How To Coordinate With Your Two-Way Radios For Major Events. An Opinion Article.
Recently, our group worked at three very large annual public events.
What was very obvious right from the start, was that no one gave a thought about coordinating two-way radio communications. Yep, not one thought.
Here are some of the problems that were encountered:
1) All different radio types where the owner had no clue how to operate it other than to; turn the power switch on and to use the push-to-talk button.
Remedy – Learn your radio! Don’t expect others to show you how to operate your own radio while out in the field during the actual event. It’s time consuming and a major waste of other people’s time. Learn your own radio.
2) All different radio bands being used at the event. Example; Amateur 2 Meters, Amateur 440 MHz, Commercial VHF Hi-Band and Commercial UHF.
Remedy – Bring at least two radios to the event. One for VHF Hi-Band (140 MHz – 170 MHz) and One for UHF (400 MHz – 470 MHz. If you have a dual band radio, all the better. This way you are flexible depending on what band the event is using for communications. Also; know the radio frequencies being used before hand at the event.
3) Radios that weren’t field programmable. Example, Motorola and other commercial radios.
Remedy – If your going to show up at an event with radios that aren’t keyboard programmable or are commercial radios, then carry a small computer or have some way to program them out in the field. Don’t expect other agencies or personnel to configure their radios to your now ‘brick radio’. Can’t configure your radio out in the field, then leave it home as it’s worthless during a major event.
4) Radios that were field programmable, but the operators have No Clue How To Program Them Without The Use Of A Computer.
Remedy – You should know how to program your radio without the use of a computer. Read the radio manual and practice programming out in the field without the use of the manual.
5) People yacking on their radios way too much, as though they wanted to hear themselves talk.
Remedy – No single transmission should last more than 10-15 seconds in length. Leave 4-5 second pauses between each transmission. If your transmitting more than 10-15 times during a 1 hour period, your talking way too much. Stay off the radio unless it’s absolutely necessary.
6) Incident Command. Some using it, some not.
Not enough personnel to effectively use it correctly. Something to be said for just using Plain English Communications.
Remedy – Get everyone on the same page. Either use Incident Command Structure or Don’t. Get everyone your working with on the same page and don’t have two different communications structures going at the same time.
7) Some people having loads and loads of certifications but never actually putting them to the test out in the field by actually using that knowledge during a major event. This was a huge problem…
Remedy – Train/Work with other groups out in the field as much as you can. Use what you know and have been taught with that certification you received. Book work means nothing unless you actually use it.
8) People having radio knowledge but no medical knowledge and visa-versa, but being located in a First Aid Tent.
Remedy – Be of more value. >>> Cross Train to do multiple jobs if possible, as your more valuable that way to other agencies and organizations.
9) Some using repeaters and others using simplex.
Remedy – Unless absolutely necessary, use simplex. You don’t need the entire world listening in to your communications at the event. It just invites hackers and jammers to cause problems with your radio communications. If the event activity is being held within a square mile, use simplex. If you need to get a hold of someone further away, then switch to a repeater temporarily to communicate with them or the dispatcher who is off-site from the event. ONLY use a repeater during a wide coverage event including multiple cities or involving long distances between two-way radio units.
On the bright side.
** Luckily, we carried enough extra radios to lend to the other agencies and operators so that everyone could communicate on the same frequencies and bands. But, this creates another problem if the radios get damaged or walk-away after the event. It can get expensive to replace radios.
It all comes back to the operator and ‘their’ responsibility to have good operating radio equipment, well charged radio batteries, knowledge of their radios, how it works and how to program them. Most of all, ‘common sense’ and ‘plain english language, no codes’ when communicating on those radios during an event.
Just my opinion from working hundreds of general public events and working with public safety organizations at events.
Corrections, Additions, or Comments all appreciated.
We all learn from sharing what we know 🙂
Sub Notes by Don KC0TJ..
This definitely bothers me to see these challenges on an event day. As Pres & a member of RARC I have made a pledge to help all members to learn radio basics & radio programming every meeting & during most activities. This article is from a dear friend of mine and his personal experiences. I wish that all members of RARC set some time to ask me or other members to be more prepared for the what ifs events and activities. Our experiences will make the hobby grow by being involved in drills, events, and by asking questions to our members and Elmer’s. This is also is why Sept 19th RARC’S net is an “All call Net” to be more prepared and be better then the article above. We also support club events like Field Day, GOTA, and 4th Wednesday events to help practice and share our craft. Again, this is why we are a club is to help other groups and events with our hobby.
Last note.. This article has nothing related to any of our members at Dan’s events, but is to encourage our members to get involved by learning from others.
73 KC0TJ Don