to be effective, each
EC in the area is encouraged to establish a working relationship with served agencies
in the area particularly the local CEMC official.
2. In all instances, ARES personnel should not begin to assist unless called upon by
an official of the Served Agency, unless the EC and the served official have worked
out specific other arrangements on a broader basis. It is hoped that the local EC has
made prior efforts to see to it that the Served Agencies are aware of what radio
amateurs can provide. In all instances, it is assumed that the official of the Served
Agency will contact the local EC to request assistance.
3. Once the local EC has received the call for assistance, he should begin notifying
his ARES registered amateurs of the situation. He should also notify the District
Emergency Coordinator, or in his absence, the Section Emergency Coordinator of the
4. In the case of a local emergency, the EC should begin call-up procedures for
emergency net activation on the local emergency frequency. This is usually
accomplished via a repeater to provide for wide area coverage; however a simplex
two meter frequency would suffice if coverage is adequate. Once the net is activated,
the EC or his appointed control operator will act as net control for as long as
necessary. The NCS should make every effort to see that emergency traffic is
handled in the most efficient manner as possible. A listing of all traffic, check-ins
(especially mobile) and agencies served should be recorded. For additional
information, refer to the RAC Emergency Coordinator's Manual.
5. In order of priority, requests from Emergency Management Ontario shall be
answered first, followed by local municipal officials, then other agencies as is
6. Health and Welfare traffic will likely, NOT be accepted for several hours, due to
the inability to handle such traffic. In a major emergency, the emphasis will be on
handling true emergency traffic, which provides immediate relief from suffering and
7. The use of Tactical callsigns during an emergency should provide some indication
of the station's operating location. Stations operating for example from the Provincial
Emergency Operations Centre should use "EMO EOC" and stations operating in the
Toronto EOC should identify themselves as "Toronto EOC". Identification is a
requirement of IC. Stations must give complete station identification at least once in
a 30-minute operating period, particularly when tactical calls are being used.
8. Under no circumstances will any ARES appointee attempt to provide support
communications for any agency until instructed do so by the agency officials.
9. The use of any Q signals, (QSL, QSY etc) during and emergency operation will not
be used on phone nets. These signals were developed for CW nets in order to speed
and simplify net operations. When used on phone they have the potential to be
misunderstood. Additionally, the use of such signals on phone is considered poor
10. The common use of "Break" and "Break-Break" to indicate an emergency shall
not be used. It has no universally understood meaning. The word "EMERGENCY" will
be used on phone to announce information of life or death importance. The standard
CW signal is SOS sent as one character- not 3 spaced letters.
11. NEVER MAKE ANY COMMENT TO A MEMBER OF THE MEDIA!!! That is the job of
the Public Information Officer. "I CAN'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION." is always a good
answer. Refer them to the PIO. Media personnel are trained to be very convincing
and are very clever at getting you to say something. What they will always be
looking for will be information regarding injuries, deaths, addresses of the most
severe damage, license numbers of vehicles, rail car numbers, and possible reported
causes which might lead them to a trail-of-responsibility/blame” This type
information is confidential and is to be passed only by more secure means, i.e.
packet or courier, which they cannot access by scanner. If you don't recognize a
person as someone you absolutely know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be part of
the authorized on-site operations team, don't discuss the situation with them!
12. Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you have found a dead body,
or body parts, DO NOT report this to the NCS. Request only that the NCS send the
appropriate authorities and help to your location on a priority basis. If the NCS
should happen to ask for more details, refuse to give them and repeat your request.
A smart and trained NCS operator will catch on quickly. In the case of a discovered
injury or body entrapment, notify the NCS immediately, but NEVER TRANSMIT THE
NAME OF AN INJURED, TRAPPED OR DECEASED SUBJECT.
13. NEVER leave your post or the person you have been assigned to "Shadow"
without notifying the NCS. If the authorities ask you to move, do so immediately and
without comment; but notify the NCS of your change in status as soon as you can.
Remember: We are communicators. We do not make decisions about anything for
the authorities. They (our served agencies) are in charge, not us. It is not your call
to decide that more fire engines are needed, or that an emergency generator is
needed somewhere. Your only job is to communicate, when asked to do so, what the
authorities want communicated. They do not have to use you at all; and many times
they won't. Do not insist that they do. You are there to provide them with an extra
way for them to pass information when their communications systems either fail or
become overloaded. Tell them you are available for service when needed and back
off. Speak only when spoken to, stay visible and pay attention. Nothing can be more
embarrassing than to "lose" the person you are supposed to shadow. (Don't laugh...
It has happened!)
It may be quicker and more efficient to hand your microphone to the person who
wishes to pass a message than to try and relay it yourself. Don't be afraid to let the
authorities operate as third parties. Just hand them the mike and tell them they can't
use foul language. Relays often become incorrectly “translated" by the relay
operator, especially if there is a high percentage of special agency terminology,
technical terms or jargon that you do not really understand.
If an on-scene authority requests that you shut your radio off, or that you not
transmit, please do what they ask without question. Normally, they will tell you why,
but they don't have to. This is one circumstance where you do not notify the NCS of
a change in your status. This deserves a little explanation. This would normally occur
only If there is a presence of explosives or explosive chemicals or vapors, and there
is the possibility that a spark producing electronic device is present like blasting
caps, smoke detectors, receivers, telephones, etc., which might be triggered by an
Does and Don’ts for Public Service Communication
• Enjoy yourself! Amateur Radio public service is fun!
• Get a crystal clear understanding of the needs of the group you are
• Prepare the night before. Make sure your batteries are charged and
you take spares as needed. Have a clip board with paper and pencils,
gas in the car, miscellaneous spare parts you might need, maps if
available. Know where you are going and when you must be there.
• Arrive on time on the day of the event. If you are not familiar with the
occasion, allow extra time to get there. Checking the map the night
before to plan your route will not guarantee that you turn correctly.
• Inform the event communications coordinator if you cannot make the
event after agreeing to be there. The sooner this is relayed to the
person in charge of amateur communications at the event, the better.
• Introduce yourself to the person or people you will be working with at
your station. Let them know who you are and why you are there. Stay
at your post unless you are excused. Make sure both the NCS and the
officials you are with know when you leave.
• Arrange for someone to be in charge as Net Control. Even small events
can have messy communication without this.
