When you first get your Technician license it’s really a license to learn. The Technician test covers the basics, but you really don’t get a good understanding of various aspects until you start listening to how other hams ‘talk’ and start transmitting yourself.
Don’t expect to learn everything while studying for the Technician license, on the same line, don’t try and learn everything before getting your license! We were all new at one time. By all means listen to local repeaters for a while, even before you get your license, but don’t hesitate to through your new call sign out on the air.
In this article we are going to discuss some good etiquette, best practices, and probably more importantly what you should NOT do.
In 1928 Paul M Segal, W9EEA, wrote the original “Amateur’s Code”. He wrote:
The Radio Amateur is:
CONSIDERATE… He never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.
LOYAL…He offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, the IARU Radio Society in his country, through which Amateur Radio in his country is represented nationally and internationally.
PROGRESSIVE…He keeps his station up to date. It is well-built and efficient. His operating practice is above reproach.
FRIENDLY…He operates slowly and patiently when requested; offers friendly advice and counsel to beginners; kind assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the marks of the amateur spirit.
BALANCED…Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.
PATRIOTIC…His station and skills are always ready for service to country and community.
Prowords are used to standardize information, a message or request and are especially useful when formal (written) traffic is being passed or when band conditions are noisy from atmospheric or other interference.
Q signals were developed in the early days of Morse code to shorten the length of a message and the time it takes to send and receive. In commercial telegraph days senders were charged by the letter.
Some can be a question or an answer.
Some are common to hear on HF still and some are also heard on 2m/70cm
|Signal||Question||Answer, Advice or Order|
|QRM||Are you being interfered with?||I am being interfered with|
|QRO||Must I increase power?||Increase power|
|QRP||Must I decrease power?||Decrease power|
|QRT||Must I stop transmission?||Stop transmitting|
|QRU||Have you anything for me?||I have nothing for you|
|QRV||Are you ready?||I am ready|
|QRZ||By whom am I being called?||You are being called by …|
|QSL||Can you acknowledge receipt?||I am acknowledging receipt.|
|QSY||Shall I change to … kilohertz without changing the type of wave?||Change to … khz. without changing type of wave|
|QTH||What is your position (location)?||My position (location) is ….|
PROCEDURAL SIGNALS (PROSIGNS)
Prosigns are a signal or two letters combined. Like Q signals they were initially developed for Morse code and are still used today. You will most likely not hear these used on phone (voice) transmissions but you may encounter them on digital mode, such as PSK31, Contesta and others.
CQ – Calling any station. You will hear this on HF and sometimes on repeaters, sometimes at the beginning of a net. It’s not usually to use this for general calling on repeaters, you just normally say your call sign.
AR – “+” over, end of message
K – go, invite any station to transmit
KN – “(” go only, invite a specific station to transmit
BK – invite receiving station to transmit
R – all received OK
AS – please stand by
SK – end of contact (sent before call)
CL – going off the air (clear)
DO’s and DON’TS and Other best practices:
Use the international phonetics
Don’t make up ‘cute’ ones. When passing messages, and especially on HF, some words can be difficult to understand, requiring you to ‘spell’ a word so it can be copied correctly. Call signs can also be difficult when you have certain combinations of letters, or if you say it quickly or have an ascent that if difficult for some people to understand. If you don’t already know the phonetics then create a small card with them on, laminate it and keep in your radio gear bag.
Properly identify, but don’t over do it!
Remember to properly identify yourself in accordance to the FCC rules, i.e. every 10 minutes during a conversation and at the end. Don’t overly identify; some people like to hear their callsign, there is no need to do it with every transmission, in fact it can become distracting and annoying.
These are very useful during public service event. They can be used to indicate your location or function; i.e., “team 1,” “south check point” etc. When using tactical call signs, remember to use your FCC call sign at the end of the conversation.
Don’t “ker-chunk” the repeaters
This is where you momentarily key up to see if you are in range of the repeater. The proper way is to say your call sign followed by “testing.” This indicates that you are not necessarily looking for a report or reply but sometimes someone will come back to you and give you a report.
Be careful if you have the car radio on and key up your microphone. While it’s not intentional broadcasting, it can be annoying and make your conversation difficult to understand.
