Oregon ARES District 1

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Hints For Being Net Control

There are three types of nets that you may be asked to run. First is the regular weekly net held by ARES®/RACES. 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 weekly nets.  SUGGESTION: Have more than 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 business.

The second type of net is the Public Service event net. These are seldom, if ever, scripted and as such it is far better for you to have run some weekly nets 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 information faster that way). It is recommended that you have run many event nets, if at all possible, before attempting an incident net. Maintaining accurate logs for these nets is critical to effective net operation.

The weekly net or very simple events 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 efficiency.

1. To begin a scheduled weekly net you will:
** Get the latest copy of the Net Script.
** READ it before you start.
** Start the net on time. Remember, there will likely be people waiting for the net. Don’t waste their time by being late.
** Be as concise as possible as you conduct the net.
** If you tumble or mumble, unkey, take a deep breath and go at it again. The extra few seconds will do wonders for your composure.
** SMILE your ability to be friendly helps these nets run more smoothly.

2. To begin a scheduled event net you will need:
** A list of the participants
** The time and frequency you will start operating on.
** A description of what we are to accomplish.
** You will then:
* Open the net with a description of the event and how long it is anticipated to run.
* Be as concise as possible as you conduct the net.
* Keep good logs!
* Handle traffic.

3. To begin an incident net you will:
** Get a description of the incident and what support is needed.
** Find out from your DEC, 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 DEC, EC’s instructions.
** Handle traffic.

4. 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 assures someone can help you pick things up, should you fumble anything significant.
The following are suggestions for forms that may be of use to you:
1.    Mobilization/Demobilization
2.    Communications Log

These forms are available on the K7YCA website.

NCS QUESTIONS…..
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 to weekly scheduled nets and those should still consider many of the items.


1. Is the NCS location away from the Command Post (CP) or EOC?
If not, it should be.  The noise and commotion at CP/EOC degrades your ability to run a good net and the noise you generate only adds to the confusion there.


2. Are you using a headset with noise canceling microphone?
You really should. Even from home the background noise will affect h well you can hear and be heard.


3. 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.


4. 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 someone else get ready.


5. Do you have pencil/pen and paper sufficient to run the net for a full shift?
You will NOT be able to remember enough of the information to be effective unless you
write it down. It is up to you to maintain the log for the event/incident unless you have an assistant to handle that assignment.


6. For VHF/UHF: Do you know the characteristics of the repeater system you are on?
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 three people are needed. You cannot handle the net, log and run messages.  These positions may be rotated to eliminate fatigue.


8. Do you have a designated relief operator?
Everyone gets tired and the NCS must be the most alert operator on the net.

ATTRIBUTES OF A GOOD NCS OPERATOR…..
1.  Good communications skills and fluent command of our language
2.  Good voice quality
3.  Good hearing capabilities
4.  Good listening capabilities
5.  Good ear-to-hand copying skills
6.  Understands what SERVICE means
7.  Has good knowledge of the Incident Command System
8.  Willing to take and carry out direct orders
9.  Is a strong team player
10. Is Self-assured but not overbearing
11. Decisive, with the maturity to make good judgment calls
12. Physically able to tolerate high stress for extended periods
13, Constant concern for the safety of participants
14. Organizer
15. Sense of humor
16. Ability to absorb new terminologies quickly
17. Decent (readable) penmanship
18. Generally neat of appearance
19. Consistently demonstrates above average operating techniques.

LEARNING TO BE A NET CONTROL STATION (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 similarity ends there.  Where the contester is in a hurry, NCS is calm and almost seems to be going very slowly.  The extra time NCS uses actually speeds information flow by minimizing repeats and ensuring that priority information has access to the net without needing the largest signal on the net.


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.

>>>  A good log is critical to an efficient operation. Create and 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.  The log is an overview of who did what, where and when.

>>>  Plan what you are about to say as if you will be quoted.- PTT does not mean Push Then Think.

>>>  DO NOT make editorial comments about the business 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.

>>>  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.

>>>  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 signal.