• Have the NCS keep track of who is where so he knows whom to call
when asked to contact a person or checkpoint.
• Leave the frequency unless the NCS knows. If you must leave early,
the more in advance this is known the better.
• Maintain a courteous, professional image. You may be working with
several agencies including Police, Fire, EMS, EMO’s, etc. Extend every
possible courtesy to members of these groups. Make sure they know
who you are and what your communications capabilities are.
• Arrange for someone knowledgeable of the area to handle talk-ins, or
at least someone with a good map if no one else is available.
• Tell your operators exactly what their assignments are and remind
them of the general guidelines for public service events. Assignments
and changes in them should be made known to the entire group before
the event begins or during its progress if the change occurs then.
• Have Amateur Radio operators working in teams of at least two
persons, if possible. Make sure at least one member of the team is
monitoring the radio at all times.
• Arrange for relief operators. Everyone needs lunch or coffee breaks.
• Use simplex if at all possible, with a repeater as back-up and for talk-
in. Clear the function with the repeater group in writing and well in
• Obey instruction of the Net Control Station (NCS). The NCS is
there to respond to general queries from the net or from other
amateurs on the frequency. Even with only a few operators involved,
he is necessary to smooth functioning. Address requests to him and
obey his instructions just as in traffic nets.
• Use tactical call signs. Checkpoint or unit numbers, or other special
identifiers are legal, provided the station identification requirements
are fulfilled. Use standard Amateur Radio operating procedures in all
• OVER IDENTIFY! You need only identify your station at thirty minute
intervals during a series of transmissions. However, don't jump into
the net every thirty minutes just to identify. For example, if you only
engage in a short exchange of transmissions every half hour or so, you
will fulfill the identification requirement if you ID at the END of each
• Transmit as little as possible! Silence is golden. Speak as little as
possible. Avoid excessive use of calls (once every thirty minutes is all
that is required). "Net, Checkpoint 1" conveys much more information.
• Memorize the main operations frequency and alternate frequency.
• Apply first aid unless you are trained and certified to do so! Call
for medical assistance and an ambulance or medical personnel will be
dispatched to your location.
• Transport an ill or injured person in a private vehicle! This is the
job of the medics and the police. An emergency vehicle is properly
equipped and can get through traffic much faster than a private car.
• OFFER MORE THAN YOU CAN DELIVER. You are NOT there to provide
direct emergency assistance! You ARE there to communicate the need
for such assistance to proper authorities.
• Resist the temptation to generate traffic just to be busy. SILENCE IS
GOLDEN when you cannot add to the real information being passed.
• Arrange for your people well in advance, but check on them the week
before to insure they are still available. If you can, have extra people
or stand-bys available. Excuse people as soon as you can as long as
their jobs are finished and all other needed positions are filled.
• Thank your operators and share any feedback you get with them.
Courtesy and thoughtfulness pay off.
• Keep your EC or DEC informed of what you are doing and who
participates. He can help you with publicity. Public relations releases
before and after the event can help us all get our message across that
we are here with the ability to serve. He can also help get the
• Identify vehicles as Amateur Radio Communication Vehicles. Operators
should be identified too. A call letter badge, ARES patch is sufficient.
Use baseball caps with an ARES patch or group logo.
• Use standard NTS message form when necessary for official requests
• Make sure the frequency is clear before making a call. The channel can
get very busy during "tactical operations". When you complete an
exchange with another station, use the prowords "clear" or "out" so
the other stations will know the frequency is now available to them.
• Keep transmissions as short as possible. Resist the temptation to rag
chew or ramble.
• Handle routine business or commercial communications. (This includes
communications regarding dollar amounts of walkathon pledges, etc.).
The press and broadcast media may quote or rebroadcast amateur
signals, provided the signals rebroadcast do not make reference to the
1. NUMBER - Station of Origin's message serial number, starting each year with 1
and counting up.
• Emergency [EMERGENCY] Spell out in full (Life or death). Handle as
quickly as possible.
• Priority [P] - (Urgent). Handle after EMERGENCY traffic.
• Welfare [W] - Inquiry or report as to health or welfare of an individual
in the disaster area.
• Routine [R] - (All other messages). Handle last.
3. HX (Handling Instructions) - if any:
HXA followed by a number - Collect telephone delivery authorized by addressee
within ___ miles. e.g. HXA100
HXB followed by a number - Cancel if not delivered within ___ hours of filing, and
advise the originating station. e.g. HXB36
HXC - Report time and date of delivery to originating station.
HXD - Report to originating station identity of station from which received plus date
and time. Report identity of station to which relayed plus date and time. Report
identify of station to which relayed, plus date and time, or if delivered report date,
time and method of delivery.
HXE - Delivering station to get reply from addressee, and originate message back to
station of origin.
HXF followed by a number - Hold delivery until ___ (insert date). e.g. HXF21
HXG - Delivery by mail or toll call not required. If toll or other expense involved,
cancel and advise originating station.
4. STATION OF ORIGIN - This is the station that first wrote the message.
5. CHECK - Actual number of words, number of character groups and separators (X)
in TEXT. See Item 11. Relay operator can correct your count by adding a corrected
6. PLACE OF ORIGIN - This is the actual place where the message started from,
not necessarily the location of the Station of Origin. For example if you originate a
message for a person in a town that is not your own, use the person's own town.
Otherwise, use your own location.
7. TIME FILED - Time the message was written. Not necessary for Routine traffic
but should be used for Emergency or Priority traffic. Time should be UTC, not local
8. DATE - Date the message was written. Date should be correct for UTC time.
9. TO - Get complete info from person for whom you are sending the message.
Name and complete address are necessary to get the message to the right person as
quickly as possible.
10. TELEPHONE NUMBER - If possible a number including area code should be
11. TEXT - The text is what the sender wants to tell the addressee, and should
sound like a telegram - clear and concise and written so the meaning cannot be
misconstrued. Text should be limited to 25 words and be NON-COMMERCIAL in
nature. Phone numbers are broken into area code, exchange and number and are
counted as three words. Periods are noted as X (X-Ray) and there is no X at the end
of text. Each separator or X (X-ray) counts as 1 word. Closings such as “Love” and
“Best Regards” are counted as words of text. When sending, a “Break” precedes and
follows the text. These simplified procedures omit usage of standardized ARL
numbered radiograms, the handling of book messages, and other less frequently
seen message requirements.
