May 2020

May 2020

DEC Bulletin

Basic communications skills and techniques should be practiced and used not just in our emergency communications events but in our public service events as well. EMCOMM is the ARRL acronym that stands for EMergency COMMunications. Public Service Events are a good opportunity to get some meaningful EMCOMM training in under less stressful conditions. Weather getting amateur radio involved in races, airshows, parades etc. it would behoove us to be at our best when in the public’s eye.

These techniques and skills about to be discussed are the result of "Trial-by-Fire", in that they have been developed, tested, retested, modified and tested again repeatedly. They have been proven effective in floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and just about every other type of disaster that humans can be exposed to including disasters involving motor vehicles, airplanes and trains.

To be an effective EMCOMM or Public Service Event operator in our efforts to be of assistance we must work to develop skills and techniques that will complement our willingness to serve.  As licensed operators, we are very familiar with the casual chats and banter that is carried on daily on the local repeaters. This type of operating IS NOT conducive to the rapid transfer of vital information in an emergency.

Why emergency communications skills are different is because messages that we pass can mean the difference between life and death or lose of property. Emergency communications are PURELY PROFESSIONAL. There is NO chatter, rumors or speculation. No broadcasting is permitted, and no personal opinions are offered. Official authorized messages only are transmitted.

Basic communications skills start with the messages must get through to the intended recipient. It must be clear and concise and easily understood. It must be passed quickly because it may mean the difference between loss of life (or property).

Being an EMCOMM operator or an operator at a Public Service Event is not to be taken lightly. Listening to and observing your surroundings are essential. You cannot hear what is being transmitted over the radio if you are busy talking. Stay focused on your assignment. Have a pair of headphones and use them in a noisy location otherwise important information/data may be missed (or misunderstood). If something looks out of place or does not belong there report it. DO NOT wander from your assigned position. Moving to another location is NOT your decision to make unless your life is at stake. Part of our job is the safety of the spectators at the public service events.

Microphone techniques are very important. They must be used correctly. Talk across the mic element, not directly into it. Hold the microphone close to your cheek. Speak at a normal rhythm. If you normally speak rapidly slow down and speak in normal tones do not whisper or shout. Enunciate your words clearly. Do not use the VOX as your radio will transmit unexpectedly. It could possibly be blocking out an emergency message in progress. Pause prior to keying the microphone. Another station may have emergency traffic, and this gives them a chance to be heard.

Each transmission should only contain the words necessary to pass the message. No chitchat or broadcasting should be done on the air. No non-essential chatter, speculation or rumors are permitted. Think before you speak and say exactly what you mean. You should complete one subject at a time. Do not mix messages. Plain language must be used on voice transmissions. No HAM jargon, no "Q" signals and no "10-Codes" are used. There is NO such thing as "common spelling". We use ONLY the ITU phonetic alphabet. DO NOT use the APCO phonetic alphabet. DO NOT use humorous or cute phonetics. Numbers (figures) are always pronounced individually. Pro-Words should be used (Clear, over, go-ahead, stand-by, roger). For Fills, "say again all before/after........." etc.

Tactical Call Signs should be used. They could be assigned for each station in the net. Using tactical calls makes it easier on the net control and will immediately identify your station and the station that your traffic is destined for. When calling with tactical call signs use the tactical call of called station first followed by your tactical call sign. For example: Net Control, Aid3 this tells the NCS that you have traffic to pass and that Aid3 station is the calling station.  You do not need to announce your FCC call sign now.

Give your FCC assigned call sign at the END of each complete exchange.  What is a complete exchange? Information exchanges on emergency nets will NOT take ten minutes to complete normally. Rendering your FCC call sign at the completion of each exchange serves two purposes.

  1. It satisfies the FCC requirement to identify at 10-minute intervals during an exchange, and at the completion of each exchange.
  2. by announcing your FCC call sign at the competition of the message tells the NCS or the receiving station that you have NOTHING FURTHER, and that you are continuing to monitor the net.

Allowing Critical Responders (third party) to speak over the radio is allowed by FCC Regulations [97.115(B)(1)]. Often, the terminology used will not be part of the radio operator’s vocabularyMost of us don't speak the language of Doctors, Paramedics, Firemen, Police Officers, etc. Direct conversation between critical responders saves time (time may be essential in life saving) and, eliminates errors in translation (which could cost lives)The licensed operator is present and is in control the radioA record of the individual speaking over your radio should be noted.

WHAT YOU SEE OR HEAR THERE…LEAVE THERE. At your assigned duty station, you may be exposed to "INSIDER" (proprietary) information that should/must not be revealed outside of that establishment. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT TO BE DISCUSSED OUTSIDE OF THAT PLACE OF BUSINESS, WITH ANYONE. Criminal Acts ARE NOT proprietary information and MUST be disclosed to proper authority. Who should be notified depends on the position/authority of the violator? Perhaps the safest bet is to notify the ARES® EC, and let that individual determine the best approach to reporting. It is extremely important that amateur radio volunteers establish and maintain a trusted and respected relationship with those we serve.

So, having a thorough knowledge of all your radio's functions is essential for efficient operation under stress. But to be an efficient and effective EMCOMM or Public Service Event operator many more skills and more techniques are needed.

Questions and comments concerning this article are always welcome and encouraged. Send an email to the address shown below.

NOTE: The terms ARES® and Amateur Radio Emergency Service® is both registered trademarks of the American Radio Relay League, Inc. and are used by permission.

Lew Maxwell. KB5HPT
DEC, District 6, WTX Section