>>>  When asking for reports or soliciting traffic, listen!  Take down as many calls as you can identify before you acknowledge anyone!

>>>  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. The very worst thing you can do is to say “The station that doubled with ..??  How are they to know who they doubled with?!

>>>  When acknowledging checkins, list the call signs as letters (not phonetically). The purpose of this acknowledgment is to confirm to each check in 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.

>>>  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 when 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 NCS callsign, should be announced several times at the beginning of the net and every eight to ten minutes during an exchange.  Many NCS’s use the repeater ID’er to track the time to identity.

>>>  For scheduled nets, NCS’s goal should be to run the script top to bottom and handle all of the listed business, announcements and traffic as quickly as possible, without rushing.

>>>  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.

>>>  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.

>>>  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.

Last and FAR from least …

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.

Credit Reference: K7YCA

RATPAC Defined

Radio Amateur Training Planning and Activities Committee (RATPAC). Although not affiliated with the ARRL, RATPAC is made up of ARRL Section Managers, appointed ARRL field leaders, and other members of the amateur radio community.

We hosts Zoom presentations twice weekly for amateur radio operators worldwide, Wednesdays on general radio topics, and Thursdays on amateur radio emergency communications.

The presentation audience participates directly in the Zoom sessions and/or indirectly with video links (including YouTube) and related documentation sent out after each session.


The Storied History of the Ham Radio Callsign


RATPAC Youtube Videos

RATPAC Video Presentations Lists

RATPAC Website

Digital Mobile Radio

Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) for Hams located in the Pacific Northwest. Our focus is on our infrastructure, repeaters, servers and operation.

Digital mobile radio (DMR) is an open digital mobile radio standard with the primary goal of the standard is to specify a digital system with low complexity, low cost and interoperability across brands, so radio communications purchasers are not locked into a proprietary solution. The standard has become popular within the amateur radio community due to the relative lower cost and complexity compared to other commercial digital modes.

We are a c-Bridge based network of Motorola’s MotoTRBO repeaters located in British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington with our own direct connecting MMDVM servers as a secondary method to maintain contact with the network when outside of our repeater coverage area.

We operate 3 c-Bridges using 3 Washington data centers and more than 75 repeaters, 9 MMDVM, 2 Echo Servers and various backend support operations. We also maintain a SMS and APRS-D server. The HamWAN Microwave backbone is used where possible and we are coordinating our sites and efforts to help grow the HamWAN network.


ARRG DMR Repeater – South Saddle Mountain

Frequency: 440.8125 + Offset CC1

SEA-PAC 2022 is a GO

We’re moving forward with a spectacular “in person” SEA-PAC

June 3, 4 & 5, 2022, in beautiful Seaside, Oregon.


IMPORTANT SEA-PAC

REGISTRATION INFORMATION

SEA-PAC 2022 Online Registration Will

Open at 12:01AM, February 15, 2022


As we restart the SEA-PAC website, there will be a few changes:

to the registration process:

• There will only be online and in-person registration

• Mail-in registration will no longer be available

• You can register online through the SEA-PAC website

• Or at the Registration Desk at the convention

• All convention document packets will be “Will Call”

• Convention documents (badge, tickets, etc.) will not be mailed

• Your convention documents will be waiting for you at the Registration “Will Call” Desk at the convention.


To stay informed about SEA-PAC, subscribe to the low volume “SEA-PAC Waves” eMail list by sending an email with your name and callsign to info@seapac.org. To see the latest SEA-PAC “Waves” newsletter CLICK HERE

All Weather Field Station

It’s taken some time to get off the ground, but I’m happy to announce the All Weather Solar-Powered Field Station project.

The All Weather Solar-Powered Field Station is my attempt to put together a man portable, rapidly deployable, 2 operator, solar-powered field station other operators, clubs or organizations in the emcomm or survival communities can replicate.

That said it’s also important to remember that this is just the template or kind of a guide. I’m just showing you how I’ve been able to implement my field station. How you implement yours will depend on your requirements, budget, and of course your individual goals. Remember there’s no right or wrong way here. There’s only the way we achieve our goals!