12. SIGNATURE - The signature identifies the person sending the message.
Additional identifying information may be added to the signature. Not counted in
ARL Numbered Text
Group One--For Possible "Relief Emergency" Use
ONE--Everyone safe here. Please don't worry.
TWO--Coming home as soon as possible.
THREE--Am in ____ hospital. Receiving excellent care and recovering fine.
FOUR--Only slight property damage here. Do not be concerned about disaster
FIVE--Am moving to new location. Send no further mail or communication. Will
inform you of new address when relocated.
SIX--Will contact you as soon as possible.
SEVEN--Please reply by Amateur Radio through the amateur delivering this
message. This is a free public service.
EIGHT--Need additional _____ mobile or portable equipment for immediate
NINE--Additional _____ radio operators needed to assist with emergency at this
TEN--Please contact ______. Advise to standby and provide further emergency
information, instructions or assistance.
ELEVEN--Establish Amateur Radio emergency communications with ______ on
TWELVE--Anxious to hear from you. No word in some time. Please contact me as
soon as possible.
THIRTEEN--Medical emergency situation exits here.
FOURTEEN--Situation here becoming critical. Losses and damage from ____
FIFTEEN--Please advise your condition and what help is needed.
SIXTEEN--Property damage very severe in this area.
SEVENTEEN--REACT communications services also available. Establish REACT
communication with ______ on channel _____.
EIGHTEEN--Please contact me as soon as possible at _______.
NINETEEN--Request health and welfare report on______. (State name, address and
TWENTY--Temporarily stranded. Will need some assistance. Please contact me at
TWENTY ONE--Search and Rescue assistance is needed by local authorities here.
TWENTY TWO--Need accurate information on the extent and type of conditions now
existing at your location. Please furnish this information and reply without delay.
TWENTY THREE--Report at once the accessibility and best way to reach your
TWENTY FOUR--Evacuation of residents from this area urgently needed. Advise
plans for help.
TWENTY FIVE--Furnish as soon as possible the weather conditions at your location.
TWENTY SIX--Help and care for evacuation of sick and injured from this location
needed at once.
Group Two--Routine messages
FORTY SIX--Greetings on your birthday and best wishes for many more to come.
FIFTY--Greetings by Amateur Radio.
FIFTY ONE--Greetings by Amateur Radio. This message is sent as a free public
service by ham radio operators at ______. Am having a wonderful time.
FIFTY TWO--Really enjoyed being with you. Looking forward to getting together
FIFTY THREE--Received your ______. It's appreciated; many thanks.
FIFTY FOUR--Many thanks for your good wishes.
FIFTY FIVE--Good news is always welcome. Very delighted to hear about yours.
FIFTY SIX--Congratulations on your ______, a most worthy and deserved
FIFTY SEVEN--Wish we could be together.
FIFTY EIGHT--Have a wonderful time. Let us know when you return.
FIFTY NINE--Congratulations on the new arrival. Hope mother and child are well.
SIXTY--Wishing you the best of everything on ______.
SIXTY ONE--Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
SIXTY TWO--Greetings and best wishes to you for a pleasant ______ holiday
SIXTY THREE--Victory or defeat, our best wishes are with you. Hope you win.
SIXTY FOUR--Arrived safely at ______.
SIXTY FIVE--Arriving ______ on ______. Please arrange to meet me there.
SIXTY SIX--DX QSLs are on hand for you at the ______ QSL Bureau. Send ______
self addressed envelopes.
SIXTY SEVEN--Your message number ______ undeliverable because of ______.
SIXTY EIGHT--Sorry to hear you are ill. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
SIXTY NINE--Welcome to the ______. We are glad to have you with us and hope
you will enjoy the fun and fellowship of the organization.
It is of utmost importance to record all contacts with other stations, a standardized
logsheet is used for ARES operations.
Event: (example: Simulated Emergency Test, Field Day)
Logsheet#: (example 1,2,3,4 consecutive)
Date: The date of the actual event
Start Time: The actual time the event of exercise started (24hr local time)
End Time: The actual time the event of exercise ended (24hr local time)
Checkins: Total Stations contacted during the event (can cover multiple logsheets)
Traffic: Total number of formal messages passed (can cover multiple logsheets)
Time: Actual time contact was established (24hr local time)
Callsign: incoming station callsign
Name: Operators Name and ARES Group designator
QTH: Station location, city, town and Province
Traffic: message # of traffic passed by originating station
Notes: other details pertinent to the contact
Emergency Callsign: actual station callsign (example: VA3EOT, VE3EMO)
Station Operator: (example: Ted)
Operator Callsign: (example: VE3AAP)
Note: All logsheets must be completed accurately and saved with radiograms of the
event or exercise.
Provincial Level Networks
EMO A.R.E.S. in conjunction with Ontario A.R.E.S. operates a series of networks
utilizing a wide range of telecommunications equipment and technology and through
objective planning of these resources deliver an auxiliary communications system in
the interest of Public Safety and Service.
Note: All nets are listed in eastern time.
10:00 hrs: Communications Ontario Net 7.153 MHz.
The Communications Ontario Net, “Comsont” for short, was established in 1978 as
an Emergency Preparedness Net which regularly interfaces with the Ontario Phone
16:00 hrs: Ontario Phone Net (NTS) 3.742 MHz. Winter Schedule
The Ontario Phone Net is a formal traffic net, affiliated with the National Traffic
System. In emergencies, NTS is geared to go into continuous operation in
accordance with the needs and the extent of the particular emergency.
13:00 hrs: Ontario A.R.E.S. 40 Metre Net 7.153 MHz
The purpose of this net is to establish and maintain an HF network of ARES stations
groups representative of all areas and districts in the Province that will provide
information and support to ARES individuals and groups, as well as be a training net
for stations to prepare for the potential of a communications exercise or event
requiring the support of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.
