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Mostly TSD Weenie
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am sort of surprised there isn't a thread about this here. Once you have your ticket and radio, what should you be doing during the rally, and how do you avoid looking like a total jerk on the net?

I've got a darned good story from the old days, but I will save it until after we get some discussion going.
 

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R6+ / Cr, Sheeps Maybe
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Any rally I've worked we've used tactical calls and we're usually the only users of the repeater.
 

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don't cut
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The best way to learn how to use your radio and how to work nets is to go do it. Large public events such as the MS 150 bike ride also use ham radio safety nets. That said, the FCC rule is that you can use tactical calls but you must give your call sign in closing. A net is directed, that is, don't speak unless spoken to. :) If you have something to report, first you call net. Here is a typical conversation:

Control, this is Marshal 23.

Marshal 23, go ahead.

Car 27 is off the road within my sight. The crew is out and signalling OK. Marshal 23 monitoring. KC5TRY

Control copies.

Oh by the way, the reason the rally is usually the only group on the repeater is because the regular repeater users who pay for the upkeep of the repeater have given permission for it to be used and have chosen to not use it during the rally.
 

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Mostly TSD Weenie
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181 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
OK, time to add a couple.
- Know your job and only transmit that information that relates to it. We probably could come up with a set of radio jobs and the appropriate communications.
- Make darned sure that your info is accurate and official. For example, noticing that CAR 0 is through is not sufficient to report stage is hot to NET. Wait for the captain to tell you it is hot.
- I disagree with Richard a bit on tactical callsigns, as we have generally interpreted the identification requirement to mean identify when a particular assignment opens and closes. I.E. 'WA9OHS is now START 5', then identify as START 5 until the transmission 'START 5 is now closed - WA9OHS'
 

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Mostly TSD Weenie
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181 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Time for my story.
This was back at an event in Colorado in 1980. Back before we had figured out the need for net control and a lot of stuff was very informal.

I was riding right seat in CAR 0 on stage 2, heading up a set of mountain switchbacks when I received a call from a friend who was working START2.
START2: "We have cars piling up. How long until you are ready?"
ME: "We're about 1/2 mile from the finish. We should be able to clear the stage in about 5 minutes"
(following unknown to me)
Radio guy turns to stage captain and says "They say they will be clear in 5 minutes". Captain turns to starter and says "Release the first car in 5 minutes"

Just then we encounter the last intersection just in time to see a drunk punch out the marshall, get back in his 1.5 ton wood truck and head down the course.
ME: "Start2, we have a problem and won't be able to open the stage until the truck is clear of the stage"
START2: "Uh oh" <pause> "We have started 2 cars already"

And this friends is how I found myself sitting in a Fire Arrow running at 100 MPH downhill against rally traffic while flipping the OSCARS on and off for dear life.

P.S. We stopped both cars. The sheriff arrested the truck driver at START2. He was convicted for DUI and assault. I learned a valuable lesson that day about conversation vs official information.
 

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Zero Cents!
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I think the concern with tactical vs FCC is the requirement to identify every 10 minutes during operation. I've looked at a number of the ARES net protocols, and even they differ on what is considered a directed net conversation (only need to ID at the end). As a worker, I have often been reminded to use the FCC to end my transmissions. As such, I have gotten into the habit of opening with Tactical, and ALWAYS using the FCC to finish the last portion of the particular exchange.

This is likely more relevant in a course car, where I am not on air on a "routine" basis, than a stationary work position/stage worker relaying info at regular intervals during a hot stage.
 

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Straight @ "T"
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I think it is wise to ID at the end of each series of transmissions or every 10 minutes. There are folks out there who resent what we do and will look for any opportunity to make a stink over things like this.

You also need to be careful with your use of words. For example phrases like cars are rolling or cars are piling up can easily be misconstrued.
 

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Mostly TSD Weenie
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think it is wise to ID at the end of each series of transmissions or every 10 minutes. There are folks out there who resent what we do and will look for any opportunity to make a stink over things like this.
Might be a regional thing, depending on where you are working. Much of my experience has been in Colorado using either temporary repeaters or rural ones where we drew much of the comms from the repeater club. lately, I have worked a few in Michigan UP, which is much the same.

