Tag Archives: ARES

ARRL HQ: No guidance on closed ARES nets

ARRL logoA staff member of the American Radio Relay League, the United States’ largest organization of amateur (ham) radio operators, says he is not aware of any “ARRL guidance to restrict participation in a net.”

Sean Kutzko, KX9X, media and public relations manager, responded April 23 to an inquiry this blog made of the League’s emergency preparedness manager April 12. I asked the questions below after learning of a newspaper article about a Texas Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) net turning away a licensed amateur. ARES is a program of the ARRL.

  • Does the ARRL provide guidance to its ARES leaders regarding the restriction of participation in ARES nets (i.e. the operation of “closed” nets during which only certain amateurs are permitted to transmit)?
  • If so, what guidance does the ARRL provide on this matter?
  • Under what circumstances (if any) should a local ARES net be closed to all outsiders?
  • What legal authority (if any) does an ARES net control station have to bar any licensed amateur from checking in and/or participating?
  • By barring certain amateurs from participating, does an ARES net risk interfering with a licensed amateur’s ability to transmit an emergency message in violation of 97.101(c)?

Below is the verbatim response from the League’s PR guy:

“One of the cardinal rules of all facets of Amateur Radio is “listen, listen, listen.” If Amateurs can provide data of _legitimate_ value to a weather net that is responding to a weather situation, they should be able to do so.  That said, if an Amateur has nothing to contribute to such a net, the Amateur should remain silent to allow legitimate traffic to be passed.

“I’m not of aware of any ARRL guidance to restrict participation in a net. Amateurs should listen to the net control station for guidance on what information is needed, and remain silent if they cannot provide information that fulfills the requested need. Net control stations should listen to the request being made of participating stations, as bona fide emergency traffic takes priority and can come from anyone.”

Texas ARES official bans closed nets

North Texas ARRL section Twitter logoA high-level Texas official of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) has created a policy that bars ARES groups under his purview from prohibiting the participation of any licensed amateur radio operator in their ARES nets.

As this blog explained in an earlier post, ARES is a program of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national organization of ham radio operators. Regional, elected ARRL section managers appoint ARES leaders within their sections, including section emergency coordinators (SEC), who lead the program at a section level and district emergency coordinators (DEC), who lead it at a multi-county level.

Matthew Morris, K5ICR is SEC for the ARRL North Texas section, which is made up of dozens of counties, including Wichita County. As SEC, Morris has authority to create policy for all ARES organizations in his section.

When contacted by this blog via email, Morris wrote, “I’m not sure it was so much a revision of policy but just that we codified into policy what’s been a long-standing best practice for ARES.”

The newly codified policy includes two parts; a definitions section and the section below:

Section 1.02 Closed Nets Prohibited

(a) All ARES nets shall be open for participation by any licensed amateur. No net control station or ARES leadership acting in an official capacity shall prohibit the good faith participation of any licensed amateur.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the establishment of minimum reporting criteria by a net control station or ARES leadership as appropriate to the situation at hand, so long as these criteria are not established intentionally or knowingly to prevent the participation of an amateur or group of amateurs.

Morris promulgated the policy after an article in a Texas newspaper described the Wichita County ARES net shooing off an amateur radio operator who attempted to check into the group’s severe weather net. On an audio recording of the net, one can hear net controller Jerry R. Stanford, KD5INN tell Australian storm chaser Daniel Shaw, VK2FSRV, “I do not want to hear you transmit on this frequency. We have a closed net.”

In a subsequent email to this blog, Charlie Byars, the DEC responsible for Wichita County (who the newspaper article quoted), confirmed that the Wichita County ARES did not permit outsiders to participate in its net, except to transmit emergency reports. It accomplished this by declaring the W5US repeater — on which the net operates — to be closed, with the blessing of the repeater’s owners. A closed repeater is one that only stations authorized by the repeater owner may use.

The North Texas section’s new policy prohibits the practice of conducting an ARES net on a closed repeater. The SEC has no authority, however, over storm spotter nets that are not affiliated with the ARES.

