Category: Training

Basic Deployment Equipment Checklist

When responding to an emergency event, or even a training exercise, there is a minimum set of equipment
and personal gear you should bring with you to get the job done. Basic items include:
 2-meter hand-held
 2-meter mag-mount antenna and coax
 Earphone
 Paper and pencil
 ARES ID card
 Extra batteries
 Appropriate clothing
 Food and water
The majority of these items should be kept in a “Ready Kit.” Just pick it up on your way out the door for
deployment. You might also consider the items on the following list for inclusion in this ready kit, designed to
allow you to stay in the field for up to 72 hours.

Amateur Radio Disaster Preparedness

You must make sure your personally prepared for a disaster before you can even consider helping with Amateur Radio. If you are preoccupied with personal matters, you won’t be able to help us. To be ready for disaster communications, do the following:

  • Register with your local ARES group.
    • This registration helps the ARES leadership know the number of potential volunteers and their capabilities should we be called up on to provide communications services.
  • Train regularly with your local ARES group.
    • How you train today, determines how you perform tomorrow.  Attending training, participating in ARES nets, and community service activities help you lean how to be a good communicator when there are fewer distractions.  During emergency and disaster responses, the familiarity of the net routine will help keep the frequencies and communications clear.
    • Being known to your ARES leadership is also important.   They will be making decisions as to what your assignments are.   The more familiar they are with your level of training and other skill sets, the better fit can be made.
  • Have a personal/family disaster plan.
    • If you are distracted by your home situation, you will not be a valuable asset during a response.   Take care of your own first!
  • Have all resource materials you need in printed form.
    • Don’t depend on downloading your radio manual or ID from the internet.  Computers, smart phones, etc may not work during a disaster, they require electricity for charging and are relatively fragile.
  •  Practice doing things such as calling nets and handling traffic the pencil-and-paper way once in a while. Remember, you are you may not be able to spare the amp-hours or the table space to run a computer.
  • Have an Amateur Radio “go-kit” ready to supplement your personal “go kit”.
  • Upgrade your license.
    •  Many disaster communications assignments require HF privileges to move messages in and out of the disaster area.

ICS for Amateur Radio

On Thursday April 26, at 7:00 pm Metro/Douglas County ARES and the Omaha Metropolitan Medical Response Communications Training Committee will host a training overview on the Incident Command System and how it applies to Amateur Radio Communications Volunteers.   This training will not replace the  FEMA  IS-100.b online course  but it will give you a basis for understanding the system that we will be asked to work within.  If you have taken the IS-100.b , this program will help explain how amateur radio fits into the plan.

The Class will be held at Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services Building at 10629 Burt Circle in Omaha.   The building will open at 6:45 pm and the course will start at 7:00 pm.

To ensure that we have materials and seating  available for everyone who wants to attend, we asked that you sign up so we know you are coming:

Amateur Radio and the Incident Command System Registration

Please note, that all ARES Volunteers, should have the following FEMA Independent Study Courses:

If you have taken an early version, you do not need to take the newer version.

No one is compelled to take these courses, however many of the agencies we work with required these courses for the employees and volunteers.  You may not be able to help if you have not taken these courses.  Make sure you save the certificate when you have completed them.   These same agencies may require additional training (example, to be placed, storm spotters need to have completed the annual training at least every two years)





Be Ready to Report

Amateur radio nets are intended to facilitate orderly communications.   The procedures might vary depending on what kinds of net that it is and the net control is operating the net.  A swap net will have different procedures to check in and give out information than will an emergency response or training net.

But no matter what type of net, no matter what type of information you are sharing, you need to be ready with the following information. Ideally the net control station or anyone else on the net will not have any questions.    The details may vary, but these questions should be answered within your announcement:    Who, What, When and Where.

For instance you would probably never check in to the swap net and list and item for sale without giving the information about what the item is, its condition, how much you would like for the item, and how and when any potential buyer can reach you to complete the purchase.

But often you will hear announcements during nets that the operator giving out the information does not have the details on an event.  It’s nice to know share that a local radio club is having a flea market, but without the days, time and location, the information is not worth much.   Take a few minutes before the net to get the details to share.

During a SKYWARN net, it is very important that you take a moment to collect your thoughts and be ready to report when Net Control has acknowledge you, then give the following information:
Who you are.
What you are seeing. (with appropriate details for the event)
Where you are seeing it.
When you saw it.

It is not practical to give examples on every scenario you might encounter so take a moment to make sure you have all the information before keying the mic.

Net Control Basics

The Net Control Station (NCS) is in charge of the net. This person controls the flow of messages according to priority and keeps track of where messages come from and where they go.     The NCS also keeps a current list of which stations are where, their assignments and what capabilities they have. In a busy situation, the NCS may have one or more assistants to help with record keeping.

The ARRL Operating Manual suggests some recommended traits in a NCS.

  • Be the boss but don’t be bossy
  • Be punctual
  • Know the area the net is taking place in
  • Keep your antenna and equipment in good operating condition
  • Keep a log of every net session
  • Understand how to prioritize communications traffic

Communication is affected by numerous factors including personal operating skills, method of communication, noise or interference, skills of net participants and adequate  resources. The most important skills of communication are those possessed by the Net Control Station.

