Category: Training

APRS TNC Settings

Whether it is a hardware or software defined TNC,  the key part of APRS is the Path.  This setting allows your packets to be repeated (digi-peated) around the network, but also control how many times so that your transmission does not cause unnecessary hops, contributing to channel congestion.

Setting up your path is important in APRS – the internet is a good place to start, but be careful of old websites.  Below are the Path setting recommended for stations in the Omaha Metro Area.

Today’s recommended universal path settings under the “New Paradigm” are:

  • WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1  (Will produce two hops and will take advantage of home fill-in digis. Use in busy urban and suburban areas.) This is recommended for all mobile setups. 
  • WIDE1-1,WIDE2-2 (Will produce three hops and will take advantage of home fill-in digis. Use for mobile operation in rural areas with low APRS activity only!)
  • WIDE2-2  (Shortest path string. Produces two hops by directly using two high-level digis. Will work almost anywhere but especially recommended in the where high-level digipeaters are really high-level; i.e. on mountain tops thousands and thousands of feet above users that can easily be reached directly, without the help of home stations. – This is not the case in our local area.) However WIDE2-2 is the ONLY path that works with digipeaters in southern California. So a
  • WIDE2-1  only  (This should be used by fixed stations, and will produce only one digipeater hop.  In most cases, fixed stations already have the advantage of a better antenna and elevation than a mobile, and should be able to reach a true wide-area digipeater without the aid of another home station.)
  • Airborne stations above a few thousand feet should ideally use NO path at all, or at the maximum just WIDE2-1 alone.  Due to their extended transmit range due to elevation, multiple digipeater hops are not required by airborne stations.  Multi-hop paths just add needless congestion on the shared APRS channel in areas hundreds of miles away from the aircraft’s own location.  NEVER use WIDE1-1 in an airborne path, since this can potentially trigger hundreds of home stations simultaneously over a radius of 150-200 miles.
  • NEVER put WIDE1-1 in a path anywhere but the first position of a new standard path.  (I.e. never after WIDE2-1, etc.) If you do this, dozens (or hundreds) of home stations within earshot of one or more WIDEs will needlessly clog the channel retransmitting the WIDEn-N’s packets for no reason.
  • Paths longer than about WIDE3-3 are almost completely useless. The probability of success goes down exponentially as the area covered by the transmission expands outward, and the packet is exposed to more possibilities of random collisions with users in distant areas. On the other hand, you can create literally thousands of useless packets for every transmission, as the UI flood spreads outward over hundreds of miles in every direction. In many areas, intelligent digipeaters are now automatically reformatting excessively long or abusive paths to something more reasonable such as WIDE2-2 or WIDE3-3. (Or simply ignoring anything over WIDE2-2 entirely).



Winter Field Day

Winter Field Day, sponsored by the Winter Field Day Association (WFDA) , and takes place the last full weekend in January.  For 2019 that will be Janurary  26th and 27th.   

“Don’t let those winter doldrums keep you locked up in the house,” the WFDA says. “Get out and play some radio!” The WFDA said it believes that maintaining operating skills should not be limited to fair-weather scenarios.   

There are three entry categories — indoor, outdoor, and home. The rule are similar to those for ARRL Field Day. Operation will take place on all HF bands except 12, 17, 30, and 60 meters, as well as on VHF, UHF, and satellite. The event runs 24 hours. Starting at 1:00 pm CDT on Saturday and running to 1:00 pm on Sunday.   US and Canadian stations exchange call sign, operating category, and ARRL or RAC section.

The Omaha Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) will be participating in Winter Field Day from the local EDS building at 10629 Burt Circle and invites all interested amateur radio operators to participate with them.     At this point everything is still in the planning phase, but so far the plan is to operate as in the Indoor category with at least 2 HF stations one voice station and one digital stations.  The stations will run off of generator and battery power.      Hours of operation will depend on band conditions and the number of participants to work those late night hours.   

If you’d like to participate send an email to 

FM Hand Held Radio Front Panel Programming

It’s happened or will happen to every amateur radio operator who’s been involved in public service or emergency communications for a while: you get to the drill or event site and your radio isn’t programmed correctly.  You find out the repeater you’ll be using has a CTCSS tone to access it now, or you have the wrong offset, or you don’t even have that frequency in your radio.   NOW WHAT???

With new feature rich radios many of us do not know how to program a radio without a laptop and programming cable, but in the field you may not always have access to those things.    To help use be better able to communicate in those situations,  SATERN will be hosting a “Hand Held Front Panel Programming” class.    – You do not have to be registered with ARES or SATERN to attend.

The class will be held Saturday, February 9th at 1:00 pm at the Salvation Army EDS building at 10629 Burt Circle in Omaha.    So that we are better prepared to assist you, you will need to bring your HT with a fully charged battery and the radio’s manual.    We also ask that you register at this link and let us know that you will be coming :

DO NOT BRING THE PROGRAMMING CABLE OR SOFTWARE!  We will not be assisting with computer programming of the radio.

We will go over

  • setting frequencies
  • setting repeater offset and direction
  • setting squelch tones
  • writing to a memory
  • selecting a memory
  • locking and unlocking the radio
  • adjusting volume and squelch

Because of special requirements for P25, DMR, D-Star, Fusion and other digital modes, we will only be covering standard analog FM programming for your radios for this session.

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.

Amateur Radio Disaster Preparedness

You must make sure you’re 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 share 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 an 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 date, 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.