This blog sent email April 19 to the trustee of the Wichita Falls repeater that the Wichita County storm spotters use to ask, “Will the W5US repeater comply during future severe weather nets and end its policy of becoming a closed repeater during such nets?” If the trustee responds, I’ll update this article accordingly.

It is interesting to note that one day after Morris issued the section’s new ARES net policy, the Facebook page of the Wichita County ARES changed. The page title changed to “Wichita County SKYWARN” and the profile picture changed from the ARES logo to the SKYWARN logo. That same day, Justin Reed, NV8Q reported on a storm chaser Web forum that “As of today the Wichita County ARES group has renamed themselves to Wichita County Skywarn in order to get around the ‘open net’ requirement. So nothing has really changed here.”

Today, this blog reached out again to Byars via email, who replied, “As far as I know we are still ARES, and will stay that way.” Later the same day, the group’s Facebook page changed again. Its title became “Wichita County ARES / Skywarn” and its profile picture became the the ARES and SKYWARN logos side-by-side.

This blog congratulates Morris on his prompt action to implement best practices in section policy and encourages all ARRL sections to enact similar policies, if they do not already exist.

The editor of this blog leads a SKYWARN ham radio net in Indiana. A future post will discuss how that net operates and why all licensed radio amateurs are welcome and encouraged to participate fully in it.

Audio: Texas ARES NCS rejects Australian storm chaser

Yaesu FT-8900 dual-band amateur radio transceiver tuned to 146.94 MHz and 147.255 MHzIn an earlier blog post, I reported that the owners of a Texas ham radio repeater prohibit use of the system by licensed amateur radio operators who are not members of the local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group when an ARES storm spotter net is in session.

My blog post was based on a newspaper article about the net shooing off a ham who wanted to check in.

Below is an audio clip of an exchange between Australian storm chaser Daniel Shaw, VK2FSRV and net control station operator Jerry R. Stanford, KD5INN. Listen and decide for yourself what you think of this exchange. I welcome your comments, especially regarding whether your local SKYWARN net prohibits check-ins by outsiders and why or why not.

Outsiders not welcome on Texas ham radio storm spotter net

Members only sign handing on door knobUpdate: Texas ARES official bans closed nets

Trained storm spotters in the National Weather Service (NWS) SKYWARN program who are also licensed amateur (ham) radio operators should not assume they’ll be welcome on SKYWARN nets while traveling.

A Wichita Falls, Texas newspaper article republished this week on the “Emergency Management” magazine website reports that a local official of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is concerned that hams who are not members of the Wichita County ARES – especially hams who are storm chasers – try to check into the group’s SKYWARN net. The “Times Record News” report called such hams “intruders” who net control stations must “shoo” from their “closed radio frequency.” Such hams “are told they are welcome to listen — but not to talk,” the newspaper reports.

Here’s an audio recording of the exchange that prompted the newspaper story:

ARES is a program of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national organization of ham radio operators. Regional, elected ARRL section managers appoint ARES leaders within their sections, including district emergency coordinators, who lead the program at a multi-county level.

The newspaper article quotes ARES district emergency coordinator Charlie Byars, W5GPO. This blog contacted Byars via email for more information about the situation in northern Texas. He confirms that during severe weather events, the W5US repeater system on which the local SKYWARN net operates becomes closed.

A repeater is a system commonly used by ham radio operators that receives a signal and re-transmits it, usually with higher power and from a better location, to provide greater communication range. Such equipment is often owned by clubs and sometimes by individuals. While the radio frequencies that repeaters use belong to the public, federal regulation 47 CFR 97.205(e) explicitly permits the owner of any repeater to limit its use to certain stations.

Byars explains that the W5US repeater is normally open to all hams, but its owners invoke 47 CFR 97.205(e) and close it to unauthorized users during severe weather events. But, Byars adds, that doesn’t prevent any ham from reporting severe weather. “We will take an emergency report from anyone, and refer the information to the NWS office,” he explains.

