Typical KaroEcho Training Session


If you are the first to arrive on the Echo-Karo net frequency (146.415 MHz), you are the Net Control Station (NCS) until relieved by a more trained and experienced NCS or the Lead Emergency Coordinator. When signs of disaster strike check in to 146.415 MHz and wait for assignment. 

Training should be in accordance with our mission statement and best operating practices. First we focus upon the mission, then the operations plan and procedures, and then we then train in refining our skills and abilities. Trainings are best conducted on the air and should be designed by the training facilitator. Before on the air exercises, table-top exercises are useful and should be designed by the Lead Teacher. 

FRS/GMRS training should be done adjacent to KARO-ECHO, but not inside of it, simply because FRS/GMRS is a specialized need within CERT, while KARO-ECHO must remain focused on our amateur radio effectiveness. The Karo-Echo Lead Teacher may provide radio operator practice and net procedure guidance and classes, as requested by the CERT coordinator. 

Training Work Group Leader duties shall include but shall no be limited to designing and facilitating practice material, table-top practices, on the air drills, and providing individual counseling when needed. 

Training Work Group Lead  KE6BEE Howdy   

Training Work Group Members:  Don NI6A, Jay KJ6WSS, Rob K6RJM  More are welcome. Please contact Howdy (ke6bee at arrl dot net ) 

Areas of Training: 

Message handling procedures and formats (tactical versus formal/written) 

Net Operation and procedures 

Net Control Duties and Procedures utilizing a Controlled or directed net 

Use of efficient portable operations (emergency/portable power, portable antennas, useful connectors/adapters such as Anderson power connectors, and an emergency Go kit 

Use of Prowords, phonetics, and common acronyms (avoiding jargon when possible) 

Use of Tactical Callsigns/Designators 

Mutual Aid Go Teams and inter-operability 

Use of Health and Welfare Traffic 

Each Member Should obtain and Maintain an Up-to-date KARO-ECHO Operations Manual 


AEC: Assistant Emergency Coordinator. See EC for more. 

CERT: Community Emergency Response Team. There are 11 designated areas in El Cerrito and 6 in Kensington, for a total of 17 CERT Areas. See EC CERT map: 

Directed Net: The Net Control Station (NCS) is in charge of the operation. For routine or priority traffic say break. For emergency traffic say: “break break or simply voice, "EMERGENCY". The NCS will say: “break go ahead”. Then identify yourself and list your traffic. The NCS will then give further procedural instructions. For emergency traffic it is best to say, “EMERGENCY” and then the NCS will recognize you. Voice, “PRIORITY{, for priority traffic. KAROECHO uses a directed net procedure. Notify the Net Control Station and NCS will direct you.


Duplex: Operation where the transmit frequency differs from the receive frequency. Duplex operation is commonly used in repeater operation as well as in cross band operation. 

Simplex: Direct communications where the transmit and receive frequencies are the same. 

EC: Emergency Coordinator who is appointed y the executive board. The EC appoints assistants (AECs) 

Elmer: Ham radio slang for mentor

EOC: Abbreviation Emergency Operations Center located across from main El Cerrito FD in the Public Safety Building. Each city and county have their own EOCs. 

ERP: Effective Radiated Power. Usually calculated by RF output in watts times the gain of the antenna over a theoretical dipole (dBd). EIRP is the effective radiated power using a theoretical isopole (dBi), which is theoretically 2.5 db less efficient than dBd. Examples: 5 watts RF output using a dipole antenna would equal 5 Watts ERP. Using 5 watts RF output a 3 dBd gain antenna, the ERP would be 10 watts. 

FRS: Family Radio Service limited to .5 watts on channels 8-15, and 2 watts on ch.1 – 7 and 2 watts on Ch. 16-22. External antennas are not allowed. FRS works well for short distance radio communications within buildings and blocks (line of sight) dpending upon terrain. 

GMRS: General Mobile Radio Service uses channels from around 462 MHz to 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels are for short to medium distance two-way communications using hand-held radios similar to walkie-talkies, base stations, and repeaters. A small base station is one that has an option of an outside antenna and can transmits with no more than 5 watts on channels 1-7, .5 Watts on channels 8-15, and 50 watts on the rest of the GMRS frequencies ( Ch. 16-22) 

OLD FRS/GMRS Channel nomenclature: Please note that the channel designators for GMRS and FRS changed as of September 1, 2017 For example: channel 7 FRS is the old GMRS channel 15 but the frequency is the same 462.7125 MHz. This information may be useful to avoid confusion for those who have older equipment. In the new radios Channels will be designated 1-22 in both FRS and GMRS services. 

GMRS and FRS Dual Service Radios: 

Many manufacturers have in the past received FCC type approval to market radios that are certified for use in both GMRS and FRS (called dual service radios).  Others market FRS only or GMRS only radios. 

Radios marketed as "FRS/GMRS" or "dual-service radios" are available from many manufacturers and many retail or discount stores. The manual that comes with the radio, or the label placed on it by the manufacturer, should indicate the service the radio is certified for. If you cannot determine what service the radio may be used in, contact the manufacturer. If you operate a radio under the GMRS rules, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels. In GMRS 5 watts is typical on channels 1-7, .5 watts on ch. 8-15, and 50 watts on the other GMRS channels). GMRS only radios may have detachable antennas as compared to FRS radios with non-detachable antennas. Hence, GMRS will increase the range of your communications considerably. 

Since, November 2017, dual service radios have been discontinued in the US due to new FCC rues mandating radios to be either FRS only or GMRS only. FRS operation does not require an FCC license, if you operate a radio that has been approved for FRS and restrict operations exclusively to the FRS channels with a maximum power of 2 watts effective radiated power (ERP) and with an integral (non-detachable) antenna. In both FRS and GMRS Channels 8-14 are restricted to .5 watt (1/2 watt) 

GMRS radios can operate at 5 watts on channels 1-7,  50 watts on channels 15-22, utilize external antennas, and repeater operations.   