Use the lowest power necessary
Remember to use the lowest power necessary. Normally this is intended for the HF operator however there are some very good reasons for doing this with all transmissions. Lower power limits how far your transmissions travel, so less people can hear you, this is good for tactical operations. Lower power also means your battery in your hand held will last a lot longer.
Keep the radio antenna away from your body
When using a hand held keep the radio antenna away from your body for better radiation of the signal. If you leave the radio on your belt, your body will absorb the signal which will reduce the distance your signal will travel. If you are using the stock ‘rubber duck’ antenna, which is already limiting your signal, it will make a significant difference.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Listen, listen, listen before transmitting. When you change to a new frequency or repeater listen for at least 30 seconds to make sure there isn’t a conversation already doing on. As a new ham you should spent some time listening, so you can gain an understanding of how people speak, phrases they use etc., in your area.
Listen to local nets to see how they are conducted. Different nets are conducted differently, sometimes depending on their purpose. For example, AmRRON and ARES nets are more focused on emergency preparedness, National Traffic Nets are for passing messages.
If you are on or simplex HF lower your squelch level to make sure there isn’t a conversation going on that is weak to you. On HF, and even simplex, you should ask “Is this frequency is use” or “QRL” can be sent in Morse code or voice on HF (see the article Radio Jargon for a more detailed explanation of “Q” signals). Breaking into, or transmitting over, a conversation already going on, especially on HF, is considered very unprofessional.
Don’t Over Q It
While you will occasionally hear people use “Q” signals on repeaters it’s generally not good practice. There are a couple you may hear, like QSY, QST and QTH.
Leave a pause
If there is a QSO (conversation) going on a local repeater during commute, then it is customary to leave a pause in the conversation so that others who want to join in can say their call sign. Those in the conversation will then acknowledge and invite you to join in. On some repeater systems, especially linked ones, it might be necessary to leave a 2-3 second pause between transmissions to allow all the linking to reset or enough time for someone else to join in. Learn how your local systems work – ask someone when you get on a new system.
Always acknowledge an emergency or ‘mayday’ transmission. If you hear someone say “break, break, break” or “mayday” always acknowledge if you can and assist. If you are on HF and the signal is very weak listen to see if someone with a stronger signal answers. If not, then it’s up to you. 14.300mHz is a frequency that is almost continuously monitored as the international maritime mobile net and is the best place to go when on HF and in need of assistance. In your local area you should identify a repeater that has high volume of traffic that is best for calling on in an emergency if you don’t have cell phone service.
In Colorado we have a network of about 20 linked repeaters called the Colorado Connection. They cover most of the state and there is a network of volunteers, called the Colorado Emergency Reporting Net (CERN) that monitor the system almost 24/7 for emergency reporting.
Long-Tone Zero is a feature you might see listed in a repeater directory for a repeater. If you key up and then press and hold zero for 3-5 seconds the repeater is programmed to call 9-1-1
“Wildness Protocol” is an agreed procedure that if you are out of repeater range you monitor one of the national simplex channels every 3 hours starting at 0700 (7am) local time for 5 minutes prior to and after the top of the hour.
If you have an emergency you send the LiTZ for 10 seconds prior to announcing “MAYDAY, MAYDAY MAYDAY” and your call sign. The purpose of the LiTZ is to attrach attention.
When you look at lists of repeaters in your area you may see some listed as “closed.” These are usually repeaters that a club has reserved for their members. Before just jumping on and using one contact the owner or trustee.
Don’t engage the bad actor. Unfortunately, there are people out there who think nothing of playing music, constantly ker-chunking the repeater, generally being obnoxious and failing to identify. Don’t engage them. Ignore them because they are looking for validation. If you and everyone ignores them they will eventually go away. Hams are very good at direction finding, and they will be found. Remember FCC fines for failing to identify, causing interference, etc. are very steep.
Support Your Local Club
If you are a frequent user of a repeater that is owned by a club join the club. Most club membership fees are on the cheaper end, and a portion of the money goes to the upkeep of the repeater. While sometimes, people who own mountaintop repeater sites or high buildings will give space for free for Amateur Radio, many don’t. A good site can cost $1,000 or more a month.
By joining a local club and you can probably find an Elmer, someone who can help you progress and learn more about the hobby.
The International Amateur Radio Union published “Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur.” It’s a very comprehensive document and worth reading.