Controlling the net is not particularly difficult but it does take some organization. This document is only the script for calling the net, with a few details to help net control be organized. There is only one way to get good at controlling the net, and that is to control the net. Remember that this net exists for the purpose of training and preparing for an exercise. This is the time to try things, to make mistakes, and to learn from them. None of us is listening for you to make a mistake to read you the riot act: we are invested in your success and we want you to be good at running the net. When you're net control, you're the boss and we're all here to help you!
Net control starts before the net. Don't get to the radio shack two minutes before the net and think that you've got plenty of time. Get to the shack early, give yourself to get settled in and to get a clear picture of what's happening and be sure you have everything that you need.
Start the net on-time. Use WWV to be sure that your local clock is accurate and that when net time comes, you're ready to go.
Note HF conditions. When checking WWV to get your clock synchronized, try different frequencies for the station to see which comes in the best and make a note of which works the best, as well as the time of day and of course the date. Over time you will get an understanding of how signals are working at different times of day and different times of the year. Our 60m operation isn't far off from the 5.0 MHz WWV broadcast, and our 75-80m operation is somewhere between the 2.5 and 5.0 MHz broadcasts. Granted, WWV in Colorado is outside of our normal operating range but you'll start to notice correlations about signal quality for the WWV station and which stations you can hear locally. Also, if you've got Internet access, you can check NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center Radio Communications Dashboard to get more information about conditions like predicted and ongoing geomagnetic storms, radio blackouts, and so on.
Be sure that you have the current Signal Operating Instructions (SOI). Changes to the SOI are published from time to time, so be sure that you've got the most recent, and that you have the corresponding FLDIGI macro package.
Listen. Choose the band that's appropriate for the time of day: the 1300 session is typically 60m, while other sessions are typically 75m. Your observation of conditions will tell you if you've got a typical day ahead or not. After you choose the band go through the channels on the SOI (as well as the channels on another band should you have to switch bands at some point) to see if there are other stations operating. In the evening, 75m might be very crowded even though that's where signals are best. You might have to go to a secondary or tertiary channel, or might even need to go to 80m and control by digital because there's no free operating space. Remember that nets do not get priority over other operations in amateur spectrum. It's everyone's job to avoid interference.
Announce the net's start before the net at the top of the minute. For example at 5 minutes, you might announce:
Voice: THIS IS - (CALLIGN) - NET IN 5 MINUTES - OUT
Digital (Make sure TxID is enabled): DE (CALLSIGN) NET IN 5 MINUTES AR
Substitute your callsign in the right place, and the amount of time before the net. You can make the transmission in both voice and digital on 60m. You'll have to use voice on 75m or digital on 80m. The transmissions will also help you to be sure that your station is working as expected and if not, give you a chance to reset things.
Guidelines on Calling the Net
Calling the net is straighforward but remember that this is not a local VHF net supported by repeaters. Conditions on HF can be very difficult, with signals fading in and out, atmospheric noise, and other problems. The net is here for business: the business of training so that when conditions are poor or stakes are high we're up to the job before us.
That means we should be using very short transmissions, heavy use of prowords (for phone mode) and prosigns (for digital modes). There shoul be very little to no conversation. These terse transmissions are not rude; they make it possible for a station operator hearing you only faintly to understand what you're saying by the rhythm and length of your transmission. Digital transmissions are similarly aided by being very short, reducing the impact of "doubling." If you use extraneous words, add other information not needed, engage in operator chatter, make long transmissions, speak prosigns (e.g., "QSL"), or type out prowords (e.g., "ROGER"), your meaning can be completely lost.
You will make mistakes when you're starting to use prowords and prosigns. Half of the process of training is making use of them the best way you know how at the moment, knowing that when you're net control, about half of what you know will immediately fly out of your head. You'll use prowords wrong. You'll use the wrong prosigns. Don't worry about it but do remember that the other half of training is reviewing performance. If someone corrects you, don't take offense. They're helping you. It is completely appropriate to ask for the reference on the point that the correction covers, because it's also possible that the operator offering a correction is telling you about a common albeit incorrect practice that we want to avoid on this net. Discuss what happened and how to improve on the QTC mailing list.