Beyond the transmission of an emergency report, however, the owners of the W5US repeater prohibit any use of the repeater during SKYWARN operations by anyone who is not a member of the local ARES group.

This blog contacted ARRL staff via email to learn whether the national organization offers guidance to leaders of its ARES program regarding the use of closed nets. The League’s April 23 reply appears in a separate post.

Fortunately for people like the Australian radio amateur who attempted to check into the Texas ARES net, the NWS office in Norman, Okla. – which serves that part of Texas. – welcomes “spotters, chasers and anyone else” to “submit storm reports at any time,” writes Rick Smith, KI5GT, the office’s warning coordination meteorologist. In an email to this blog, Smith suggests the following alternatives to ham radio, in order of office preference: Telephone, SpotterNetwork.org, a form on the office’s website and Twitter.

Find more details about various ways to participate in the SKYWARN program while traveling, in my March 6 post to this blog.

Is your local SKYWARN net closed to outsiders? Do you have any opinions on the practice? Leave a comment to let us know.

Where ya’ from?

After a radiogram’s check, we transmit the place of origin, without introduction. This is almost always a city or town name, followed by a state or province. Immediately after the check we say the city name, and then say “I spell,” and then spell the city name phonetically (spelling can be omitted only if the city is well known and understood). Then we say the state name in full, even if it appears in the message as a two-letter abbreviation. For example, we say, “one five, Claypool, I spell, Charlie, Lima, alpha, Yankee, papa, Oscar, Oscar, Lima, Indiana.” We don’t say, “Place of origin, Claypool, I-N.” Next week: Time and date.

(This is the seventh in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Send a check

Every radiogram preamble has a “check.” The check is the number of word “groups” in the text of the message. We send the check one digit at a time, without introduction. For example, if the message text has 15 word groups, we say, “alpha bravo nine Zulu alpha, one five,” not “alpha bravo nine Zulu alpha, check one five,” and not “alpha bravo nine Zulu alpha, check fifteen.” Some messages contain ARRL numbered radiograms (an explanation of which is beyond the scope of this article). In that case, the letters “ARL” precede the check, like this: “A-R-L one five.” Note that this is one of those rare times when we do not use phonetics. Next week: Every message comes from somewhere.

(This is the sixth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Station identification


Every radiogram has a station of origin; the call sign of the ham who first transmitted it on the radio. That means if another ham gives you a message via telephone and you transmit it on the radio, the radiogram’s station of origin is your call sign, not his. We transmit the station of origin phonetically, without introduction. For example, “number one five, routine, alpha bravo nine zulu alpha,” not “number one five, routine, station of origin A-B-9-Z-A,” and not “number one five, routine, amateur call alpha bravo nine zulu alpha.” Next week: How to send a check.
(This is the fifth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.) 

Handle the handling instruction


ARRL Form FSD-218 defines seven possible handling instructions, each represented by one of the letters, A through G. Not every message has a handing instruction. When present, we send it after the precedence. We introduce it with the phonetics “hotel x-ray” and then we give the letter phonetically. For example, we say, “routine, hotel x-ray charlie,” not “routine, charlie.” When a number is involved, we say it one digit at a time. For example, “number one two, routine, hotel x-ray alpha five zero,” not “number one two, routine, A fifty.” Next week: Station of origin.
(This is the fourth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)  

Stay In A Routine


After we transmit a radiogram’s message number, the precedence is next. “Precedence” is the word we use to describe how urgent a message is.  It also determines which messages get sent first.  Possibilities include “routine,” “welfare,” “priority” and “emergency.” Definitions of each appear in ARRL Form FSD-3.  Experienced traffic handlers know that the precedence always immediately follows the message number, so we don’t introduce it, we just say it.  For example, we don’t say, “number one five, precedence routine.”  We instead say, “number one five, routine.” Next week, we’ll cover handling instructions.
(This is the third in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)