Portable Ham Radio Station on Solar Power | Introduction

In today’s video I’d like to discuss the concept of a solar-powered portable ham radio station field station for casual or emergency communications. Those of you who follow the blog, probably already know about this project. For the rest of you here is a video introduction of a concept I call the All WX Solar-Powered EMCOMM Field Station.

The concept for a rapidly deployable, man-portable ham radio field station, came to me after the grid down disaster caused by Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria knocked out electricity and communications throughout Puerto Rico. this was an Awakening for many preparedness minded amateur radio operators around the world.

Emergency Communications Training

ARES ManualAmateur Radio Emergency Service Manual

FEMA Traininghttps://training.fema.gov/is/

Please refer to your individual Local County for specific ARES training


ARRL- Online Course Catalog

  • Introduction to Emergency Communication (EC-001)
  • Description. This course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. Visit ARRL for complete course details.

Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs (EC-016)

  • Description. This course is designed to train licensed Amateur Radio operators who will be in leadership and managerial roles organizing other volunteers to support public service activities and communications emergencies.
  • Visit ARRL for complete course details.

ARRL Self-Guided Emergency Communication Course EC-001-S is Now Available On Demand

ARRL’s EC-001-S online “Introduction to Emergency Communication” course is now available to students in an on-demand format, allowing students to register for the course and begin work at any time. This course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer.

  • Visit ARRL for complete course details.

  • Oregon ACES – Basic Certification: Oregon ACES was formed to develop a training and certification program for amateur radio emergency communicators.

    Mission: To support our emergency communications partners by promoting a standard for training and certification of amateur radio operators.

    Goals:

    • To develop training programs for Amateur Radio Emcomm Resources that meet the training needs of municipal, county, state, federal and private served agencies.
    • To manage a certification process for graduates of training programs which provides credentials that are modeled after NIMS/ICS resource typing.
    • To evaluate and accredit training programs and instructors for emergency communication training.
    • To develop and promote exercises in communications preparedness that allow operators to apply their learned skills.

    History: Amateur radio has a long history of supporting agencies in need with a variety of communications services in the event of an emergency. Traditionally these services have been available under either a Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) program as outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) program outlined by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), or a combination of both programs.

    The  ACES program includes these and other emergency communications services including Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), Civil Air Patrol (CAP), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams (REACT), US Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGA), Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS), Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) and others that can provide specific communications solutions.


    Radio Relay International – Traffic Handling – We’re the leading traffic handling outfit for operators in the U.S.A. and Canada with affiliates worldwide including in the UK, EU, Oceania and beyond.

    Decades of experience.  Proven leadership.  Quiet professionals doing our job. RRI is traffic handling the way it should be done with proven methods, new technology and a new sense of purpose.

    To learn how to pass formal written traffic join the Northwest Oregon Traffic and Training Net (NTTN) each evening at 6:05PM on the WORC linked repeater system.

    Net Operation

    A radio net is three or more radio stations communicating with each other on a common channel or frequency. A net is essentially a moderated conference call conducted over two-way radio, typically in half-duplex operating conditions. The use of half-duplex operation requires a very particular set of operating procedures to be followed in order to avoid inefficiencies and chaos.

    Nets operate either on schedule or continuously (continuous watch). Nets operating on schedule handle traffic only at definite, prearranged times and in accordance with a prearranged schedule of intercommunication. Nets operating continuously are prepared to handle traffic at any time; they maintain operators on duty at all stations in the net at all times. When practicable, messages relating to schedules will be transmitted by a means of signal communication other than radio.

    Net operations:

    • allow participants to conduct ordered conferences among participants who usually have common information needs or related functions to perform
    • are characterized by adherence to standard formats and procedures, and
    • are responsive to a common supervisory station, called the net control station“, which permits access to the net and maintains net operational discipline.

    Net manager

    A net manager is the person who supervises the creation and operation of a net over multiple sessions. This person will specify the format, date, time, participants, and the net control script. The net manager will also choose the Net Control Station for each net, and may occasionally take on that function, especially in smaller organizations.