At any rate, I will always defer to NET Control's direction on this and everything else. If he is asking for TAC ID only, that's what I will give.
 

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don't cut
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The exact regulation from the FCC:

97.119 Station identification.
(a) Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, ........

Hence, when using tactical calls, always end your communication with your call sign. When running control, always give your call sign every 10 minutes.
 

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R6+ / Cr, Sheeps Maybe
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I think it is wise to ID at the end of each series of transmissions or every 10 minutes. There are folks out there who resent what we do and will look for any opportunity to make a stink over things like this.

You also need to be careful with your use of words. For example phrases like cars are rolling or cars are piling up can easily be misconstrued.
The other one I've heard frequently is people at an ATC saying "Car # is off" instead of "Car # has started/entered the stage"
Similar to the FCC under the Industry Canada regs we have to announce our call when using tactical calls as well, here its every 30 minutes. Depending on the stage often its short enough to announce the change from your HAM call to tactical and in reverse at the end, if not I tack my HAM call on the end of my transmission if its nearing the end of the 30 minute window.
 

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I volunteer at a lot of the same events as ^^^.

Our events have fairly informal radio protocol. You are allowed to "chew the rag" and chat as long as the stage is not running. At our typical events you are in the car and out in the boonies for 12-16 hours. You can hardly expect people to do that under a full formal net. We do pass on information like the top 3 cars via the radio. It helps keep the volunteers entertained and alert. My second time at Tall Pines, I did not have a radio and I had to leave without going back to HQ. When I got home my wife asked me who won - I didn't know!

Once the stage is running the Stage Commander (normally start radio) or Area Commander is in charge of the frequency. Start, Finish and normally a mid-point radio call each car (or two mid-points of a long stage). Other radios are normally only contacted if a car has gone missing. Tactical signs are used and when they are set-up each radio repeats their HAM sign, as well as their tactical to satisfy the IC requirements and then as soon as the stage is finished.
 

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OK, time to add a couple.
- Know your job and only transmit that information that relates to it. We probably could come up with a set of radio jobs and the appropriate communications.
Great thread idea!
This is what we have been working on for STPR. Nothing fancy, just modified versions of Rally America's job descriptions: http://stpr-rally-radio.wikispaces.com/Radio+Job+Descriptions Please feel free everyone to look around the wiki -- it is a work in progress. I have one for the winter rally, and it is linked from within the STPR wiki. While not up to date, more documentation can be found at
http://stpr-rally-radio.wikispaces.com/STPR+Radio+Documents. Eventually, I hope to create a variety of instructional media for documentation, procedures, protocols, radio maintenance, etc. and "port" that over to a "generic" rally radio wiki.


- Make darned sure that your info is accurate and official. For example, noticing that CAR 0 is through is not sufficient to report stage is hot to NET. Wait for the captain to tell you it is hot.
In our case, STPR is a centrally controlled directed net, in contrast to NEFR which cannot get enough repeater coverage. NEFR's Stage Captains become the defacto decision makers due to the lack of rally-wide radio coverage. For STPR, our radio ops should ONLY report that Car Zero has finished the stage. Next, typically, Car Zero will report on their assessment of stage conditions and recommend the stage be opened for competition (or that info will be relayed from Zero to Finish Radio for relay to Net). Finally, one of several experienced decision makers at Net Control will declare the stage "hot" after assuring a variety of other conditions have been met/double checked.

- I disagree with Richard a bit on tactical callsigns, as we have generally interpreted the identification requirement to mean identify when a particular assignment opens and closes. I.E. 'WA9OHS is now START 5', then identify as START 5 until the transmission 'START 5 is now closed - WA9OHS'
In our case, the repeater owner's wishes are that our radio ops begin with tactical signs, but MUST finish with their callsigns at the conclusion of each particular communication "thread" (e.g. series of transmissions with a start control about number of cars arriving from transit). The repeater owner's interpretation of the FCC rule has been challenged by folks who do not like STPR and felt that the race was abusing regulations; thankfully, these disputes have been settled amicably.
 

