Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"How about a APN Ham Radio Net?"

CQ CQ Bob Hawkins, KI4HEE here with a word about Ham Radio Nets...

According to Tom Martin, (one of the APN head cheese's) there's a clamor for a APN Radio Net here in the Southeast US.  Hams in FL,GA NC & SC wanting to crank up Ham Radio's version of "Meet Ups". Back in 2009 I helped get started what is now the American Preparedness Radio Net (TAPRN) on Sunday Nights 9PM, on 3.180 MHz. But with pretty limited conditions on the 75-80 meter band at night, unless conditions are good, the net is pretty much regional to Virginia, W.VA., PA. If it's still on the air, it's a great net to check into, and I definitely recommend it. Listen for it Sundays, 9PM EST, on or about 3.180 MHz.

One of my 40 meter nets...
To the uninitiated out there, (and those of you who don't have a Ham Radio License), a "net" is generally an established meeting on the radio, on a scheduled date, time, and frequency, where Radio Operators would "check-in'. The net is "moderated" by a net control operator who directs the net through it's litany of activities like checking in operators to a roll call, conducting a "rag-chew" discussion session, passing radio traffic or making announcements, or organizing those checking in who have announcements to make. The net control position is often shared on wide-range nets with other operators who can assist in getting stations that the main net control may not be able to hear directly. But generally speaking, the net control position in a net is of glorified traffic cop directing traffic.  

Ham Radio Nets offers great way of getting radio operators together on a common topic, more importantly, they serve as practice for conducting the standard methods of real world emergency radio nets. Being proficient in participating in a informal net gives you the basic knowledge necessary to conduct your own net, or be able to assist a net if there's an occasion that merits it.

While there's nothing stopping APN Ham operators holding any formal nets, but there's some actions necessary to undertake and consider before keying up and calling a net.  Ham Radio operators all know that they have free access to designated portions of the Radio spectrum, but no one person or group "owns" any given frequency. There's always other activities that can interrupt or preclude any scheduled net. Just because you've published a time & place, if someone is there on frequency, you can't barge in and take over. (Sadly, some organized nets, or actually some organized net participants fail to realize that.)  The first thing to do is to scout out where and when a net can be held that will not disrupt already established activities. We want no net wars here.  The best way to achieve that is to monitor some frequencies over a period of several days, different times of the day, noting what activities are going on, learning the rough pattern.  It's difficult, but after a while, spots on the bands on certain days will begin to stand out as likely candidates. Even after vetting a particular time and place, you can count on finding some activity on your precious "turf", and flexibility in net times and frequencies (on or about x hour & on or about x frequency) is necessary. Pay heed that there are some who have met on a particular patch on a band, on a particular time of day for years. Again, even though no one "owns" any frequency, it's always prudent to be a good neighbor, and treat others as you yourself wish to be treated. Consider yourself as a newcomer and try to accomodate the best you can.

Occasionally sparks do fly from my fingers..
 If any APN operators wants to try to establish a net,  I'd offer some suggestions... (please note: these are only my personal suggestions, if you wish to say I'm all wet, I won't mind).
I'd lean toward doing a net on 20 meters, above 14.350 MHz. on a weekend afternoon, or morning. Once a week is much more doable than on a daily basis, 20 meters seems the most workable band nation wide, and with the Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN), the Salvation Army( SATERN)  & the Hurricane Watch Nets (HWN) inhabiting that region of the dial, it seems a good neighborhood to hang out. But... I strongly suggest monitoring spots well up above 14.350 MHz., and check first if there's a spot up there that's out of the way of anything already organized. Weekends are about the only time most Hams of working age, (yes, there are a few of us who do have jobs...) and can't work the bands on mornings & afternoons.   Unfortunately, weekends means CONTESTING, (a topic all to its own), so finding a contest free spot, outside of WARC bands, would be problematic.

Don't get between him and FOOD!
Concerning WARC (World Administrative Radio Congress) bands,  The 17 (18) meter band, 18.110 - 18.168 MHz., offers hope as a place to hold a net. While there's a gentleman's agreement of no contesting on WARC bands, there are nets there, although few and scattered. A lot of folk can't work 18 meters, but it's contest free. Some may gruff who think the agreement should include nets as well, but that equals out from what gruff you get anywhere in Ham Radio where you try to shoulder-in a net on a busy band.

Watch for further reports here on this blog. We'll aim to promote any net activity anyone wishes to announce, just shoot me a message.

Personally, I'm all for getting a net started.  I already have a APN Net Preamble available, located on it's own page here on the Blog. Feel free to use it, and send in your net report.  Since I'm my local clubs Net Manager, with extensive NCS experience, you can count on me to to help with whatever we come up with, plus I'll check in and ask to be added to the payroll whenever I can.  Anyone wishes to assist, please let your presence be known by commenting to this article, include a email address so we can co-ordinate.

'73 you all... KI4HEE 


Boomer said...

Thanks for the words of advice. I left the ham radio several years ago due the the nightly rag-chew ont the same subjects, got to be very old. I'm back now with a new sense of purpose. Being a prepper and a ham radio operator I feel that those two should go hand in hand. I would like to start a net here in the Kansas City area and I think that my central U.S. location would be a plus to those who can't reach the right or left coast. any other info you can provide will be taken with much thanks. KD0CRH.
Here's to being informed and prepared.


Boomer said...

Great article. I would be more than happy to increase the awareness in the Kansas City area. I think the central U.S. loacation would be good for those on the left and right coast to QSO. 73's

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