    Net Control Station

    Radio nets are like conference calls in that both have a moderator who initiates the group communication, who ensures all participants follow the standard procedures, and who determines and directs when each other station may talk. The moderator in a radio net is called the Net Control Station, formally abbreviated NCS, and has the following duties:

    • Establishes the net and closes the net;
    • Directs Net activities, such as passing traffic, to maintain optimum efficiency;
    • Chooses net frequency, maintains circuit discipline and frequency accuracy;
    • Maintains a net log and records participation in the net and movement of messages; (always knows who is on and off net)
    • Appoints one or more Alternate Net Control Stations (ANCS);
    • Determines whether and when to conduct network continuity checks;
    • Determines when full procedure and full call signs may enhance communications;
    • Subject to Net Manager guidance, directs a net to be directed or free.

    The Net Control Station will, for each net, appoint at least one Alternate Net Control Station, formally abbreviated ANCS (abbreviated NC2 in WWII procedures), who has the following duties:

    • Assists the NCS to maintain optimum efficiency;
    • Assumes NCS duties in event that the NCS develops station problems;
    • Assumes NCS duties for a portion of the net, as directed or as needed;
    • Serves as a resource for the NCS; echoes transmissions of the NCS if, and only if, directed to do so by the NCS;
    • Maintains a duplicate net log.

    Structure of the net

    Nets can be described as always having a net opening and a net closing, with a roll call normally following the net opening, itself followed by regular net business, which may include announcements, official business, and message passing. Military nets will follow a very abbreviated and opaque version of the structure outlined below, but will still have the critical elements of opening, roll call, late check-ins, and closing.

    A net should always operate on the same principle as the inverted pyramid used in journalism—the most important communications always come first, followed by content in ever lower levels of priority.

    1. Net opening
      1. Identification of the NCS
      2. Announcement of the regular date, time, and frequency of the net
      3. Purpose of the net
    2. Roll call
      1. A call for stations to check in, oftentimes from a roster of regular stations
      2. A call for late check-ins (stations on the roster who did not respond to the first check-in period)
      3. A call for guest stations to check in
    3. Net business
    4. Optional conversion to a free net
    5. Net closing

    Each net will typically have a main purpose, which varies according to the organization conducting the net, which occurs during the net business phase. For amateur radio nets, it’s typically for the purpose of allowing stations to discuss their recent operating activities (stations worked, antennas built, etc.) or to swap equipment. For Military Auxiliary Radio System and National Traffic System nets, net business will involve mainly the passing of formal messages, known as radiograms.

    Credits: Wikipedia – For complete Details

    Introduction to APRS

    Brief History of APRS

    Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, is credited as the father and creator of APRS. His early work back in the 1980’s creating object positioning systems developed into a unconnected object mapping system in the early 90’s. Soon GPS technology became available to the consumer market and an automated system was developed. By the mid 90’s a somewhat robust APRS framework had developed.

    I call it a framework as it took the next decade for APRS to mature. But for APRS to be viable a few things needed to happen, so by the early 2000’s a dedicated APRS VHF frequency had been established. A full time internet gateway developed, and digipeat and path protocols formalized. The sign that APRS was ready for prime time was when radio manufacturers Kenwood and Yaesu released products with APRS functionality. Those wild west days of APRS may be gone, but the Automated Packet Reporting System has become an established, functional, and quite useful mode for amateur radio operators- especially those interested in Emergency Communications.


    How APRS Works

    So APRS works by transmitting unconnected packets containing a callsign, path, location, and other information. APRS is built on packet radio technology so the transmissions are in AX.25 format at 1200 baud. So you’ll need a device called a TNC or terminal node controller to take digital data and turn it into audio tones that an FM transceiver can transmit. In today’s world this sounds incredibly outdated, but the genius of the system is it’s robust nature.

