Ontario Emergency Communications Network
Ham Radio Disaster Services
Ham Radio....Getting the Message Through!
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DOs 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 serving.
  • 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 first aid squads, National Guard, 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 advance.
  • 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 communications.
  • OVER IDENTIFY! You need only identify your station at ten minute intervals during a series of transmissions. However, don't jump into the net every ten 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 exchange!
  • Transmit as little as possible! Silence is golden. Speak as little as possible. Avoid excessive use of calls (once every ten 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 operators.
  • 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 and messages.
  • 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 ragchew 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 media broadcast.