Remember that if you're on 60m, where digital and voice are allowed on the same channel, be aware that you can even alternate calls: one in voice, then the same call again in digital. That helps when conditions are variable. (Technically you can do the same thing on 160m but that is more difficult to accomplish as traditionally 160m voice is LSB, where digital is USB. This is a matter to address in future SOIs.)
Finally, remember net control is the boss. If you're having trouble or otherwise need help, call a specific station and give a particular instruction. If you need someone else to take over for whatever reason, you can call the station and when you get an answer, instruct ASSUME NET CONTROL (corresponding prosign ZKD). Once that operator responds I AM NET CONTROL (corresponding prosign ZKA), they're taking care of it for you. It might be for a few minutes or the rest of the session if you're having big trouble. If someone asks a question and you don't know what to do, you can instruct the station with a the question to direct that question to another station with a more experienced operator, or someone who knows procedures well, or whatever best fits the situation. The point here is that it's never time to panic. You're the boss. You don't need to know everything. Nobody does. We're here to help.
A cheat-sheet on how to perform various functions with voice and digital procedure side-by-side is available at https://groups.io/g/QTC/message/444.
Net Call (Voice)
Calling the net by voice is preferred by most operators because problems are less likely to happen with a voice and transmitter than with a computer connected to the transmitter and who-knows-how-many layers of software. Likewise if there is an issue and signals are good enough, operators can just talk to each other to work through any problems. Take care to maintain discipline on the net, though, don't let it degenerate into a ragchew. If a matter comes up that's going to hold up getting business done, set the issue aside until after the net and continue on with the business.
What you voice is below in bold, with instructions or other information in italic. Prowords are in CAPS and separated from surrounding text with dash (-).
Standing Up the Net
The purpose of standing up the net is to establish as quickly as possible the stations needed to get the business "listed" and handled. As stations report into the net they might have after their callsign some additional information like the agency they're representing, a net they're representing, or a district of the ARRL Ohio ARES program that they're in and may represent. Be sure to note
BLACK SWAN BLACK SWAN - THIS IS - (your callsign in standard ITU Speaking Alphabet) - I AM NET CONTROL - THIS NET IS DIRECTED - WAIT.
This first call lets everyone know that the net is starting. Let go of the push-to-talk and listen to see if you get any calls for "emergency," "flash," "immediate," or "priority" precedence messages to send. After about 3 seconds and no more than 5 seconds, continue.
BLACK SWAN BLACK SWAN - THIS IS - (your callsign) - Agency stations - OVER
Being an emergency communications net, we are likely to have stations at agencies or nongovernment organizations that ARRL calls "served agencies." We'll need to be sure that we take care of them promptly.
Suppose W8THV has a message for W8OMR. The answer will be,
(your callsign) - THIS IS - Whiskey Eight Tango Hotel Victor - FRANKLIN COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT - WITH TRAFFIC - OVER.
If that's where the transmission ends, you'll need to acknowledge the station and get a message ("traffic") "listing," which tells you where the messages are going and how many there are. If the station has no traffic, instead of saying "with traffic," the operator will say "no traffic." The net control reply to a station with traffic is:
Whiskey Eight Tango Hotel Victor - THIS IS - (your callsign) - ROGER - Please list - OVER.
Always use standard ITU speaking alphabet at least the first time that you use a callsign to be sure that the station you're answering has a chance to hear a mistake and correct it so that your log is correct. The reply will likely be like,
THIS IS - W8THV - Whiskey Eight Oscar Mike Romeo 1 - OVER.
Be sure to make a record of whatever traffic is listed so you can be sure that it's handled. Make your records before you transmit. Your job is not to cover "dead air," but to make records and work from them. The net will wait for four seconds while you make a neat record that you can work from. Then you can answer.