17:00 hrs: Ontario A.R.E.S. 80 Metre Net 3.742 MHz Winter Schedule
20:00 hrs: Ontario A.R.E.S. IRLP Net reflector 9005
20:00 hrs: ARES Ontario IRLP Net (IRLP via reflector 9005)
20:00 hrs: Provincial Communications (Procom) Net (VHF/UHF/ Experimental
IRLP Reflector: 0040)
Toronto Local Area Network
TWO METER SIMPLEX
Channel Frequency Description
21 146.460 ARES Simplex NET (103.5)
22 146.400 ARES Simplex WORKING
23 146.520 VHF CALLING CHANNEL
24 146.550 VHF Working
25 146.580 VHF Working
TWO METER VHF REPEATERS (offset 0.600 MHz)
Repeater Frequency Callsign CTCSS Description
2-Alpha 145.130- VA3GTU (103.5) TORONTO - linked
2-Bravo 147.270+ VE3TNC Finch & 404 - o/o TARC
2-Charlie 145.110- VE3WOO 82.5 CENTRAL - o/o VE3WOO
2-Echo 146.985- VE3SKY ETOBICOKE - o/o Skywide ARC
2-Tango 145.410- VE3TWR (103.5) CN Tower - o/o TFMCS
2-Oscar 146.940- VE3TOR 103.5 SCARBOROUGH - o/o ETRC
440/70cm UHF SIMPLEX
Channel Frequency Description
40 446.000 UHF Simplex Calling
41 446.025 ARES UHF WORKING
42 446.050 UHF Working
43 446.075 UHF Working
440/70cm UHF REPEATERS (offset +5.000 MHz)
Repeater Frequency Callsign CTCSS Description
4-Alpha 442.375 VE3GTU 103.5 DON MILLS - MAIN UHF ARES
4-Bravo 444.850 VE3GTU 103.5 BLOOR ST. - linked
4-Charlie 443.750 VE3GTU (103.5) SCARBOROUGH - linked
4-Echo 442.800 VE3GTU 103.5 ETOBICOKE - linked
4-Golf 442.075 VE3GTU 103.5 GOODWOOD - linked
4-Juliet 442.425+ VA3WAJ 107.2 Niagara Falls o/o ERA
4-November 443.500+ VE3NIB 100.0 KING ST. - o/o CNIB
4-Oscar 444.200+ VE3TOR 103.5 Scarborough - o/o ETRC
4-Romeo 443.225+ VE3RPT-5 (103.5) Uxbridge - o/o TFMCS
4-Sierra 442.850+ VE3SNM 136.5 Toronto
4-Tango 444.400+ VE3TWR (103.5) CN Tower - o/o TFMCS
4-Wiskey 443.675+ VE3WIK 131.8 Carlisle
Channel Frequency Description
30 223.500 Simplex Calling
220Mhz REPEATERS (offset -1.600 MHz)
Repeater Frequency Callsign CTCSS Description
3-Alpha 224.860- VE3RPT (103.5) Uxbridge
Channel Frequency Description
60 52.525 Simplex Calling
61 52.490 Simplex Operations
6m REPEATERS (offset -1.000 MHz)
Repeater Frequency Callsign CTCSS Description
6-Alpha 53.030- VE3SIX (103.5) Uxbridge
6-Bravo 53.390- VA3ECT (none) Toronto
Toronto Local Area Net Schedule
Day Time Channel Frequency Description
Sunday 11:00 am 2B VE3TNC Morning chat net
Sunday 8:30 pm 41 446.025 UHF Simplex net
Sunday 9:00 pm 61 52.490 6m Simplex net
Mon-Sat 11:00 am 2A VA3GTU Morning chat net
Tuesday 6:00 pm 21 146.460 Evening roll call net
Thursday 6:00 pm 41 446.025 Evening roll call net
Saturday 6:00 pm 4A VA3GTU Evening roll call net
Sun,Mon,Wed,Fri 6:00 pm 2A VA3GTU Evening roll call net
Saturday 8:30 pm 6A/3A Weekly 6 meter/220MHz net
Saturday 9:00 pm 6C VA3ECT 6m Repeater net
Time Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
[2B] [2A] [2A] [2A] [2A] [2A] [2A]
11:00 VE3TNC VA3GTU VA3GTU VA3GTU VA3GTU VA3GTU VA3GTU
Chat net Chat net Chat net Chat net Chat net Chat net Chat net
[2A] [2A]  [2A]  [2A] [4A]
18:00 VA3GTU VA3GTU 146.460 VA3GTU 446.025 VA3GTU VA3GTU
Roll Call Roll Call Roll Call Roll Call Roll Call Roll Call Roll Call
20:30 446.025 VE3SIX
UHF Simplex 6m Test net
21:00 52.490 VA3ECT
6m Simplex 6m Test net
NCS Training Course
C Definitions Handovers
What do I do? Coverage breaks
NCS Questions - before you start! Handling an irate participant
Attributes of NCS Handling malicious interference
Learning to be NCS Shortcut to being a good NCS
Net Discipline Liaison
NCS Hints and Kinks Training Others
Contingency plans NCS Self Evaluation
Scheduled, non emergency occurrence where Amateur Radio support is supplied for
non-profit/ public-service organizations, or for the training of operators.
(a.k.a.) Communications Emergency - Any planned or unplanned occurrence or
event, regardless of cause, which requires action by emergency service personnel to
prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or natural resources.
A Communications Network (Net) is established to handle the information flow
(traffic) for an event or incident when there are three or more stations involved or
when the volume of traffic is sufficient that it cannot be handled on a first-come first-
served basis. A Net will be established to open all incidents. A Net will be opened for
events as soon as there are three or more operators and may be opened sooner.
Net Control Station (NCS)
NCS is the person charged with controlling the information flow during a net. The NCS
has authority over all traffic handled by the Net and determines the order in which
other stations use the frequency and when they pass their traffic. The NCS is not in
charge of the event or incident, only the information flow during the net.
A set of notes or a formal document created as a guideline to aid the NCS in
conducting regularly scheduled Nets.
A name assigned to a specific station in a net that describes the function, location or
assignment of that station. It allows anyone to call the station by its tactical call
rather than the IC issued call of the operator and thus minimizes confusion at shift
changes or when operators take a break from their duties.
What do I do?
There are three types of nets that you may be asked to run. First is the regular
weekly net held by your ARES district. This is the easiest one for you to learn to be
NCS at because you have a script to follow. On that subject, remember, the script is
a guideline of the material to be covered in the weekly net and may be altered for
any good reason. The purpose of the script is to make it easier to keep track of where
you are in the net and help you not forget any of the regular items covered in those
SUGGESTION: Have more that one copy of the script so you can mark it up as you
go. That simplifies keeping track of where you are in the net. It also makes it easier
to maintain the essential - LOG - of who checked in and who had traffic.
