Please note this article first appeared in the February 1998 edition of MARA NEWS
REPEATER PROTOCOL by Bob Mandeville, N1EDM
New hams have asked if something had been written about the do's and don'ts of how to act on a repeater. They want to know how to get into nets, how to act in general, etc. Hopefully, the following will answer anybody's questions.
Don't be afraid of doing something embarrassing on the air. We've all goofed at one time or another, and we all laugh about them. We will try to list all the 'Don't's' in this article and get them over with, just to make you aware of them. There aren't too many, and most are just matters of common courtesy and common sense.
First and foremost, please feel free to join in on any nets held on the Bridgewater or the Whitman repeaters. We want you to join in to get to know you better. The only possible exception to that rule would be a National Traffic System (i.e., NTS) traffic net. Once in a while, the NTS people might use our repeaters to pass one or two messages along. Their net is for not geared for routine chatter until all their work is done. But, as said before, that is probably the only exception. You can tell that it is a traffic net because they discuss "Priority' and 'Word Count', etc. If you want to find out more about NTS, speak with Walt, N1BZD, on the Whitman repeater. He can fill you in and make a convert out of you.
The three nets listed below are a perfect place to join in. It is also the perfect place to break the ice and get to know the other hams in the area. Feel free to check in and introduce yourself. You can mention that you are new to the repeater and just wanted to make everyone's acquaintance. That's all you need to do, to break the ice.
Later on, after the net, or during commute time the next day, if you have hear one of the hams that you heard previously on the net, you can engage him in a conversation. If you don't hear anyone on, just pick up the mic and say "This is N1EDM, listening" (assuming your call is N1EDM). If someone wants to start a conversation with you, they will answer your call. About the only "don't" in this scenario is to hop into an existing conversation and then change the subject. If the topic is going in a certain direction, you can add to the conversation.
Perhaps someone has a question that you have the answer, or an alternative answer for. You can break in and say "Comment, N1EDM". Wait for someone to recognize you and pass the mic to you, then make your comments and join in the discussion.
When three or more hams are chatting, you may notice a very loose 'rotation' which goes from Ham #1 to Ham #2, then Ham #3, and so forth. There's no hard and fast rule to this. Just be cognizant of the way the rotation is going, then pass the call along to the next ham in the rotation by saying something like "over to you, Bruce". It isn't necessary to sign your call on each transmission. It won't take folks long to recognize your voice. Just give your call every 10 minutes. You don't have to say "This is N1EDM, for ID". The " for ID" is assumed.
Don't get caught up in a 2-way conversation when there are several hams in the rotation. It can happen all too easily. It usually begins with one ham making a quick comment to another ham, and he makes a comment back, then it snowballs back and forth leaving the other hams out of the rotation. You can break this by simply saying "when it comes back to you", and state your question or comment. Then pass it along to the next person in line.
Two other "don't's" are:don't kerchunk the repeater, and don't use foul language or tell off-color jokes.
A kerchunker is someone who keys up the repeater just to hear the repeater courtesy tone. That's slightly rude. If you want to see if you 'have' the repeater, key it up and give your call, and say something like 'Radio Check" or Testing".
As for language, in our everyday conversation, we often use words like 'h*ll', or 'd*mn' or 'he really ticked me off' (fill in your own word for 'ticked'). This is not proper repeater language for obvious reasons (even though you hear people use them). On a repeater, because of your potential audience, you have to hold to a higher standard. Add to this the fact that there could be young, sensitive ears listening as well. In addition, if called upon in an emergency, plain vanilla language is always a better communications tool.
Feel free to join in to any of the three major nets in our area. All are for general information, though the Skywarn net does lean more towards weather related topics and the use of APRS (which is a very interesting ham tool).
During commute hours, try to keep your statements on the brief side. Once in a great while, someone needs to break in to report an accident. It can be frustrating to wait while someone times out the repeater exercising his windpipes. If you hear an emergency in progress, keep the frequency clear unless asked to help. You can get the details later. Believe me, there will be plenty of gossip when anything like that happens.
Sometimes, there may be a Drill, such as when MARA helps Eastern Edison during its annual or bi-annual training exercises for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant. These will usually be announced well ahead of time, to make users aware of them. It is acceptable to use the repeater during these drills, but allow those involved in the drill have priority. By the way, these drills are often in need of volunteers. This is a good time to get involved in emergency communications.
The three major nets for the two repeaters are:
1. Massasoit ARA 'Meeting On The Air'. It is held every Tuesday evening (except the 3rd Tuesday of the month) at 8PM on 147.180+. After taking a round of check-ins, and making some general announcements, the club plays the Westlink News report.
2. Ares "Skywarn Net". Every Saturday evening at 8 PM on 147.180+. Discussions are centered mainly around general topics, as well Skywarn and APRS topics.
3. Whitman ARC "Public Service Net" on Sunday morning at 8:30PM. General comments, announcements, and news. After the net, you can usually hear Walt, N1BZD, take traffice to forward to the National Traffic System.
Some final comments, before you all fall asleep, are not to be afraid of making a mistake - we all did. 99% of the time, you figure out your mistakes by listening to the way others handle themselves on the air. Follow their example (at least the good examples).
Also, beware of 'Policemen'. Sometimes, if you make an error, someone will 'correct' your habits on the air, under the guise of giving you a helping hand. He is referred to as a policeman. This is not to insult real policemen. Ignore him. He's the one being rude. If you made some 'grievous' error, bad enough to warrant a discussion about something, your real friends will make a comment to you in private, and not embarrass you in public. Ignore the policemen.
One last thing If you are planning a long, extend stay away from your house, you may not want to advertise that fact on the repeater for obvious reasons. Not all scanners belong to honest hams. Another tip is, if you get a line on a great deal somewhere, you may not want to mention it on the air, lest someone with less ethics than you (and there are a very few of them out there) try to scoop you out of it.
Don't make comments about anyone over the air that you wouldn't want to say to their face - they could be listening as you say them. There are LOTS of funny stories about that one - just ask any ham.
It looks like we've covered the DON'T's all in one pass. Again, the reason was to let you know some of the pitfalls that seem to trip up the new ham. As we said before, don't be afraid of getting on the repeater, and don't be afraid of making mistakes. We all have, and could split your sides laughing about them. You aren't alone.
The main purpose of a repeater is all the DO's. The main purpose of a repeater is that you DO have fun and you DO use it to meet old friends and make new ones.