In an effort to ensure reliable and understandable communications, the International Telecommunications Union, of which the U.S. is a member, created a standard phonetic alphabet, very similar to the old NATO phonetics.
Why is such a "standard" important? Because when there is a lot of noise and interference it is often difficult to pick out words and spelling is often necessary. By using the standard phonetics we can often determine which phonetic is being used by hearing even a fragment of the word. For instance, if I were phonetically spelling a word and you heard ..rav.. rome... ...ndia... alph... ..vember, you could determine I was spelling BRIAN.
On the other hand, using non-standard phonetics can create confusion and inaccuracies. For instance, the common use of "Kilo-Watt" can be interpreted as the letters K and W. If picking fragments from a noisy signal, a fragment of Watt would be unidentifiable.
For every rule there is an exception. For instance, I'll use standard phonetics for my WX4BK call sign, but will often tell people they can remember it by thinking "Weather for Burger King". I've also used, and recommended the use of, non-standard phonetics on Field Day. Our club call sign, N4FWD, sounds pretty boring as November Four Foxtrot Whiskey Delta, but captures attention when Whiskey 4 Four-Wheel-Drive is used. However, when called out of the pile-up I revert back to standard phonetics.
|A - Alfa
B - Bravo
C - Charlie
D - Delta
E - Echo
F - Foxtrot
G - Golf
H - Hotel
I - India
J - Juliet
K - Kilo
L - Lima
M - Mike
|N - November
O - Oscar
P - Papa
Q - Quebec
R - Romeo
S - Sierra
T - Tango
U - Uniform
V - Victor
W - Whiskey
X - X-Ray
Y - Yankee
Z - Zulu
Of course, being human, we'll make mistakes. Sometimes we can't remember the proper phonetic, in which case I recommend using whatever comes to mind (assuming it's suitable to be broadcast over the air).
However, non-standard phonetics should be used judiciously, as what you do in practice you will do under stress, and EMCOMM can be stressful. Use "Kilowatt" or "Weather for Burger King" every day, and that's what you'll do during an emergency, or just as bad, hesitate groping for the right phonetics.
Practice makes perfect, so while we'll all have the occasional bit of fun with phonetics, remember they serve an important purpose, and the use of the standard phonetic alphabet should be perfected.
Every task we perform in life gets better with repetition, and being a Net Control station is no different. So, the best way to be good at it is to do it periodically to hone your skills. Of course, you may be thinking to yourself, I have no interest in being a net control station and I could go through life just fine without giving it a try.
That is true! You could make a conscious effort to never ever be a net control station. There are people who never bother to learn to swim and make a conscious effort to just avoid it, counting on never finding themselves in deep water. Most will get away with it, but it doesn't work out so well for the one who breaks from the odds.
In an emergency situation there is no telling who will be available for any particular task at a given moment. Perhaps the typical net control persons are affected by the emergency, or the only net control station has equipment failures. For that reason, most all emergency response plans include the policy that ANY amateur radio operator is authorized and expected to initiate a net and act as NCS if circumstances warrant it.
Many of our newer hams won't recall the constant tornado weather conditions we had several years ago. It seemed we were having nets almost every day and quite often without warning. The Carroll ARES Weather Net Protocol, which is available on the nets page of wgars.com as well at wx4bk.com, states:
As amateur radio operators interested in Emergency Communications, we spend a considerable amount of time discussing our radio gear, go-kits, antennas and other equipment we’ve either already accumulated, are about to acquire, or wish we could acquire.
Unfortunately, we often do little to maintain these items once we have them. At least, that’s been true for myself and some other people I’ve worked with. I guess it’s just human nature – and a recipe for trouble.
A few years ago I had my old-beater van stop rolling down the road. Ironically, Gerald (W34RWT) had mentioned hearing a roaring noise coming from the passenger side of my van as we were driving down a highway and he slowed to exit to the interstate. I knew something was going on there but a previous visit to a mechanic found nothing and I shrugged it off. Sure enough, the symptoms I had already seen and the noise that concerned Gerald turned out to be the axle shearing. A little more aggressive work finding the problem would have saved me a towing fee.
Now, you would think the previous story is a lead-in for why we need to be sure our equipment is in operating order. It should be, but its really just setting up for the real story.
Field Day is viewed by some operators as a fun weekend of contesting, some as an educational event, some as an opportunity to practice their operating skills, and by others as a weekend of insanity.
It is all of those things, and one more, an opportunity to test our EMCOMM skills. Just as in an emergency, Field day tests our ability to setup, troubleshoot, and operate radio equipment in a remote location in a short period of time. The short setup and operating windows, remote location, and long hours add stress and fatigue to the mix, approximating emergency operations pretty well. Of course, the bigger your team the easier it is, educating us on the value of having as many participants as possible.
ARRL defines the objective of field day as follows: To work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands (excluding the 60, 30, 17, and 12-meter bands) and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions. Field Day is open to all amateurs in the areas covered by the ARRL/RAC Field Organizations and countries within IARU Region 2.
The event takes place on the last full weekend of June from 1800UTC Saturday (2PM local) until 2059UTC Sunday (5:59PM), with some limited setup allowed on Friday.
As amateur radio operators we may involve ourselves in public service in many different ways, whether as a storm spotter, part of a search team, as a stop on bike rides or runs, or delivering messages when normal communications systems are overloaded. But the one thing all of these tasks have in common is the fact communications is often managed via a net.
Depending upon the nature of the emergency there may be several concurrent nets running at different levels. Here are some examples:
When the National Weather Service activates their storm spotters they will often activate our regional linked repeater network. The Linked Repeater Network consists of a group of repeaters that have secondary transceivers on them, allowing them to link together to create an expanded area where any traffic on any one repeater is heard on all.
However, if every amateur radio storm spotter reported on that net it would quickly become overloaded. Additionally, there is often the need to communicate local information that is not appropriate for a regional net. The solution is for each county or city to operate a local net and relay weather conditions that meet NWS reporting requirements.