The second type of net is the Public Service event nets. These are seldom, if ever,
scripted and as such it is far better for you to have run many weekly nets (ten to
thirty - depending on the individual) before attempting one of these. They range from
very simple with a length of one or two hours, to extremely complex, running several
hours to multiple days. Logs of the net activity are very important to smooth
operation of this type of net.
The third type of net is the incident or emergency net. These range from complex to
very complex and tend to be much more fast paced than they should be (SLOW
DOWN - you pass more traffic faster that way). It is recommended that you have run
many event nets, if at all possible, before attempting and incident net. Maintaining
accurate logs for these nets is critical to effective net operation.
The weekly net or very simple event net are the only nets that can be run effectively
by one person. All others require at least two people at NCS to run efficiently - one
person to talk and one to log. In long term or very complex nets, a third operator is
strongly recommended. This third person can handle messages, runner tasks, and
relieve the other two operators at regular intervals so all can operate at higher
To begin a scheduled weekly net you will:
• Get a copy of the Net Script if one exists
• READ IT before you start.
• Check with your net manager or EC to find out when (time) and where
(frequency) the net is to be run.
• Start the net on time. Remember, there will likely be many people
waiting for the net. Don't waste their time by being late.
• Be as concise as possible as you conduct the net.
• SMILE - your ability to be friendly helps these nets run more smoothly.
To begin a scheduled event net you will need:
• A copy of the roster of participants
• A map or description of where the stations will be located.
• The time and frequency you will start operating on.
• A description of what we are to accomplish.
• You will then:
o Open the net with a description of the event and how long it is
anticipated to run.
o Call for check-ins and issue Tactical Calls based on the operators
function or location.
o Be as concise as possible as you conduct the net.
o Keep good logs!
o Handle traffic.
To begin an incident net you will:
• Get a description of the incident and what support is needed.
• Find out from your EC or AEC where and when the net is to be run
• Find out what resources are needed to support the incident.
Remember, you will probably be the staffing net for the first period of
time for this incident.
• Open the net with a description of the incident and a statement of what
help is needed.
• Be as concise as possible as you conduct the net.
• Keep detailed logs!
• Follow your EC's instructions.
• Handle traffic.
Two important items:
• If NCS cannot be heard by all stations on a given repeater
system -- and there are qualified NCS operators who can be
heard by all -- NCS duty should immediately be turned over to
the station that can be heard.
• For all nets - Do your best to remain as calm and relaxed as
possible, give it an honest try and ask for help if you need it.
Nothing more will ever be asked of you. One last hint - ask for a
mentor for your first few nets of each type. This helps you learn
faster and insures someone can help you pick things up, should
you fumble anything significant.
The following is a list of questions an NCS operator needs to ask of themselves
BEFORE starting a net. If you cannot answer at least two thirds of the questions in
the affirmative, you should seriously consider having some one else run the net.
Exceptions to these are daily or weekly scheduled nets and those should still consider
many of the items.
1) Is the NCS location away from the Command Post?
The noise and commotion at CP degrades your ability to run a good net and the noise
you generate only adds to the confusion there.
2) Do you have the best performing antenna for the conditions?
A "rubber duck" is not adequate unless you can see the repeater antenna. That does
not mean see the mountain the repeater is on, it means see the antenna. For HF,
polarization of your antennas WILL affect your signal to others.
3) If you are running from battery: Do you have at least enough charge on
the battery to run more than one hour?
You should have a battery with 90+% charge but if you are the only choice for NCS
then make sure you can run the net long enough to have some one else get ready.
4) Are you using a headset with noise canceling microphone?
Even from home the background noise will affect how well you can hear and be
5) Do you have pencil/pen and paper sufficient to run the net for a full
You will NOT be able to remember enough about the traffic to be effective unless you
write it down.
6) For VHF/UHF: Do you know the characteristics of the repeater system you
Your effectiveness as NCS will be adversely affected if you do not.
7) Do you have a runner, liaison or logging person to support you?
For large scale events all three are required. You cannot handle the net and run
8) Do you have a designated relief operator?
Everyone gets tired and NCS must be the most alert operator on the net.
Attributes of a good NCS operator
Good communications skills and fluent command of our language
Good voice quality
Good hearing capabilities
Good listening capabilities
Good ear-to-hand copying skills
Understands what SERVICE means
Has knowledge of the Incident Command System
Willing to take and carry out direct orders
Is a strong team player
Is Self-assured but not overbearing
Decisive, with the maturity to make good judgment calls
Physically able to tolerate high stress for extended periods
Constant concern for the safety of participants
Sense of humor
Ability to absorb new terminologies quickly
Decent (readable) penmanship
Generally neat of appearance
Consistently demonstrates above average operating techniques
Knowledge of band characteristics
Learning to be NCS
Many of the skills used in contesting are applicable to NCS. Both activities involve
coordinating several stations on the same frequency at the same time. The contester
running a pile-up will try to contact as many stations as possible in the least amount
of time. A busy NCS will attempt to move as much traffic as possible in the least
amount of time. NCS techniques include:
• Have the best performing antenna for conditions. A "rubber duck" is not
adequate unless you can see the repeater antenna. That does not mean see
the mountain the repeater is on, it means see the antenna. For HF,
polarization of your antennas WILL affect your signal to others.
• Plan what you are about to say as if you will be quoted. PTT does not mean
Push Then Think.
• When asking for reports or soliciting traffic, listen!
• Take down as many calls as you can identify before you acknowledge anyone!
• A good log is critical to an efficient operation. Create / use a good log! A
few calls scribbled on a sheet of paper, in no real order, becomes useless in a
few seconds. Make sure your log includes:
o 1)Time of the entry
o 2)Call / Tactical call
o 3)Summary of what was said or requested. Be sure not to kill yourself
with excessive details. The log is an overview of who did what, where
Slow Down! Wait three or four seconds before you answer any call. This assures
any emergency or priority traffic has access to the net without requiring the largest
Acknowledge all stations that you heard, then yield the frequency to a single
station. When that station is finished, hand the frequency to the next station on the
priority list, without soliciting more traffic. Follow this pattern until you've completed
your list, then repeat. The exception to this is in handling routine traffic during an
emergency. With routine traffic during an incident net, break between messages to
solicit any emergency/priority traffic and handle that first.
