Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Good Radio Practices For Net Controls (and the rest of us mortals!)

Guest Operator at VE3JW station at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa Canada.This information comes courtesy of the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club. Needless to say these ‘Best Practices’ can be adopted to everyday usage on the ham bands. I’m not sure if Canadian emergency nets have adopted or use some of these points. I’ve often heard DX stations ask for repeats, several times, of Canadian and American stations. Adopting some of these points should facilitate the non-English DX stations getting the proper information needed for their logs. With the many emergency and traffic nets in operation recently with the Haiti quake and foul weather on the American eastern seabord proper net etiquette is ‘de rigueur.’ The document was authored by Lou Dartanner, N6ZKJ.

Aim to project a professional image with proper operating practices, whether you're a net controller or a field unit.

Keep traffic to a minimum. Say what you have to say then release the frequency. Silence is Golden -- it allows someone else to use the channel when he or she needs it.

Some things to remember to help you be an efficient, professional sounding radio operator include:

  • Pitch, tone, and volume of voice. A moderate tone and pitch are desirable. Too high a voice can be irritating, too low can be hard to decipher. While you can't go out and buy a new voice, you should deliberately lower your voice pitch slightly when using the radio unless you have an especially low voice. Try for an even modulation, but not a monotone. Don't trail your voice off at the end of your message -- the last part is just as important as the first! Don’t shout into the microphone.
  • Speed. Too slow and your listener may try to anticipate your next words or may not understand you because it's an unnatural speed. Too fast is worse! Make it a point to slow down slightly when talking on the radio. If you normally talk very fast, slow way down! When transmitting call signs, addresses, names, and other items that must be remembered, noted, or written down, be a bit more deliberate. The speed at which you transmit should be such that the listener can easily understand and/or take notes. Sending logical phrases at nearly normal reading speed followed by ample pauses to allow the receiving operator to finish writing and the results will be fast, error-free transmissions. You tend to talk faster when emotions run high and things get exciting, but that's just when your message MUST get through! Take a deep breath, get yourself under control, plan what you're going to say, and say it slowly.
  • Enunciation and Pronunciation. Clear, distinct pronunciation is essential to communications, especially over the radio. Enunciate every word you say. Sloppy articulation includes lazy or mush speech, slurring words, and running words together. When transmitting over the radio, use the commonly-used pronunciation. Don't talk with objects or food in your mouth. It makes understanding you very difficult. Of course, someone always calls you just as you take a bite of that sandwich you've been waiting an hour to eat, but take small bites so you can swallow quickly!
  • Emotions. It's sometimes difficult to not let your emotions show in your voice, especially when you're tired, angry, or busy. These emotions can be misunderstood by others. You may be very busy, but a curt response could be interpreted as your being surly, sarcastic, or angry, and now you have someone more concerned about your answer and intentions than about the task at hand.
  • Think before you speak. Know what you're going to say before you call Net Control. Always wait a second after you push the mike button before you talk. This will avoid clipping the first word or syllable of your message. This will also allow two or more repeaters which are “linked” together to complete the circuit before you start. Remember “Push-2-Talk.” Push the mike button, count 1-2 (to yourself), then talk. If you have a one-word answer, it's best to add a word or two before it. Instead of "one," you might say, “There is one person here.” Or, “I say again, one.”
  • Use expected phrases and words. Anything out of the ordinary may result in confusion and your having to repeat or rephrase. If your message is technical or unusual, slow down and warn your receiver.
  • Use common words. Don't try to be funny with some “cutesey” phrase. Avoid slang; not everyone knows your jargon. It's OK and in fact necessary to use specialized terminology, but be sure your listener speaks the same “technical-ese.”
  • Speak in whole but brief sentences. That's what your listener expects to hear. Don't speak in shorthand. Don't ramble on and don't repeat your message by rephrasing it unless asked.
  • Use plain English and no "10" codes or "Q" signals.
  • Pause often: You never know who else might be trying to join the conversation or ask a question. Take a 5- to 10-second pause every few minutes to let other hams speak up. Pausing is especially important if you’re using a repeater: repeaters need to reset after every 2 to 6 minutes of continuous operation, which interrupts your ability to transmit and receive for a few minutes. Every time you pause, the repeater also gets a break, making it less likely that it will have to be reset.
  • Remember your ABCs: Accuracy Brevity Clarity

The rest of this good information can be read at the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club website here. It’s called “A Handbook For Amateur Radio Operators”. There are other Emergency Preparedness documents located on their site too.

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