You've been listening in on 14300 khz now for awhile, and you're beginning to think about applying to become one of the net control stations. The nets operating on this frequency are always glad to get new high quality net controllers. First, let's talk a bit about what skills you should possess before you put in that application. Having these skills, and demonstrating them as a regular relay will go a long way toward getting your application immediately accepted.
First let's get one important detail out of the way. It's not as important as you might think for you to have that big steerable antenna system and full legal limit amplifier. Those can be great tools for the ncs but more important are the tools on the side of his/her head, and inside it.
1. Attitude and demeanor: If you ever read Caesar Millan's books on dog training he always talks about "calm assertive" when he discusses your demeanor. Calm assertive gets it done. You don't sound flustered, you sound very much "in control" and other stations will pick up on that, and be more likely to follow your instructions. If you have the rest of the skills and techniques discussed below in your arsenal it's easier to remain calm and assertive, no matter what the situation is.
2. Good organizational skills: This is going to help immensely with keeping that calm assertive demeanor. Whether you use the 14300.net logger, your own or pencil and paper good organizational skills are a must. When I'm logging without a computer I often have two sheets going, a regular check ins sheet, and a traffic list. There are many ways to accomplish this, experiment and find one that works for you.
3. Understand normal propagation characteristics of the 20 meter band! I can't emphasize this one enough. Knowing about how signals usually propagate on 20 meters will help you use relays more effectively to reach stations you can't hear, such as those near you that your signal will skip over, and those you can't reach at a distance. As an example, it's usually not a reasonable assumption that I'm going to be able to communicate directly with most stations in Missouri, Tennessee or Mississippi from my
location just east of Memphis. Relays that I can reliably communicate with are necessary for me to help these stations, and are much appreciated.
4. Know and use the standard ITU phonetic alphabet, as well as usual pro signs that might be regularly heard. Pro signs are those little attention getting words that have special meaning, in short procedural words. Examples are, of course "contact" "relay" and the dreaded "break" which is often misused.
If you've got a good grasp of all these principles and think you'd like to get your name on the roster, the next step is to demonstrate them. Each net utilizing this frequency has its own process for accepting new net controllers, some more stringent than others. To get your application readily accepted demonstrate those skills by being available on frequency listening, and offering assistance as a relay station when appropriate. Your author listens for such stations, and when a good operator is heard I pass a comment on to net management and do my part to try to recruit that operator even if he/she hasn't put in an application.
Finally, thanks for your interest in the work we do on 14300 khz. Be sure to tell your ham radio friends and acquaintances about what we do here, and the IARU gentlemens' agreements regarding emergency center of activity frequencies.
Richard Webb, NF5B
It's contest season again and the 20 meter band will heat up most
weekends with one contest or another. Regular participants in the
nets on 14,300 khz are especially welcome during these contest
weekends to act as relays and help us keep the frequency relatively
clear for traffic.
Some folks such as myself are accused of being anti contesting.
Quite the contrary is true. I may have written published articles
about contesters and public service nets and their uneasy
coexistence, but I actually enjoy some contesting. In fact, there
are many ways in which the contesting community can benefit from
our net. First of course is the ability to check out your
equipment before the big weekend.
Put that contesting superstation to work! Listen on frequency and
help us with relays. If you're a serious contester with a good
antenna and lots of power we could sure use your assistance for
relay work on frequency. Lots of the stations who utilize our nets
are operating with compromise antennas and low power just because
of necessity. That missionary encampment in the jungle isn't going
to have a Hy Gain tri-bander up 60 feet and a legal limit
amplifier. Chances are they're limited to a wire between a couple
of trees and 100 watts or less. The same is true for the maritime
mobiles who use our net.
While helping out with our net you can get a pretty good
reading on how your antenna system is performing and gage
the effectiveness of changes you make before the big weekend arrives.
There are many good operators on frequency that will help you with
more than just a signal check. Some of us listen critically and
will give an honest report as to signal clarity and audio
characteristics, as important as a strong signal for getting those
contest contacts in the log efficiently.
As you can see we're hoping you'll utilize our net to make contact
with a buddy and move him off for a chat or use us for propagation
and equipment checks. The more ears that there are on frequency
the better chance we have of coming to the aid of somebody needing
assistance. By using our net occasionally you can be sure that
station is ready to provide you with a fun filled contest weekend.
Finally, and most important, we ask you to be aware of our
net when the big contest weekend arrives. Please remember
that often we are trying to assist maritime mobiles;
deployed military personnel; and missionaries both medicaland religious. Though it may not all be emergency traffic
these folks appreciate being able to utilize ham radio to
get a message to friends or loved ones in the U.S. Also
be aware that an emergency can appear at any time on frequency and
we will have it much easier when trying to render appropriate
assistance if we have a reasonably clear frequency.
Heres's an example of an incident that occurred during a
major contest weekend a couple of years ago. A station
in Honduras came on frequency looking for a phone patch to
an orthopedic specialist in Chicago. He was a doctor
practicing medicine in the boonies down there who had been
consulting this specialist about a case via phone patch
on a regular basis over the previous week or so. The
problem was that nobody could hear him well enough to run
his traffic, even on frequency.
Please make others aware of the work we do on 14.300
and spread the word. We're about providing aid and comfort
to our fellow man as well as saving lives. Some of us even
enjoy the thrill of the chase on contest weekends.
Richard Webb, NF5B, is a long time ham with many years experience in traffic handling and emergency communications. Most recently, Richard was recognized for his assistance at Charity Hospital in New Orleans during and the days following Hurricane Katrina. You can email Richard here.