As I promised during our last meeting, here are some tips that can be
useful to net control operators during times of emergency. Most of
these points are illustrated in the audio excerpts of activities on
the SPECS (Southern Peninsula Emergency Communications System) net
during initial stages of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. These audio
excerpts are posted on the SPECS Website.
- It is highly desirable that the net control operator (NCO) be
prepared for emergencies with a well thought-out grab-and-go kit. In
this grab-and-go kit should be a list of frequencies of the local
repeaters, and the simplex frequencies commonly used by the ARES
(Amateur Radio Emergency Service) groups of the local cities.
- There is a reason for the word "control" in the expression "net
control operator". The NCO must maintain control of the frequency by
being competent, confident, and aware of the environment, both the
radio environment and the situation in the community at large as the
- The NCO must prioritize the communications traffic on the
frequency, based upon the level of the emergency. Highest priority is
to be given to situations where human life is at stake, next priority
to non-life threatening injuries, then to incidents involving
property damage. Routine (road) traffic reports and the like should
be allowed on frequency only if there is no higher priority
communications traffic at that time.
- It is highly desirable for the NCO to take written notes during
the emergency. That way, for example, the NCO will be able to
efficiently and accurately match offers of help with needs that were
voiced sometime earlier.
- To avoid misunderstandings, the NCO should use phonetics for
important information, e.g., street names having uncommon spelling.
- If the frequency being used for the operation becomes too crowded,
the NCO should establish subnets or one-off communications links on
other frequencies. These might be simplex frequencies or repeaters.
- The NCO should try to follow pre-established procedures where
possible, but this must be tempered by common sense. For example, if
the pre-established procedure calls for everything to be submitted
via a written RIMS report, but a remote stations with no packet
capability is reporting, over a handheld, a life threatening
emergency, the report should be accepted by voice lest the victim's
life is jeopardized while someone tries to find a packet radio.