HAM Radio 101

Etiquette in Amateur Radio

Whether you have a brand-new license, haven’t been active in a long time, or just need a little refresher, it is understandable that getting on the air can be intimidating if you don’t remember all the rules for good operating.

Repeater Etiquette

Take the time to listen to the repeaters. This is helpful in knowing if the repeater is occupied, and it provides an opportunity to learn from other operators. Speak like you were talking to someone face to face. Key the microphone and then start to talk. Don’t start speaking as you key the microphone. Repeaters have a short delay before transmitting. If you start speaking too soon, your first few words may not be heard. Make sure you have finished talking before you unkey the microphone. Give your call sign clearly and slowly. Use clear English and avoid jargon as much as possible.

Q-codes are really a Morse code shorthand. They have their place when voice communications are marginal. You should avoid falling into the habit of using cute phrases like “Roger Roger” or “QSL on that.” Avoid phonetics unless you are asked to do so, like on a directed net. When using phonetics, make sure to use standard phonetics—”Alpha, Bravo, Charlie,” etc.

If you are listening and would like to have a conversation, just transmit your call sign. You can add “monitoring” or “listening” if you feel it is necessary. Using the term “CQ” on a repeater is generally discouraged. When you wish to open communications on a frequency, listen for a while before talking, as there may be a conversation in progress. If you want to join a conversation already in progress, just state your call between transmissions rather than using the term “Break Break.” The people conversing will acknowledge you and allow you into the conversation. If you want to talk to one particular person, say their call sign once or twice followed by your call sign.

If you have an emergency, give your call and say “Emergency” rather than using “Break Break.” Saying “Emergency” will make it clear why you are interrupting and will also get more attention from those just listening. Make sure you ID (state your call sign) according to the rules but avoid over IDing. If you are using a repeater system, the repeater has a timer so that it can ID every 10 minutes. Whenever you hear the repeater ID is a good time to send yours. There is no need to send your call sign then say “For ID.” This is redundant; your call sign is your ID. It is also generally frowned upon to “kerchunk” a repeater. This means keying up your radio for just a moment so that the repeater transmits to hear the “courtesy beep” afterward. This is annoying to the repeater owners and control operators. If you want to make sure you are transmitting by the rules, give your call sign after transmitting.

From the Radio Amateur’s Code (adapted from the original amateur’s code written by Paul M. Segal in 1928) on the ARRL website:

The Radio Amateur is …

Considerate: He/She never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

Loyal: He/She offers loyalty, encouragement, and support to other amateurs, local clubs, the IARU Radio Society in his/her country, through which Amateur Radio in his/her country is represented nationally and internationally.

Progressive: He/She keeps his/her station up to date. It is well-built and efficient. His/Her operating practice is above reproach.

Friendly: He/She operates slowly and patiently when requested; offers friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; 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/Her station and skills are always ready for service to country and community.

Common Repeater Uses

Signal Reports

Any time you key up the repeater you should identify, even if you are just testing to see if you are making it in. It is sufficient to say “KE8FMJ testing.” Do not use the repeater for tuning or aiming antennas, checking your transmitter power, etc. Use a dummy load where appropriate, or test on a simplex frequency. If you need someone to verify that you are making the repeater, ask for a signal report. “Can someone give me a signal report? KE8FMJ.”

Roundtables and “Turning it Over”

When more than two amateurs are in a QSO, it can be referred to as a “roundtable” discussion. Such a QSO usually goes in order from amateur A to amateur B to amateur C and eventually back to amateur A again to complete the roundtable. To keep everyone on the same page, when any one amateur is done making a transmission, they “turn it over” to the next station in sequence (or out of sequence, if so desired). Without turning it over to a particular station when there are multiple stations in the QSO, nobody knows who is supposed to go next. You end up with either dead silence or several stations talking at once. At the end of a transmission, turn it over to the next station by naming them or giving their callsign. An example would be “…Go ahead Bob.” or “….Go ahead N8ADO.” If it has been close to 10 minutes, it’s a good time to identify at the same time as well, “…KE8FMJ, go ahead Bob.”

Joining a QSO in Progress

If there is a conversation taking place which you would like to join, simply state your callsign when one user unkeys. The reason for having a courtesy tone is to allow other users to break into the conversation. One of the stations in QSO, usually the station that was about to begin a transmission, will invite you to join, usually before making their own transmission. Don’t interrupt a QSO unless you have something to add to the topic at hand. Interrupting a conversation is no more polite on a repeater than it is in person.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at KE8FMJ@arrl.net.

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