If the station reporting into the net has no traffic, net control will go right to this point but omit the "listing" clause. Responding to stations with traffic will include the listing clause, e.g.,
W8THV - THIS IS - (your callsign) - ROGER - Listing W8OMR 1 - WAIT - OUT.
Repeat the call for agency stations and list their traffic until there is no answer.
After getting agency stations, if any, reported into the net, move on to any station with traffic.
BLACK SWAN BLACK SWAN - THIS IS - (your callsign) - Stations with traffic - OVER
Stations will report into the net and get acknowledged along with their traffic as above. After you acknowledge the stations with traffic, call again for stations with traffic. After making a call for stations with traffic and getting no response, move on to any station for the net.
BLACK SWAN BLACK SWAN - THIS IS - (your callsign) - Any station for the net - OVER
Further stations may report into the net. As stations report into the net, be sure to notice if traffic is listed for them. You can move the stations to another channel to relay messages just as soon as you have an opportunity to do so. Then you can continue to establish the net.
Directing Traffic Relay
Net control directs the station with traffic to call a station and which message to send. (Current NTS practice favors having the receiving station call the sending station but we are reverting to procedure formerly used in NTS and currently used in other radio services. The receiving station needs to hear the transmitting station to detect and address likely problems with signal quality.)
Using the example above, net control directs movement of the traffic. Where there is any traffic or many stations, net control should favor sending the stations to another channel to move the traffic, leaving the control channel open to handle other business. On 60m the amateur service has only five channels so be cognizant of how much of the band the net is taking; if stations can work on 80m, they should.
W8THV - THIS IS - (your callsign) - CALL W8OMR - CHANGE FREQUENCY 80F1 - SEND - OVER
W8THV is the station called, so that's the station that answers, first acknowledging the instruction and then executing it.
(your callsign) - THIS IS - W8THV - WILCO - OUT
W8OMR - THIS IS - W8THV - CHANGE FREQUENCY 80F1 - MESSAGE - OVER
And the receiving station answers and executes the instruction.
W8THV - THIS IS - W8OMR - WILCO - OUT
Both stations will then change frequency to 80F1 and the net can continue.
In cases where the side-channel does not work, the same procedure (minus CHANGE FREQUENCY) can be used to move the traffic. For example,
W8THV - THIS IS - (your callsign) - CALL W8OMR - SEND - OVER
(your callsign) - THIS IS - W8THV - WILCO - OUT
W8OMR - THIS IS - W8THV - MESSAGE - OVER
and W8OMR will respond with the proword SEND or may say "ready" in common amateur practice.
W8THV - THIS IS - W8OMR - SEND - OVER
Closing the Net
You can excuse stations from the net (such that they don't come back) as there is no business for them. The proword is CLOSE DOWN, e.g.,
W8OMR - THIS IS - (your callsign) - CLOSE DOWN - OVER
and W8OMR answers,
(your callsign) - THIS IS - W8OMR - CLOSING DOWN - OUT
W8OMR isn't necessarily ceasing operations but has closed as far as the present net is concerned.
You can also close the entire net the same way. In this case you call the entire net rather than just one station.
BLACK SWAN - THIS IS - (your callsign) - CLOSE DOWN - OUT
In poor conditions you might use the proword OVER to cause each station in the net to answer in order, which will improve the chances that stations having trouble hearing will hear at least part of it and understand that the net is closing.
Net Call (Digital)
Calling the net digitally is different from voice but functionally works the same way. The difference is that in written form (teleprint), procedure signals (prosigns) are used instead of procedure words (prowords). Prosigns both shorten the length of transmission and can have meanings that make sense for the medium. These are not "codes" deprecated in FEMA/EMI training; they are well understood signals used to improve efficiency in operation.
Note that in this net we are focused on interoperability and we operate on 60m, where we might work with government stations. Amateur radio's use of the QN signals is incompatible as they were long ago allocated for aeronautical use. We instead international Q signals wherever possible and allied Z signals used by government services where an equivalent Q signal is unavailable. These are described in the "cheat sheet" link in the Guidelines section of this page.