    When I say unconnected, I mean that an APRS packet is transmitted without the expectation that it will be received by another station. Back in the olden days of packet radio you would use your TNC to connect to another station, much like a computer and modem would connect to another computer over the phone lines. So with an unconnected packets of APRS any number of receiving stations can potentially pick up the message and retransmit or digipeat it.

    This has the potential of conflict and these retransmitted packets can collide over the air, so a method of filtering and packet deprecation built into the digipeater firmware eliminatea duplicate packets. The way an APRS packet’s distance is controlled is by the path information.


    APRS Path Protocols

    If you ever looked at an APRS packet you probably saw things like WIDE, WIDE1-1, etc. These are the path protocols. The purpose of a digipeater is to listen for a packet and retransmit it. Since digipeaters cover a wide area, they will automatically retransmit a packet with the WIDE designator. So when the digipeater receives the packet marked WIDE, it will take the packet, substitute it’s callsign for WIDE, and retransmit it. Since the generic WIDE term is no longer in the packet and another digipeater won’t retransmit it. The packet now expires. Of course multiple digipeaters could receive the packet and retransmit them but the callsign substitution feature of the protocol prevents that ping pong effect from happening.

    Paths like WIDE1-1, or WIDE2-2 work in the same way, except that the 2-2 acts as a counter, extending the packet to multiple digipeaters. WIDE1-1 will go out 1 hop in all directions and WIDE2-2 will go out 2 hops in all directions. You never want to extend your packets out more than 3 hops as each hope introduces more chances for collision. Plus the goal of APRS is not to see how many maps you can light up, but instead travel just far enough for your packet to be picked up by an igate.


    APRS IGates

    An igate listens to the over the air traffic and injects the packets into the APRS internet stream. Igates can also take packets from the stream and retransmit them over the air. This has the benefit of being able to send and receive messages to just about any station heard by the internet stream. With radio and internet technology you can send short messages to just about any APRS station around the world. Also thanks to igates, you can view the local APRS traffic of just about any location.

    So how do we view the APRS information? The easiest way to get started is with an website called APRS.fi. APRS.fi transposes APRS packets onto a google map, making it very easy to view and query the APRS datastream. Some features, like messaging, are unavailable, but you can track stations and view their history, which are very useful features.


    Using APRS

    So you want to get involved in APRS. I think the easiest method is with a handheld radio, Btech APRS-K1 cable, and a smartphone. The APRS cable attaches to the 2-pin connector on the radio and plugs into the audio port on your phone. On your phone you’ll run an app like APRSDroid or APRS Pro Deluxe. The GPS in your phone will provide the location information and the app will emulate a terminal node controller. This setup lets you view and transmit to the local APRS channel and also view the APRS internet stream. Plus as you move the phone will cause the radio to beacon your location. You can purchase the BTech APRS-K1 Cable here.

    When I first got started with APRS, I built trackers using mobile radios, gps bricks, and TNCs. The downfall of APRS is the number of cables and connections needed to make the whole thing work. Something always was getting disconnected or stopped working. When I started biking more I wanted to take APRS with me, so I invested in a Yaesu VX-8R handheld. This little radio has both the GPS, TNC, and transceiver all integrated into one package, so there are no cables to worry about. Kenwood also created APRS integrated radios, and it was these devices that actually made APRS a useful protocol.

    But the common thread of APRS is the need of a TNC or terminal node controller. Whether you are using a tracker device like a Tinytrack or the Argent Data System, apps like APRSdroid, or a radio like the Kenwood D-710, all are using TNCs of some sort. APRS home stations often rely on a hardware TNC like the Kantronics KPC-3+, or older TNCs like the PK-12 or MFJ 1270. New KPC3+ TNCs have become outrageously expensive, and that value has trickled down to the used market. But there are still deals and you can pick up something like a PK-12, MFj 1270, PK-232 on the used market at a reasonable rate. Usually the key is scoping out hamfests with a keen eye to pick one up before someone else in the know spots it. But once you have your TNC you will be able to use some one of the standalone APRS applications, like the new PinpointAPRS on your shack computer.

    Credits: KB9VBR