    Listening is at least 50% of communication. Listening means avoiding unnecessary transmission. A wise ham once said, “A ham has two ears and one mouth. Therefore a good ham should listen twice as much as he/she talks.

Advanced Spotter Training

REGISTRATION IS CLOSED – All Seats are Spoken For!

Are you a SKYWARN spotter?  Have you attended a spotter training class in 2017 or 2018?  Then…
Douglas County ARES has arranged with Brian Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service to present an Advanced Weather Spotting class for trained spotters in the Omaha Metro Area.  This training only happens every few years and covers more than the annual spotter training.

The Advanced Spotter training will be held on Thursday April 19th, 2018 at 7:00 pm at  Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services 10629 Burt Circle Omaha NE.

Attendees must have had in person spotter training in 2017 or 2018.

There is Limited Seating for this event.  To ensure seating,  attendees must sign up using the following link

The registration form will automatically close when the seating limit is reached.

FEMA Courses

IS-100.b – Introduction to Incident Command System

Introduces the Incident Command System (ICS) and provides the foundation for higher level ICS training. This course describes the history, features and principles, and organizational structure of the Incident Command System. It also explains the relationship between ICS and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Revised 10/12/2010.

IS-200.b – ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
ICS 200.a is designed to enable personnel to operate efficiently during an incident or event within the Incident Command System (ICS). It provides training on and resources for personnel who are likely to assume a supervisory position within the ICS. Revised 10/12/2010.

IS-700.a – National Incident Management System (NIMS)
NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable all government, private-sector, and non-governmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents. Revised 12/22/2008.

IS-800.b – National Response Framework, An Introduction
This course introduces participants to the concepts and principles of the National Response Framework. Revised 10/12/2010.

Lesson 3 – Pro Signs

Pro-Signs give diction to the net.  Proper use will promote discipline and maintain net continuity.   The following pro-signs will be obverved.

OVER:     Implies end of transmision, and a response is required.  Wait for the response.

OUT:        Implise end of transmission and a response is not required, put your microphone down

PLEASE WAIT:  Used to notify a  station to wait for a response

BREAK:   Will not be used in a Douglas County ARES Net.  This included double and triple breaks

PRIORITY:   Implies a message of a specific time duration or a message concerning the saftey of personnel.

EMERGENCY:   Implies a message of the utmost urgency or message concerning life or death of personnel.

Lesson 2 – Tactical Call Signs

Tactical Call Signs are often used in addition to your FCC call sign.   Tactical call signs are usually descriptive term that describes a function or location.   For instance Net Control is a tactical call sign.    There might be more than one person at the NCS location, so using that tactical call sign allows the location to be reached without necessarily know who exactly is acting as NCS.

In a community service net, Water Stop 3 or Repair Truck 1 could be possible Tactical Call Signs.   Within the Omaha Metro Medical Response System (OMMRS), the various hospital and other locations are used as Tactical Call Signs.   Methodist,  Bergan, Midlands, Poison, etc are used.   During SKYWARN nets, watch point locations are use.     All of these make communications easier as staffing changes occur and also allows everyone listening to the net to know the station’s assignment or location.

Tactical call signs are encouraged in ARES nets, but are used at the discretion of the Net Control Station.   Only the Net Control Station (NCS) may authorize a tactical designation be used as a call sign.   Once tactical call signs are assigned, stations should respond to that Tactical Call.

Remember you must still identify your stations using your FCC issued call sign.
This is easily accomplished by using your station call sign at the end of the exchange as you normally would.


“Net Control, Watch Point Alpha 7”
“Alpha 7, Net Control, go ahead”
“We have sustained winds out of the west at 40 miles per hour with gusts to 60 mph”
“Copy sustained winds of 40 mph with gust to 60 mph out of the west at Alpha 7, WØXYZ Net Control”
“KXØZZZ, Alpha 7”

The use of the tactical call sign, conveyed the location of the report, reducing the amount of information to be spoken.  FCC Call Signs are only used at the end of the exchange or every 10 minutes.     Tactical Call Signs enhance communications, they do not replace your station call sign.





Lesson 1 – Become Familiar

Become familiar with ARES procedures, both with on the air practice and off the air training.   Join in our nets to become a better net participant.  Through on the air practice as both a net member and an occaisional stint as net control, you will become the trained ARES amateur needed to be an asset to our served agencies.

Learn to listen carefully to what a net control may ask for.  Practice organizing your thoughts before transmitting. Make good use of air time.  Practice keeping your emergency communications transmissions to less than 15 seconds at a time.

Know your limitations and the limitations of your equipment.   While handheld radios have their place, a mobile radio with good antenna is preferable for ARES responses, especially for Severe Storm Spotting.  Be aware of how storms can attenuate your signal.

Learn patience.   Whether it is a severe weather net with a storm that keeps its own schedule, or in a disaster response when things are not going as planned.     During weather nets if you think you see something, be calm enough to report the initial sighing and patient enough to watch for it to persist.   Follow up on the status of any phenonema you reported.  NEVER leave a net or change positions during a net without informing net control of what you have or need to do.

Become familiar with procedures by listening, observing and participating.