First time, and in control!

I answered the call of W5ADC (Tony) to volunteer to support the Plano Fun Ride this year. The event is a pretty small semi-casual bicycle rally. It has a 5 mile loop and a 10 mile loop. It is a family friendly ride. I expected to have Tony throw me in SAG duty, rest-stop.. or even shadow on the race director. Nope. Tony had other ideas…

I was the Net Control Operator…

All I can say is ‘wow’. I’m used to delegating, directing, communicating, and on the fly decision making at work, but doing so during even a small event like this was an eye-opening experience. I have participated in lots of nets which has allowed me see a lot of good net control operators do their thing, and a couple of not so great displays of what not to do. I have at least been paying attention over the past three years.

In order to prepare, I blasted Tony with a whole host of questions. I did some searches online for best practices, procedures guides, standards for prosigns, etc. Yes, I do work in IT for a large company. That part of the prep was second nature. After I read through what I could find, Tony sent a number of sample forms and information to the whole group.

As with most events, the radio operators were eager to get things going. I arrived about 45 minutes before the net was to start.. and a full hour before the event itself was to begin. The repeater was already aflutter with activity. People were wanting to check in. People were wanting to report that supplies weren’t on site. People wanted to know what their tactical calls were.. and were assigning them to themselves. And so on.

I managed to take control of the repeater and take check-ins officially, even from those folks that assumed that they were on the net since they had been chattering. I had to remind them that the net had only just been established a minute earlier. Like I said, they were an eager bunch. 🙂

There were a couple of big take-aways for me from the event:

  • As NCO… keep-calm-and-stay-in-control-2
  • Always respect the NCO. Unless you have been in their seat, you have no idea the frantic pace that has to be maintained and the attention to detail.
  • Don’t create pile-ups for the NCO. They will work your traffic as soon as they can. If you have something that qualifies as an ‘incident’ or should be priority traffic, let them know during your request to address the net.
  • Always QSL back to the NCO. If they are doing their job, they should confirm the message back to you.
  • As NCO, bring the number of log sheets you expect to use, and triple it. I went through 6 pages of log entries in the short two and a half hours that the net was up.
  • Don’t be upset if the NCO doesn’t want to chat or seems drained after the event. It takes a lot of energy to do that job. It probably isn’t personal, they just need to ‘unplug’ for a while.
  • Last, but most importantly: Every amateur operator should be a net control operator at an event as soon as they can. You will likely never feel you are ready. But, if you have participated in a few nets, are a decent observer and enjoy talking to folks on the radio, you will do just fine. 🙂
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