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Mostly TSD Weenie
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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Great thread idea!
This is what we have been working on for STPR. Nothing fancy, just modified versions of Rally America's job descriptions: http://stpr-rally-radio.wikispaces.com/Radio+Job+Descriptions Please feel free everyone to look around the wiki -- it is a work in progress. I have one for the winter rally, and it is linked from within the STPR wiki. While not up to date, more documentation can be found at
http://stpr-rally-radio.wikispaces.com/STPR+Radio+Documents. Eventually, I hope to create a variety of instructional media for documentation, procedures, protocols, radio maintenance, etc. and "port" that over to a "generic" rally radio wiki.
That is one incredible set of procedure sheets, and I will bookmark that.

In our case, STPR is a centrally controlled directed net, in contrast to NEFR which cannot get enough repeater coverage. NEFR's Stage Captains become the defacto decision makers due to the lack of rally-wide radio coverage. For STPR, our radio ops should ONLY report that Car Zero has finished the stage. Next, typically, Car Zero will report on their assessment of stage conditions and recommend the stage be opened for competition (or that info will be relayed from Zero to Finish Radio for relay to Net). Finally, one of several experienced decision makers at Net Control will declare the stage "hot" after assuring a variety of other conditions have been met/double checked.
Most of my experience was in Colorado, where everything is in the middle of nowhere and with very spotty coverage. We tried a number of solutions with portable repeaters, relay operators and multiple net controls. We managed to make each work, but never as cleanly as we would have liked, and not without issues. I have now workeed a couple of LSPRs here, and things are a lot more formal with much better access.

In our case, the repeater owner's wishes are that our radio ops begin with tactical signs, but MUST finish with their callsigns at the conclusion of each particular communication "thread" (e.g. series of transmissions with a start control about number of cars arriving from transit). The repeater owner's interpretation of the FCC rule has been challenged by folks who do not like STPR and felt that the race was abusing regulations; thankfully, these disputes have been settled amicably.
I suspect our lack of formality was because we were so remote, and either using our own repeaters or calling on the entire membership of the local repeater community. When you are the only ones monitoring, there is nobody left to complain. However, I did notice that LSPR also uses tac callsigns the way I described.
 

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I suspect our lack of formality was because we were so remote, and either using our own repeaters or calling on the entire membership of the local repeater community. When you are the only ones monitoring, there is nobody left to complain. However, I did notice that LSPR also uses tac callsigns the way I described.
I have worked nets that are less formal than ours, but since we sit within 4-6 hours drive of a huge segment of the north east's population we try to be a bit more careful about our protocol to try and avoid "issues". Since we are heavily dependent upon state forests we are more rigorously controlled/constrained by state regulations and agencies -- another reason for the more formal tone. I'd also guess that as you move west the "legal climate" tends to be a bit less litigious, thus accounting for some of the differences. Since our area was settled hundreds of years ago, and HEAVILY logged off, there are more roads, houses, electrical power, etc. that has allowed the positioning of more repeaters than other mountainous terrain. We do utilize one temporary repeater on a state tower, but we are negotiating for a more permanent setup.
 

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The other one I've heard frequently is people at an ATC saying "Car # is off" instead of "Car # has started/entered the stage"... (Snipped)
^^^ I have definitely heard/seen this point of confusion played out! ^^^
Another point of confusion typically surrounds reporting cars that are "out"... Does
"out" mean:
  1. "Off the road" and crashed? -- Too often we report that a car is "out" while not really knowing whether they can continue.
  2. "Off the road" and stuck/cannot get back on? -- Too often we report TOO EARLY(!) without knowing what the team will be capable of! Additionally, other teams will often/sometimes stop and give the stuck car a yank back onto course.
  3. Broken down ON the ROAD, but cannot continue? -- Two issues: Once again, what will the team be capable of, and in what time frame??? What level of road blockage might exist?
  4. Broken down and cannot continue, but off the roadway and not impeding traffic? Same as #3
  5. Other ????????
Mitigating Circumstances:
  1. Race teams are so heavily concentrating on their performance that our radio ops often get wrong or partial information.
  2. In other cases, we often need extra info about whether a car is blocking traffic/unsafe, etc. and this assessment is often highly subjectively judged whether due to differences in perception/personality or due to having to be assessed while cruising by at relatively high speeds...
  3. Race teams dependence upon stage notes can limit the accuracy of reports that might be tied to route book instructions/pages and accurate mileages.
  4. Safety triangle procedures are not always followed...
  5. "In the rush", I have heard the wrong stage be called out, or the wrong sequence number, folks lose their place on their log sheet...
 