We'll walk through exactly the same scenario as above using teleprint rather than radiotelephone procedure. This is how the net would operate in poor conditions on 60m, or on a digital channel on the SOI on a band where signals are working in-state, e.g., 80F1, if 75 meters voice control can't work for any reason.
Standing Up the Net
First, announce that the net is starting, indicate that you are net control (ZKA) and that the net is directed (ZKB). Then instruct other stations to wait (AS). A station with priority or higher-precedence traffic may break in to get your attention.
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) ZKA ZKB AS
Should a station report into the net at this point, it's handled as we'll describe below. Next we'll call the net and ask (placing the call in the form of an interrogatory with INT) for agency stations.
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) INT AGENCY K
Following the example above, W8THV would report in as Franklin County Emergency Management and have traffic listed. Note that in teleprint procedure, the traffic listing comes right along with the report in. This is because of the overhead of the digital transmission: it's better to run the risk of a double than to take the time going back and forth with the latency of digital emissions.
(your callsign) DE W8THV FRANKLIN CO EMA ZBO 1 R W8OMR 1 K
Note that W8THV does not call the net's sign but calls the net control's sign. The station is not talking to the whole net, just to net control. If W8THV had no messages for the net, instead of the listing clause, the signal QRU ("nothing for you").
Net control answers the call and indicates understanding the transmission R (as in "ROGER") and may optionally repeat back the traffic listing as shown in the voice procedure, then AS ("WAIT") and AR ("OUT") then move on to the next call, agency stations:
W8THV DE (your callsign) R ZBO 1 R W8OMR AS AR
Just as in voice procedure, continue calling until no agency station responds. The call for stations with traffic calls the net and uses the interrogative form of the signal for messages and precedence (ZBO).
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) INT ZBO K
After getting stations in the net with their traffic listed as above, the call then to any station for the net, using the interrogative of the signal for "report into the net" (ZKE).
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) INT ZKE K
Directing Net Relay
Net control calls the sending stations to direct the movement of the stations off-frequency, using the "change frequency" (QSY), and "relay (pass) this message (or message...) to... (for...)" signals:
W8THV DE (your callsign) QSY 80F1 ZOF 1 R W8OMR K
W8THV acknowledges and then waits for W8OMR to acknowledge
(your callsign) DE W8THV R QSY 80F1 ZOF 1 R W8OMR AR
(your callsign) DE W8OMR R QSY 80F1 AR
Now that both stations have acknowledged the instruction, they both know they're going to 80F1 and what business to conduct there before returning to net control frequency. They change frequency and pass traffic.
Should net control need them to exchange the traffic on the control frequency, the direction is the same, but without the QSY clause:
W8THV DE (your callsign) ZOF 1 R W8OMR K
W8THV optionally acknowledges the instruction, and should if it will take more than a second or two to execute.
(your callsign) DE W8THV R AR
W8THV then begins the transmission with FLAMP.
Closing the Net
The procedure for excusing a station from the net or closing the whole net down is the same. If you want to excuse one station, you call the station. If you want to close the whole net, you call the net.
To excuse W8OMR,
W8OMR DE (your callsign) - ZKJ K
And W8OMR will reply, confirming the close down, and sending a friendly "best regards" (73) and "out" (AR).
(your callsign) DE W8OMR ZKJ 73 AR
If you are closing the entire net, call the net and close down:
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) ZKJ 73 AR
Again, in poor conditions, instead of ending the transmission, you might want all stations to respond, in which case instead of ending "out" (AR), you send the instruction "over" (K). You can also explicitly use "read-back" procedure (G):
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) G ZKJ K
In that case, each station still in the net would answer, in net order,
(your callsign) DE (their callsign) ZKJ K
And after the last station (or time for all stations to acknowledge), net control ends with the instruction again and then goes "out" (AR).
BLACKSWAN DE (your callsign) ZKJ AR.
However you're handling the net, whether voice, digital, or a combination of the above, please be sure to send your session report to BLACKSWAN. You will need the FLMSG Custom Form and then to transmit via a future net session or Winlink. (See the form contents and Activation paragraph IV(B) for details.)