The net-name/function and the NCS callsign, should be announced several times
at the beginning of the net and every eight to ten minutes during the net. Many NCS'
use the repeater IDer to track the time to identify.
When acknowledging checkins, list the callsigns as letters (not phonetically). The
purpose of this acknowledgment is to confirm to each checkin that his/her call was
heard. Phonetics used on all acknowledgments simply slows the net. NOTE: Phonetics
are an excellent way to clarify questions about the call received (was that a B or a D,
etc.). Reciting all of the check in information (beyond the call) simply wastes time.
DO NOT make editorial comments about the traffic or information being
passed unless it will speed or enhance the information flow! Chattiness,
especially early in the net, degrades the effectiveness of the net.
For scheduled nets, NCS' goal should be to run the script top to bottom and
handle all of the listed traffic, business/comments as quickly as possible, without
rushing. If you are concerned that this makes the net "too cold" you could schedule a
"chat session" at the end of the net or just after the net closes.
If someone tunes up on the net frequency during the net (SSB, CW, etc.), remind
them ONE TIME that this constitutes harmful interference and should be done off the
net frequency. Repeating this notification will only serve to encourage those
attempting to interfere with the net. Some HF nets even schedule one minute for
When there is a double, try to get something unique from one or more of the
stations. Then call for clarification from those stations ONLY. The alternative approach
is to acknowledge the check-ins you could understand and then call for checkins that
tried in the last round but were not acknowledged.
If your net is passing NTS traffic, remind participants to read the variable
information in order without the redundant field identifiers such as: "Check", "phone
Most participants will catch on quickly to the pattern. If they do not, take the
time to explain. Things get done much faster if everyone uses the same techniques.
Be as concise as possible. Use the fewest words that will completely say what
you mean. This will minimize the need for the repeating of instructions.
Take frequent breaks. While you may not recognize the stress that being an NCS
produces, it will become evident in your voice. If you are asking yourself when your
last break was, you know it is time for one. Turn over the net to your backup at least
every two hours and REST. Do not listen to the net. Rest. Then, when rested, listen
to the net for a few minutes before resuming your station.
Speak in first person. It is "recognizing ve3xxx" or "roger ve3xxx" NOT "NCS
would like to recognize ve3xxx" or worse yet "Net recognizes ve3xxx". This is
important because it shows a subconscious acceptance of leadership. The person
"bought into" running the net. They subtly reinforce the NCS' authority by telling
everyone they accept full responsibility for operating the net.
Control the tone of your voice. Be as calm as possible. Tension tends to make our
voices raise in pitch and this change will be picked up by the net. Use a calm tone
and members of the net will tend to remain calm.
The ability to remain cool, calm and collected will buy you more than anything else.
There is no doubt that being an NCS is a high pressure assignment and it is easy to
become frustrated or angry. If you have a frustrating problem, ask for help from
other members of the net. Knowing when to delegate is the mark of a good leader.
In many ways the job of NCS can be equated to that of a traffic cop for the
frequency. You control the flow of information. This analogy carries over to the duties
of enforcing net discipline. You can reasonably expect net members to:
1) Report to the NCS promptly as they become available.
2) Ask clearance from NCS before using the frequency.
3) Answer PROMPTLY when called by NCS.
4) Use tactical call signs.
5) Follow established net protocol.
However, you must remember you are dealing with volunteers that have a vast range
of knowledge and experience. This means you cannot order their compliance, only
ask for their cooperation. It is better to lead by example and produces much better
results. Probably the best way to enlist the cooperation of the net is to explain what
you are doing in a calm and straight-forward manner. This may involve supplying a
small amount of real-time training. The one thing you never do is dress down
someone over the air.
One way of classifying a net is the level of net discipline used, or the "style" of the
net. The two acknowledged styles are:
Open (Informal) Nets
During an open net most any type of traffic or communication is permitted.
Conversations (rag-chews) are permitted provided they break every so often to allow
incident related traffic to flow.
A Directed Net is created when there are a large number of stations needing to use
the frequency or the volume of traffic cannot be dealt with on a first-come first-
served basis. The NCS will determine who uses the frequency and what traffic will be
passed first. Casual conversation is discouraged and tactical call signs will be used as
Like anything else, being a good NCS requires practice. Contact your local EC
or Net Manager for opportunities in your area!
NCS Hints and Kinks
If it is a scheduled net, start on time! Use a script when/where possible. If you have
time, make notes to yourself to help with the information in the script - before you
start the net, create/use a good log! A few calls scribbled on a sheet of paper, in no
real order, becomes useless in a few seconds. Make sure your log includes:
1) Time of the entry
2) Call / Tactical call
3) Summary of what was said or requested.
Be sure not to kill yourself with excessive details. A good log is critical.
Be friendly yet in control - speak slowly and clearly with an even tone, not a
monotone. Sound confident, even if you are not. Above all, don't worry. Just give it
an honest try.
Ask SPECIFIC questions, give SPECIFIC instructions! You can make it much harder on
yourself with nebulous questions and instructions.
Slow Down! While it may seem counter-intuitive, you will actually handle more
traffic in less time when you wait three or four seconds before answering any call.
DO NOT make editorial comments about the traffic or information being passed
unless it will speed or enhance the information flow! An ARES or NTS net is not about
your opinion, it is about efficient information flow.
Read your owner's manual and understand how to use your microphone. The worst
sounding NCS is one that cannot be heard or sounds like a train huffing and puffing
into the microphone as they speak. Articulate, don't slur. Speak close to your mike,
but talk across it, NOT into it.
When there is a double, try to get something unique from one or more of the
stations. Then call for clarification from those stations ONLY. During check-ins,
recognize participants by name whenever possible. Acknowledge checkins and ALL
Be sure to frequently identify the purpose of the net (let people know what they are
checking in to!) and advise all listeners of the subaudable frequency required if
Ask for assistance if/when you need it. If this is not a weekly net, delegate
responsibilities. You cannot do it all.
Maps are VERY helpful in events or incidents.
If this is an emergency net, remind listeners to listen and tell them where the staffing
net is. Someone checking in to say they are listening only slows the net.
Don't be afraid to say "OOPS" if you get flustered and mumble a bit. Pause, take a
deep breath, and go back at it. If you make a mistake, remember this is not Brain
Surgery. Do your best to CALMLY recover. Nothing more will ever be asked of
DON'T THINK ON THE AIR! If you need a moment to consider what is needed next,
say something like "Stand by" and unkey your mike. Keep transmissions as short as
possible. Resist the tendency to rag chew or ramble.
