Communication Training

Understanding the difference between a funnel cloud and scud is important.  Just as important is knowing how to communicate with the weather net.  When should you hit the push-to-talk key?  What part of your information is important?  Are there times when it’s simply best to be quiet.

When the weather net is in operation the focus of the net is to provide information to the NWS.  Occasionally we’re challenged by some participants that believe that we’re on the air to provide personalized information for them.  They may ask us for a forecast or tell us that they are traveling to Texas and want to know what the weather is out that way.  Our intent is not to be rude but higher priority tasks may prevent us from responding to queries such as those.

You’ve got a new radio and maybe you just received your license recently.  What better time to put your investment to use than during severe weather.  Take a pause and read on.  Veteran weather spotters understand that they may go an entire season and never make a report to net control.  If the weather doesn’t fit severe criteria you drop the urge to call net control.  Instead wait until the net is over and then share your experience with other spotters.

If you’re new to the weather net listening will be your number one job.  Listening will allow you to hear instructions from net control.  You will soon hear why the net is up and what warnings are in place.  Net control may ask for stations in a particular area or for stations that have severe weather to report.

The Right Way

Your next task may be to respond to a net control request.  Take a moment to think about what you want to say.  Be brief, focused and concise.  Let’s say you have hail to report and it’s at least 3/4” in diameter.  Your exchange with net control should go something like this.

  • (spotter) – November-8-Xray-Yankee-Zulu
  • (net control) – Xray-yankee-zulu, Columbus Weather
  • (spotter) – November-8-xray-yankee-zulu I’m at route 42 and I-70 and have 3/4” hail falling now.
  • (net control) – November-8-Xray-yankee-zulu copy your 3/4” hail at route 42 and I-70.  Let us know when the hail stops. N8WX Columbus Weather.
  • (spotter) – N8XYZ, roger.

In a few words and fewer sentences you were able to provide the information that net control needed and meet the FCC requirements for identification.  Your “roger” tells us that we got the report right and that you will call us when the hail stops.

Air time is very valuable.  A station may have a wall cloud or funnel report to make.  If the net is listening to a long winded report valuable time is lost.  You can never be sure when a tornado may strike so keeping transmissions brief brings the most value to the net.

Damage reports are valuable.  They provide important information about the strength of the storm and whether it’s weakening or getting stronger.  Understand the priority of messages you’re hearing on the net to see if you should report damage now or wait a few minutes.  Reports about wall clouds, funnel clouds or tornadoes take priority.

The Wrong Way

Let’s go through a what-not-to-do exchange with net control.

  • (spotter)Kilowatt-dog-8-adam-buford-chelsea
  • (net control) – Alpha-bravo-charlie, Columbus Weather
  • (spotter)Kilowatt-dog-8-adam-buford-chelsea, I’m leaving the round-town northbound on route 23 with Ike sitting beside me.  We’re headed to Delaware to pick up some firewood and propane.  Your signal is good down here and hopefully you can copy me 5 by 5.  Did you hear Ike barking about that hail hittin’ the roof?  It’s pretty good size.  I’m guessing it’s as big as the gas cap on my lawn mower.  Back to you now.
  • (net control) – Alpha-bravo-charlie, where is round-town and is the hail larger than 1 inch?
  • (spotter)Kilowatt-dog-8-adam-buford-chelsea, Oh yea, I’m leaving Circleville with the dog.  You heard him barkin’ didn’t you?  Anyhow, I’d guess that hail is about an inch or so.
  • (net control) – Alpha-bravo-charlie, Where are you on route 23?
  • (spotter)Kilowatt-dog-8-adam-buford-chelsea, Put me about 10 miles north of round-town, I mean Circleville.
  • (net control) – Alpha-bravo-charlie, Copy your 1” hail 10 miles north of Circleville on route 23.  Is your callsign Kilo-delta-8-alpha-bravo-charlie?
  • (spotter)Kilowatt-dog-8-adam-buford-chelsea, yes sir you got the call right, Do you want my handle?
  • (net control) – Kilo-Delta-8-Alpha-bravo-charlie, I think we’re done with you on this trip. N8WX Columbus Weather.
  • (spotter)Kilowatt-dog-8-adam-buford-chelsea, Catch you on the way back through.

Pretty interesting exchange that consumed lots of time and provided no details to net control.  Compare it to the previous example.  Here are a few notable problems.

  • Using non-standard phonetics repeatedly.  Note that net control provided callsign hints.
  • Non-relevant data was provided to net control.
  • His exchange took a long time tying up air-time.
  • We guessed that round-town meant Circleville but it had to be verified.  We still needed to find out where he was on route 23.
  • How big is a gas cap?  Another verification is needed to understand hail size.

What other transmissions might be questionable or unnecessary?

  • Sunshine Reports – Shortly after a severe weather net comes on the air or after a new warning comes out, net control will ask if anyone in the area has severe weather to report.   Some operators will provide reports about lightning, light rain, stopped rain, sunshine in the distance or calm wind.  Nothing here is considered severe weather.  Net control will classify these reports as sunshine reports.  Sunshine reports eat up air time and indicate that someone isn’t listening to net control.
  • Personal Forecast – I’m in Plain City what can I expect? Our first suggestion to the Plain City operator is to listen to the net for a few minutes before asking us the question.  We repeat warnings periodically during the net.  Another option is for the operator to tune to NOAA Weather Radio and listen for information there.  We will respond if Plain City is part of the warned area.
  • Sirens & Lightning – Sirens are sounding in Dublin or Lancaster. What’s going on up here? Net control receives lots of questions about sirens from all parts of our area.  Each government entity has different reasons for sounding sirens.  Some sirens are used for volunteer fire departments.  We can’t possibly know why sirens are sounding in a particular area.  Lightning is another phenomenon that is assumed to be present in a thunderstorm.  Lightning reports consume air-time.  All spotters need to take precautions when lightning is present.