Training Tips

The Central Ohio Traffic Net handles traffic 365 days per year. Each day we hold a regular session and we hold special sessions throughout the year for training sessions and for emergencies as events warrant. As a training net, we pay special attention to our procedure and help new traffic handlers.

When we hear mistakes (as they invariably will) and have questions, our more senior handlers offer their words of wisdom. Here we memorialize some of them.

Check / Group Count Mismatch

posted Aug 9, 2020, 11:52 AM by C. Matthew Curtin

The radio message preamble includes a "check" (CK) so we can see whether we have the same number of words ("groups") in the text on the receiving end of a transmission as we do at the point of transmission. What do you do if it doesn't match? Can it be corrected? What if you can't correct it?

Here's a quick look at the problem and how to handle it. Hip pocket training!

Radio Message Format: The Preamble

posted Aug 8, 2020, 5:30 AM by C. Matthew Curtin

Ever wonder about all of that "stuff" at the start of a radio message?


What does it all mean?

This video on the radio message format discusses the preamble, the part of the message that helps operators in the message relay system properly get the message from one person to another.

Training by Demonstration: Receiving Radio Messages (HF, SSB, Voice Procedure)

posted Aug 4, 2020, 4:41 AM by C. Matthew Curtin

A few questions that could come up:
  • I hear the radiogram being voiced, and I have these forms, but how do I use them for receiving messages?
  • How do those guys copy so fast? (Quick answer: touch-type, don't hand-write.)
  • Why is it so hard to get it right on HF?
  • How do I make sure that I've got the message right? What do I do if I think something's wrong?
These are all good questions. Watch COTN net manager Matthew join the Ohio Single Sideband Net and receive traffic. You can listen to his rig and hear exactly what he hears, watch what he's typing on screen, and see visual commentary that breaks down the elements of procedure to show you what's happening.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes in Message Relay

posted Aug 3, 2020, 2:48 PM by C. Matthew Curtin

What are some common errors in radio message relay and how can we avoid them? This video compares a radiogram as sent and the copy as recorded on the other side during a training exercise. We identify errors and discuss strategies for avoiding them.

How and When to Use the REC'D and SENT Parts of the Radiogram Form.

posted Jul 30, 2020, 7:05 AM by C. Matthew Curtin

On a recent training video, a viewer asked how and when to use the REC'D and SENT parts of the radiogram form, down below the SIGNATURE. Here in this video, we walk through the lifecycle of a radiogram, showing the accounting process along the way using the REC'D and SENT parts.

When do we put EXERCISE in the text or use TEST in the precedence?

posted Jul 26, 2020, 10:39 AM by C. Matthew Curtin

During the operation of the ARRL Ohio Section County Information Report Project 20, one of the operators noticed the content of the message and was surprised that it did not have the word EXERCISE in the text. Is that really necessary?

It's a good idea if the text reports fictional information that could be confused with a real-world event. Check the video to see the explanation and references.

Should I Relay A Message That I Don't Understand?

posted Jul 24, 2020, 5:54 PM by C. Matthew Curtin

Someone recently asked whether a message part of a project in the Ohio Section of the American Radio Relay League was "obscured," or "encrypted" and therefore unlawful to relay. What's the rule actually say about handling third-party traffic? Do relay stations need to understand the contents?

Originating Radio Traffic: Preparing a Message for Transmission and Relay

posted Jul 19, 2020, 6:21 AM by C. Matthew Curtin

Effective use of the amateur radio message relay systems such as the National Traffic System (NTS) and independent traffic nets require more than putting a message into a radiogram form. Knowing a few critical pieces of information like how to choose a message number, which precedence to use, which handling instructions to select, and how to format the text of the message can make all the difference between having a message get from one place to another anywhere in the country or beyond and a message that disappears.

Using the recent Astronaut Traffic Project from NTX Section Traffic Manager Aaron Hulett K8AMH, Matthew Curtin KD8TTE shows how to originate a message on behalf of a third party so that it may be properly relayed from station to station until arriving at its destination with perfect fidelity: word-for-word, letter-for-letter.

Bringing Radio Messaging to ARES: More Than Dispatch

posted Jul 12, 2020, 7:26 AM by C. Matthew Curtin   [ updated Jul 22, 2020, 4:21 PM ]

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) provides radio operators to government agencies, non-government agencies, and others providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and public events. Particularly in large-scale emergencies, written messages need to be moved beyond the reach of a single county or require resources beyond what volunteers in the affected county can provide at the time.

This is where the ARES Districts to which counties belong, and the Ohio Section to which Ohio's 10 ARES Districts belong can provide additional help to ensure that people who need the help are able to get it.

Ohio's ARES District 7 is a ten-county area in Central Ohio served by the Central Ohio Traffic Net (COTN), a message handling radio net that can take messages from counties and relay them into other counties in Ohio, other states, and beyond as the situation requires, as well as to take incoming messages to the affected areas. COTN conducts daily operations every evening for routine messages, and activates as needed to support ARES operators preparing for and responding to emergencies.

A presentation by COTN's Net Manager in July 2020 outlined COTN's capability and how ARES organizations in Ohio ARES District 7 can work with COTN. We urge all ARES organizations to include the vital capability of radio messaging in their toolbox, and not to remain limited to what operators in their own county can provide directly. Amateur Radio is most powerful as a public service when it works as a system of volunteers, trained and organized for mission success.

Joining a Radio Net (CW)

posted Jul 2, 2020, 9:09 AM by C. Matthew Curtin   [ updated Jul 2, 2020, 9:23 AM ]

Despite the efficiency and resilience of Continuous Wave (CW) emissions, many operators are reluctant to try using the mode. Not only is there the matter of learning Morse Code, but there are all of the procedure signs (prosigns). It can seem daunting and may not seem relevant to the modern radio message handler.

COTN is a part of a system of traffic nets, allowing for relay of messages not only across town or across the ten counties of Ohio ARES District 7, but also to the rest of the state, and beyond. Among the Section and independent traffic nets that COTN liaison stations can use are CW traffic nets, including regular sessions of Buckeye Net as well as the Hit and Bounce Net.

New operators need to jump in the deep end of the pool and worry about everything all at once. COTN Net Manager Matthew Curtin KD8TTE offers a quick demonstration of the first step to operating in a CW traffic net: joining the net.

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