Transmit only facts! If there is need to make an educated guess or speculate, make
sure it is VERY clear that it is speculation. First choice is to not speculate at all.
Avoid becoming the source for general information about the event. If it is an
emergency, refer incident status questions to the served agency Public Information
When necessary, use standard ITU phonetics. There is no such thing as "common
spelling". Send all numbers as individual numbers, e.g., 334 is three three four not
three hundred thirty four.
Speak in first person. It is "recognizing VE3ZZZ" or "roger VE3ZZZ" NOT "NCS
would like to recognize VE3ZZZ" or worse yet "Net recognizes VE3ZZZ". This is
important because it shows a subconscious acceptance of leadership. The person
"bought into" running the net. They subtly reinforce the NCS' authority by telling
everyone they accept full responsibility for operating the net.
For voice nets, use plain English. "Q" signals are for CW.
If the net has been quiet for more than ten minutes, check on operator status. This
keeps the net running more smoothly and insures you know about equipment failures
as soon as possible.
A somewhat thread bare saying that is very true, tells us a lot about contingency
planning. "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail". Or as Murphy put it - "Anything that
can go wrong will. Anything that can't go wrong still will". How does this relate to
Emergency Communications? Simple. As you begin your planning for emergency
operation, be sure you have redundancy of equipment and back up people available
when ever possible.
As NCS it is up to you to plan for your backup and have backup equipment available
for your use. Every emergency net and the vast majority of event nets require at
least one extra person at the NCS position. Ideally, there will be three people at NCS
for any emergency or major event net. This allows one person to act as NCS, one
person to handle logging and the third to handle liaison with the served agency and
act as runner. The people at NCS will rotate assignments about each hour.
Try to obtain more volunteers than you have positions to fill. Wait! More volunteers
than you have need for? Yes. On average, for every ten volunteers you get, there will
be at least one that will develop equipment problems, or have transportation
problems, or have personal emergencies that develop. If you have only "just enough"
volunteers, you actually are short ten percent for the event.
Having one or two "floaters" who can act as relief for almost any of your
operators WILL help the event run more smoothly. In addition, having an extra
person to act as - runner - handling message transportation to/from your served
agency will help your group function more efficiently. The side benefit is that should
one of the volunteers prove to not have sufficient training, they can become the
backup on that job and have a successful training experience during the event.
During the course of every event that lasts over two hours (and most of the others)
you will have need to turn over operation of one or more of the locations in the net to
a relief operator. As NCS it is in the best interest of the net and your sanity to do
likewise with the net to another NCS operator at least every hour. To facilitate this
change of operators the new operator will need:
• List or note of outstanding messages to/from the location
• Log of traffic to/from the location. These two items may be one log, properly
• Status of open queries
• Local and remote contacts for the location (served agency and others as
• Any other information the outgoing operator feels necessary
When ever possible, both operators should handle the location for at least ten
minutes to allow smooth transition. This is sometimes referred to as briefing /
Coverage breaks are, as the name implies, failures of a station to handle traffic as
required during a net. These will usually take the form of equipment failures, power
supply failures or overly tired operators who fail to pay attention. In ALL cases, prior
agreement of how the coverage breaks are to be handled should be announced in the
pre event briefing.
The best way to handle NCS coverage breaks is with a known NCS backup. This
person is known to the net and has a duplicate copy of the operational log for the
event and thus is able to pick up operation of the net in just a few moments. When
there is not sufficient resource to have a backup NCS then the person with the best
NCS skills and most complete staff at their location should take over the net. This
person will start with a call for emergency traffic, handle that, then go to roll call to
establish continuity. After which regular net traffic will resume. NOTE: As this
person takes over the net they will no longer be available to handle the
previous assignment. A relief operator will need to be dispatched to handle the new
NCS' previous assignment!
When a station fails repeatedly to respond to calls from NCS an assessment must be
made of the criticality of the traffic. If there is critical traffic holding for that station
then a relief operator will need to be dispatched immediately. If the traffic can be
held for several minutes then a re-evaluation should be made at that time. If the
coverage break was from equipment failure and that can be corrected, then the relief
operator may be recalled. If the coverage break was from being inattentive, the relief
operator should take over.
Handling an irate participant
This is one of the toughest problems you will face. If handled incorrectly, it can cause
net participants to 'take sides' and erode the morale and effectiveness of your net.
People can get their feelings hurt over very little, especially when they are tired and
in unusually stressful circumstances. Your first reactions need to be:
• Slow up. Don't respond instantly. Take a deep breath.
• Do a quick review of what you know about this person.
• DO THE NEXT THREE STEPS ALL IN ONE STATEMENT.
1) Acknowledge the problem. Give in to the 'Problem' whether they are right
or wrong! This acknowledges that there is a problem and that you are
recognizing that fact. Once you agree that there is a problem, the 'fight' is
2) Empathize with them! Whether you understand or not, tell them that you
can understand how they can feel that way and that were the situation
reversed, you would probably feel the same way.
3) Ask them to suggest a simple yet reasonable solution. Listen intently! This
is where they will reveal the real problem. Everything they have said up to
now may have been a loud smokescreen. Somewhere in their suggestion, they
will tell you what they really want from you.
• If their suggestion/solution is reasonable, tell them that you will try to put it
into play. If it is not, make a counter-suggestion that will satisfy the real
problem that they have revealed to you.
• If the problem cannot be resolved quickly and reasonably, quietly send
someone to replace this individual and relieve him from his post. If there are
no posts involved in the operation, give up . . . let him win . . . politely explain
that the net must continue, thank the person for his services and tell him he
doesn't have to stick around. You tried to solve the problem reasonably and he
refused. He wins the fight and you win the battle. The rest of the net will
respect what you did and morale will remain intact.
Handling malicious interference
Most people that interfere with net operations or with casual conversations are poor,
weak individuals that think the only way to get recognition is to behave improperly.
The best way to handle them is to ignore them. When they can evoke no response, at
all, they tend to leave. Let them leave without comment. If you comment in any way,
these people will persist.
