Nets – Part 2

Last time I discussed “What is a net?”, the two types of nets (formal and informal) and both of the EARS weekly nets. This week, I will discuss public service, weather spotting and emergency communication nets.

Let’s start with public service, weather spotting and emergency communication nets as they are very similar in operation. The big difference is just the communication that happens. These types of nets are nearly always formal nets with an NCS. Depending on the length of the net, multiple operators can switch off as the NCS. It would be difficult to handle this type of traffic (or communication) without a net control station. A single point is needed to keep the traffic orderly and to help handle the traffic with the proper priority.

Public service events can be anything from a small parade to a multi-mile bike ride to a large marathon. These events require much coordination so it is common for questions and issues to happen. It can be something as basic as where the first or last rider is located in a bike race to a medical emergency in a marathon. Fortunately the former happens more than the latter but emergencies do happen during events. The marathon has sag wagons for those runners who need to exit the race for various reasons so those vehicles need to be coordinated. Radio operators along the route can call the NCS and ask for a sag wagon to be sent to their location. EARS helps with two small parades, St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas, which are fairly basic. A number of our members help with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon which is a much larger event.

For many events, tactical callsigns are used and typically relate to the location and function of the station. This makes it much easier for the NCS to contact the station as they do not need to remember the operator’s ham callsign and can call them instead by their tactical callsign. This is entirely legal as long as the operator identifies with their amateur callsign at the end of their transmission. Smaller events typically just use their amateur callsigns. For the sake of brevity, I did use partial callsigns, mostly the last 2-3 letters, while operating as the NCS for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Weather spotting nets are very similar except that the traffic to the NCS is weather reports. Emergency communication nets will likely also use tactical callsigns but it may vary depending on the net and emergency support function.

One detail is the same for all 3 types of nets: Brevity. All communication on public service nets, weather spotting nets and emergency communication nets should be short, direct and to the point. Be brief! It is perfectly fine to chat as much as you want most of the time but that is not appropriate for these type of nets. Many times others also need to get communication through to the NCS so say what you need to say as short and sweet as possible. The other thing to do is to listen before you speak. Make sure the NCS is not already communicating with someone else before you start calling them. The only exception is if it is a real emergency.

I will give one example of a true emergency. The first year of the Cycle 66 bike race I was station at a rest stop. We had a rider go over their handlebars and hit the pavement with their face. It happened about 10 feet in front of me. One of the people working the rest stop called 911 and I called net control to let them know. Fortunately we were close to the fire station and emergency personnel was on site in less than two minutes. Outside of something of this nature, please wait your turn and be patient with the NCS!

All of this type of communication is very good and important. One important amateur radio purpose is to aid our community. With the state of technology in 2024 our usefulness has changed somewhat but we can still help in many ways. Please consider helping with public service events either with EARS or any other group. If you are able, weather spotting is also extremely helpful. The National Weather Service knows what they are seeing on radar but our reports help confirm what they see.

Please consider helping with public service events, weather spotting or emergency communications when the opportunities come up.

Steven, N5ZQ

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