DOs and DON'Ts for
Public Service Communication
The following is and adaptation of the ARRL's list
of "DOs and DON'Ts for Public Service Communication" which
have been resequenced to the order you would normally consider
them in. Emphasis has been added to some segments, wording has been
revised and several have been added - Pat Lambert, W0IPL 12/01/03
- Enjoy yourself! Amateur Radio public service is fun!
- Get a crystal clear understanding of the needs of the group
you are serving.
- Prepare the night before. Make sure your batteries are
charged and you take spares as needed. Have a clip board with paper
and pencils, gas in the car, miscellaneous spare parts you might need,
maps if available.
- Know where you are going and when you must be there.
- Arrive on time on the day of the event. If you are not familiar
with the occasion, allow extra time to get there.
- Inform the event communications coordinator if you cannot make
the event after agreeing to be there. The sooner this is relayed to the
person in charge of amateur communications at the event, the better.
- Introduce yourself to the person or people you will be working
with at your station. Let them know who you are and why you are there.
Stay at your post unless you are excused.
- If there are three or more of you at the event, arrange for
someone to be in charge as Net Control Station (NCS). Even small
events can have messy communication without this.
- Make sure both the NCS and the officials you are with
know when you leave.
- Have the NCS keep track of who is where so he knows whom to call
when asked to contact a person or checkpoint.
- Leave the frequency unless the NCS knows. Do not go into
details of why you are leaving. If you must leave early,
the more in advance notice you give NCS, the better.
- Maintain a courteous, professional image. You may be working with
several agencies including police, fire first aid squads, National
Guard, etc. Extend every possible courtesy to members of these groups.
Make sure they know who you are and what your communications
- Arrange for someone knowledgeable of the area to handle talk-ins,
or at least someone with a good map if no one else is available.
- If you are NCS or the event coordinator, tell your operators
exactly what their assignments are and remind them of the general
guidelines for public service events. Assignments
and changes in them should be made known to the entire group before
the event begins or as soon as known, during its progress.
- Have Amateur Radio operators working in teams of at least two
persons, if possible. Make sure at least one member of the team
is monitoring the radio at all times.
- Arrange for relief operators. Everyone needs lunch, coffee and
- Use simplex when reasonable, with a repeater as back-up and
for talk-in. If on a repeater, clear the function with the repeater
group in writing and well in advance.
- Follow the Net Control Station (NCS) instructions.
NCS is there to respond to general queries from the net or
from other amateurs on the frequency. Even with only a few operators
involved, he is necessary to smooth functioning. Address
requests to him and obey his instructions just as in traffic nets.
- Use tactical call signs. Checkpoint or unit numbers, or
other special identifiers are legal, provided the station
identification requirements are fulfilled. Complete each exchange with
your FCC issued identification.
- OVER IDENTIFY! You need only identify your station at ten
minute intervals during a series of transmissions. However, don't
jump into the net every ten minutes just to identify. For example,
if you only engage in a short exchange of transmissions every
half hour or so, you will fulfill the identification requirement if
you ID at the END of each exchange you participate in!
- Transmit as little as possible! Silence is golden. Speak as little
as possible. Avoid excessive use of calls (once every ten minutes
is all that is required). "Net, Checkpoint 1" conveys much more
- Memorize the main operations frequency and alternate frequency.
- Apply first aid unless you are trained and certified to
do so! Call for medical assistance and an ambulance or medical
personnel will be dispatched to your location.
- Transport an ill or injured person in a private vehicle!
This is the job of the medics and the police. An emergency vehicle
is properly equipped and can get through traffic much faster than
a private car.
- OFFER MORE THAN YOU CAN DELIVER. You are NOT there to
provide direct emergency assistance! You ARE there to
communicate the need for such assistance to proper authorities.
- Resist the temptation to generate traffic just to be busy.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN when you cannot add to the real information
- Arrange for your people well in advance, but check on them the
week before to insure they are still available. If you can, have
extra people or stand-bys available. Excuse people as soon as you can
as long as their jobs are finished and all other needed positions
- Thank your operators and share any feedback you get with them.
Courtesy and thoughtfulness pay off.
- Keep your ARRL EC or DEC informed of what you are doing and
who participates. He can help you with publicity. Public relations
releases before and after the event can help us all get our message
across that we are here with the ability to serve. He can also help
get the operators.
- Identify vehicles as Amateur Radio Communication Vehicles.
Operators should be identified too. A call letter badge, ARES or RACES
patch is sufficient. Use baseball caps with an ARES patch or group
logo as you prefer.
- Use standard message forms when necessary for official
requests and messages.
- Make sure the frequency is clear before making a call. The
channel can get very busy during tactical operations.
- When you complete an exchange with another station, end the
exchange with your tactical call and your FCC call. This tells NCS
and everyone else you believe the exchange complete, fulfills all
FCC requirements and takes less time.
- Keep transmissions as short as possible. Resist the temptation
to ragchew or ramble.
- Handle routine business or commercial communications. (This
includes communications regarding dollar amounts of walkathon
pledges, etc.). The press and broadcast media may quote or
rebroadcast amateur signals, provided the signals rebroadcast
do not make reference to the media broadcast.