Unfortunately, there are people who prove there is need for more chlorine at their
end of the gene pool. To overcome the interference from these individuals you will
have to plan for it. Plan by having alternate frequencies announced at the pre-event
briefing. Should the interference become intolerable, move to the alternate
frequency. When you move to another frequency, do so under pre-announced set of
conditions (at the briefing) and without saying anything on the primary frequency.
Another very successful method involves the use of your local "fox hunters" to track
down the offending station. This will need to be a well coordinated effort that is not
announced on the net frequency.
Shortcut to being a good NCS - Practice, Practice Practice
S Be willing to learn.
Accept constructive criticism politely.
Contact your district Emergency Coordinator and volunteer.
Contact the person in charge of your local traffic net and volunteer.
Contact your local Amateur Radio club to see if they have a net. If so volunteer.
Look for the group that handles public service events in your area. Many times
this will not be the ARES group, so volunteer.
Work with the best NCS you can find. This person will be able to show you (if you
care to watch) a lot of subtle, but important techniques.
Work as NCS as often as you can.
The dictionary tells us - Liaison: n. a connecting of the parts of a whole, as of military
units, in order to bring about proper coordination of activities. You will most likely be
You are now at the point where you are accepting management duties. With these
duties come the responsibilities of becoming one of the people who MUST be
concerned with how well each of the people in your group interacts with others. The
easiest way to start this process is to make VERY brief mental notes to yourself on
what person-x did wrong, or better yet what person-x did that was a great help.
People respond very well to positive feedback and when you are consistent and
accurate with positive feedback you will find your job much easier. Please
understand that if you become known as the local "snitch" people will cease to
cooperate / interact with you. Thus it is important that you make comment ONLY
when there is noticeable negative impact by person-x and that you are very accurate
in your assessment. You, and the group, will be well served if you can just take
person-x aside and provide them with friendly help to resolve the situation.
The second portion of liaison is with your served agencies. This can be either quite
easy (if the people before you had a good working relationship with the agency) or
very difficult should you have to "re-educate" your served agency on the value of
ARES. When the re-education (or occasionally initial education) of a served agency is
required, it is imperative that you are viewed as a team player that is there to
help when and where they need help. This is easiest if you keep a few things in
• Every public service agency has daily contact with people that are very
• Police departments and Government agencies have had negative encounters
with people that want to be a Police person or fire person but do not have
"what it takes".
• Police and Government agencies are most comfortable when THEY are in
• They may be embarrassed at having to ask for help.
It is up to you how the served agency will perceive you and your group. When you
are friendly, without being pushy, cooperative and LISTEN to what they say, your
group will make progress. If you go out of your way to be available (but NOT in their
face) when they have training, you can slowly prove the value of your group to your
The key word in dealing with a served agency is SLOWLY. If you attempt to
push, go too quickly (except in response to their requests) or attempt to tell them
how to run their business, your efforts will fail.
There is a fine line between being available and being pushy. You will need to be very
careful as you approach this line to insure you do not cross it. With that said, there
are many agencies that appreciate regular contact and it does prove very helpful.
As you begin to train others on a regular basis you will need to consider many things
that are difficult to quantify. The reason they are hard to quantify is that each person
learns at a different rate and in one of several different ways. Some of the more
common learning/teaching techniques are:
Stick to the subject.
Examples, used to make a point, are good. So long as you spend more time
with the main material than on examples (commonly called "war stories").
Vary your speed of presentation.
Highly technical information should have a slower presentation rate while
simpler material can be covered more quickly. Take extreme care to realize
what is simple to some may be quite complex to others.
Organize your material.
The standard "timing" for course preparation is two hours of preparation time
for each hour of presentation time. This will vary with how many times you
have taught the material. The first time you do a segment you may need three
to four hours of prep. time for each hour of class.
Have a specific learning goal in mind for each segment.
The most effective presentations are short, concise and handle one subject.
Use charts and diagrams as applicable.
Many people find it easier to learn material when they have "pictures" to help
with explanations. The old true-ism states "a picture is worth a thousand
Make copies of the material for your students.
A handout gives the student a good place to make notes and insures they will
have a place to find those notes later.
Make notes to yourself - on your copy - about which examples work
best for this segment.
As you teach, you will find specific examples that work very well in
emphasizing a given point. The notes will help you remember which one(s)
work the best and where.
Above all else, try to have fun while you teach.
Students pick up, very quickly, how relaxed you are. If you are having fun
teaching, your students will probably have fun learning.
It has often been said that you learn more about a subject when you teach it. That is
true and it can be fun.
NCS Self Evaluation
ARES operators are frequently called upon to create "Nets" (short for Communication
Networks) with little or no advance warning. Those are the life blood of our work. To
prepare for these events or incidents we regularly hold training nets that have the
potential for being anything from poorly conducted to very efficient. By what standard
do we measure how good those nets are? Please keep in mind that everyone needs to
have as many of these items correct as possible but increased experience requires
more correct than a new NCS.
• Yes items - can you answer yes to all of these
1. If it was a scheduled net, did I start the net on time?
2. Was I prepared?
3. Did I use my microphone correctly?
a. No huff and puff from P, B, etc.
b. No breath sounds
c. Volume consistent
d. No distortion
e. No (or minimal) background noise
4. Did I allow enough time for net participants to reply? A consistent four
to five second wait is essential.
5. If on a repeater - Did I listen well and hear stations without asking for
multiple unnecessary repeats?
6. If on a repeater system - Did I properly utilize the unique properties of
the repeater system?
7. If on HF - Did I ask for relays as appropriate?
8. Did I handle acknowledgments correctly?
a. Not repeating phonetics
b. Not repeating checkin information beyond the call and those
c. Not missing multiple checkins
9. Did I speak in first person during acknowledgments? ("Net would like to
recognize ...." is not first person)
10. Did I handle "doubles" properly?
11. Did I ask specific questions?
12. Did I give specific instructions?
• No items - can you answer no to all of these
1. Did I over identify?
Was this a script problem?
2. Was I overly talkative?
3. Did I mumble or fumble through more than one item?
4. Did I seem in a hurry?
5. Did I make editorial comment on more than one item?
6. Did I seem to be under stress?
7. Did I seem to "get lost" and have to think on the air (dead air time)?
• Overall: Were you comfortable with the net? If not, what specific items would
improve the net?
Portions of this manual were derived from material produced by;
- American Radio Relay League
- Kentucky Amateur Radio Club
- Vancouver Emergency Community Telecommunications Organization