Working Your First Ham Radio Event

This very helpful information was presented by AC4HH as a Training Topic in two parts on the YL Nets of August 27 and Sept. 3 / 2018. She got much of the Information from the September 2018 ARRL QST Magazine.

Working your first Ham Radio Event

Part 1

Excerpts from an article by John Unrath, K6JHU, published in Sept. 2018 QST

What could be more exciting than working your first radio event? Or more frightening? I’m sure a lot of you experienced hams can remember your first service experience.

Public service is a major part of what amateur radio operators do—they get involved in their community and stick up their hands to volunteer when someone needs radio operators. Members of the Chattanooga Amateur Radio Club serve with the American Red Cross, the Special Olympics, bike races, marathons, like the Iron Man and others.

Advanced preparation is needed before the big day. The event coordinator has probably provided information such as the route, your assignment, who you will be working with (if anyone), when you are expected to be on site, and what you will be doing. Some of the possible assignments are: At the starting line, at a rest stop, being a “shadow”—following a person such as the event director, medical personnel, riding with an EMT or a bike mechanic, serving as SAG vehicle (a vehicle that can carry a participant back to the start or end of the course), or a sweeper following the last person on the course, letting Net Control know when that person passes certain points. You should also be apprised of the radio frequencies to be used so you can have your radio programmed and ready to go. Most events use 2 meters or 440 MHz, and perhaps simplex.

It will be helpful if you visit the site where you will be stationed and test your radio on the repeater and alternate repeaters to be used to be sure you are able to get a good signal. You might want to drive the whole route to familiarize yourself with where the runners, bikers, and volunteers will be. My husband and I will often ride the route in advance enjoying the beautiful scenery of the back roads.

The night before the event, you will want to make a list of everything you are taking with you, or better yet making a stack by the door. You will want water, snacks—maybe fruit, sun screen, insect repellant, rain poncho—just in case of a shower, a folding chair, and your cell phone.

Working your first Ham Radio Event

Part 2

Excerpts from an article by John Unrath, K6JHU, published in Sept. 2018 QST

This is the second part of the lesson from last week about working your first radio event, which is also a good review for those who are experienced hams. When we left off last week, we were talking about what you would want to take with you on your radio service event. Additional things you need to check in advance is to be sure your H.T. battery is fully charged, that you have a spare battery to take with you, and that you have a charging cord which will fit into the cigarette lighter in your vehicle. Depending on your assignment, you might be able to work while sitting in your car using an HT and a mag mount on the car. However, your assigned position might be a couple of blocks from the car and require your making more than one trip to get all your equipment and get set up. For spring-time events, it might still be dark and cool when you arrive, and a jacket or a couple of layers of clothing might feel good. It is also a good idea to wear a reflective neon safety vest if you will be working in a traffic area.

You will also need to take a clip board and some pens as you often asked to count the runners or riders who have passed your station. You can use a pad and pencil, making a mark for each person who passes, with a slanted mark to connect four riders or runners. If you have been asked to count people, you might want a click-type counter. A couple of brands are “Hand Tally Counter No. 101” and “Mr. Crappie” or similar product. Both of these are fairly inexpensive.

On the day of the event, you will need to be sure that everything on your list or by the door is loaded into your vehicle—some of which could have been taken to the car on the previous day or evening. You will need to leave early, as some of the roads may be closed to vehicle traffic.

Once you are at your assigned position, you need to check in with the Net Control. To do this, listen to the assigned frequency for an opening and call “Net Control” then give your call sign. You should not give your call sign first—but call net control first. When net control has time to come back to you, then report that you are at your assigned position and reporting for duty. Remember to keep your transmissions brief and give net control your message as efficiently as possible. If you have not already been instructed by the event coordinator and/or net control concerning procedures to follow in case of a medical emergency, then you need to ask net control before the event starts.

For example, does the event coordinator have an ambulance on site for an injured riders or runners? Does the event coordinator want you to call 911 using a cell phone, or has that been assigned to net control. During the event, all communications referring to the event participants should be by the bib numbers only, such as Runner #1234, —NO NAMES of participants should ever be given out over the radio. I repeat—NO NAMES—ae to be broadcast over the radio. You need to remain as calm and professional as possible, and do not give out details of the emergency on the radio.

After the event is over, or if you need to leave your assignment, call net control and request to be relieved or to close your station. Depending on the event coordinator or the net control, they may request you to submit an after-action report, or there may be a follow-up meeting later asking for constructive suggestions to improve subsequent events. If so, please be as positive and helpful as possible with your comments.

Hopefully you will have enjoyed your day, have learned a lot, and are eager to do more community public service.