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don't cut
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Funny, sort of off the topic but still radio related: While sitting in the rally car listening to the net, we saw a Subie of some sort come flying across the finish with the brakes glowing bright red. The radio operator almost had a fit trying to get someone to go tell the driver that his brakes were on fire. We wanted to break into the net to tell him that was normal but held off so as not to interrupt.
 

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The best way to learn how to use your radio and how to work nets is to go do it. Large public events such as the MS 150 bike ride also use ham radio safety nets. That said, the FCC rule is that you can use tactical calls but you must give your call sign in closing. A net is directed, that is, don't speak unless spoken to. :) If you have something to report, first you call net. Here is a typical conversation:

Control, this is Marshal 23.

Marshal 23, go ahead.

Car 27 is off the road within my sight. The crew is out and signalling OK. Marshal 23 monitoring. KC5TRY

Control copies.

Oh by the way, the reason the rally is usually the only group on the repeater is because the regular repeater users who pay for the upkeep of the repeater have given permission for it to be used and have chosen to not use it during the rally.

I had been contemplating something like this -- "scenario scripts" for our most common and/or most worrisome issues... I even played around with Audacity to "fake" some radio transmissions, but then realized why other folks get paid for voice-over work, lol... I am looking back through STPR net recordings to pull out real recordings that might be helpful, but have to start researching other server scenarios since "multimedia" may not be possible within our current wiki structure. Since we have so little time for on-site training, and some limitations due to facility space, I have been focusing heavily on online training. Unfortunately, "real-life" responsibilities keep interfering
:mad:.
 

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pressing on tirelessly
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Great thread idea!
This is what we have been working on for STPR. Nothing fancy, just modified versions of Rally America's job descriptions: http://stpr-rally-radio.wikispaces.com/Radio+Job+Descriptions
Wow! Very nice!

You might want to add a short section on how to talk on the air. I try to stress that when a stage is running or if a transmission is part of an official report, think before talking and keep the transmission short and to the point. When a stage has its own frequency and the stage is idle, I don't mind general ham-radio-style gabbing, but as soon as things start getting serious I want the comm style to get serious too.

I generally prefer that people use tacticals at an event, primarily because I think it's easier for people to identify other communications by role than by callsign. How the idents are managed depends on the type of net. I generally prefer Net Control to be a separate frequency and have it be run as a managed net. In that case, the individual communications tend to be fairly short and have a limited number of immediate participants - generally things like the executive cars (000, 00, 0, CoC, Stewards, Fast Sweep, Heavy Sweep, etc) reporting in or asking for info. In that case, I prefer having the conversation start with a tac and end with a tac + callsign. I generally prefer for each stages to be run on its own frequency, and have it be semi-managed; i.e. it's mostly ad-hoc where everyone can report in when they need to, but there's a comm captain who's in charge of the stage comms and in charge of communicating with Net Control. Since things on a stage frequency can get fairly busy when a stage is hot, I find the ad-hoc nature reduces comm overhead. Also, since things get busy, I consider the comms on an active stage to be one long conversation and only ask for idents every 10 minutes. I generally leave it up to the stage's comm captain to initiate each round of idents. When the stage is done and comms go quiescent, there's another final round of idents.

I generally consider the CoC to be the ultimate authority on whether a stage can be called hot or not, but generally that authority gets delegated to Net Control, who's keeping track who's where, how the overall event timing is going, and what the states of the stages are and whether they've completed their "Go Hot" checklists. In some cases, I'll delegate further and let the stage comm captain call the stage hot, but that's generally only when they've been explicitly told that the stage is theirs to call. Generally that only happens when everything's nearly ready to go and they're just waiting for 0 car to finish and give the 0 car report.

Things vary. It depends on available comms and the experience of the personnel involved.
 
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