Ham: A FCC licensed amateur radio operator capable of high power, thousands of channels,  and long distance communications. 

IC: Incident Commander. Person in charge of the overall operation 

ICP: Incident Command Post (Please designate what CERT Area ICP that one is contacting; e.g., areas may have individual ICPs as well as blocks. Please use tactical designators. 

ICS: Incident Command System. Used for interoperability to integrate diverse disaster services agencies under a single command (Incident Commander – IC). 

KHz: Kilohertz. An frequency abbreviation for one thousand Hertz (cycles per second). 

MHz: Abbreviation for Megahertz a frequency measurement equal to one million Hertz (cycles per second). 

NCS: Net Control Station 


Resource Net: For larger-scale incidents, a Resource Net is used to recruit operators and equipment in support of operations on the Tactical Nets. As an incident requires more operators or equipment, the Resource Net evolves as a check-in place for volunteers to register and receive assignments. Also used to track personnel back and forth safely to and from assignments. 

Resource Nets may be combined within and under Logistics (a Logistic Net) unless traffic becomes too heavy. In case of heavy traffic, a new frequency and net control station should be established for an independent Resource Net apart from the Logistics Net.  Also see Tactical Net.

Tactical Net: The Tactical Net is the front line net employed during an incident, usually used by a single government or related disaster services agency to handle emergency traffic  within their jurisdiction. There may be several tactical nets in operation for a single incident depending on the volume of traffic and number of agencies involved. Communications include traffic handling (written and point to point) and if time permits resource recruiting. 

Command Net: As the size of an incident increases and more jurisdictions become involved in the incident, a Command Net may become necessary. This net allows the incident managers to communicate with each other to resolve inter- or intra-agency problems, particularly between cities or within larger jurisdictional areas. It is conceivable that this net could become cluttered with a high volume of traffic. It may also be necessary to create multiple command nets to promote efficiency. For KaroEcho purposes a command net will involve strategic planning and coordination between the EC, AEC, Net Control Stations (NCS), staff,  and supervisory personnel. 

Logistics Net: A net dealing with the procurement, maintenance, and transportation of material, facilities, staffing, and scheduling personnel during a disaster. 

OES: Office of Emergency Services often located at the State and county EOCs 

Offset: Used by repeaters to demarcate the transmit offset frequency which is either up or down from the receive frequency.  Generally the offsets for 2m operation are + or - 600 Hz. For UHF (70cm) the offset is generally + 5 MHz. 

PL Tone: Acronym for Private Line. These are sub-audible tones sent on transmit used to access/activate repeaters


 EMERGENCY—Any message having life and death urgency to any person or group of persons, that is transmitted by Amateur Radio in the absence of regular commercial facilities. This includes official messages of welfare agencies during emergencies requesting supplies, materials or instructions vital to relief efforts for the stricken populace in emergency areas. On CW and digital modes, this designation will always be spelled out. When in doubt, do not use this designation.

PRIORITY—Abbreviated as P on CW and digital modes. This classification is for important messages having a specific time limit, official messages not covered in the emergency category, press dispatches and emergency-related traffic not of the utmost urgency.

WELFARE—Abbreviated as W on CW and digital modes. This classification refers to an inquiry about the health and welfare of an individual in the disaster area, or to an advisory from the disaster area that indicates all is well. Welfare traffic is handled only after all Emergency and Priority traffic is cleared. The American Red Cross equivalent to an incoming Welfare message is DWI (Disaster Welfare Inquiry).

ROUTINE— Abbreviated as R on CW and digital modes. Most traffic in normal times will bear this designation. In disaster situations, traffic labeled Routine should be handled last, or not at all when circuits are busy with higher-precedence traffic.

RUBBER DUCK -- The short and stubby sometimes rubbery and flexible antenna on hand held handy talky radios (HTs)

SAR: Search and Rescue

SET: Simulated Emergency Test

Triage areas: Locations used to evaluate medial casualties and/or to perform temporary emergency medical treatment if required. 

Mentoring (Elmer) Services

KARO/ECHO offers mentoring services to new hams. Common subjects are, but not limited to, radio selection, radio programming, repeater operation, antenna selection and installation, mobile and portable operations, emergency power, and similar. Please feel free to email 

Both individual instruction and group classes can be arranged. The Elmering Workgroup currently consists, K6RJM (Rob), KE6BEE (Howdy), and Don (NI6A). More volunteers are welcome. 

Future topics will be emergency power, portable, fixed, and mobile  antennas, digital communications, message handling, and best operting practices, and advanced topics.  See the KaroEcho Events page for the current curriculum 

Training Exercises for Thursday Nets

Net Control Stations (NCS) may select from the following list of exercises (or others) to teach and practice disaster communication skills following the net check-ins.


After all stations have checked-in the NCS announces: “Attention all stations: QST. When you are called by Net Control please state your power output and antenna. If you have low and high power announce ‘this is my hi-power output blank blank blank. This is my low power output blank blank blank.” All stations please list your signal reports for all other stations and send to after the net.


NCS: “W6AAA go”

W6AAA voices: “This is W6AAA using 5 watts into a stubby rubber duck inside home. W6AAA back to net.”

NCS: “Thank you. W6BBB go”

W6BBB voices: This is W6BBB using 50 watts into a 8 foot co-linear 6.5 dbd antenna on roof”. W6BBB back to net.

NCS: “Thankyou W6BBB. W6XYZ go”

W6XYZ: “This is W6XYZ mobile at rest at Canyon Trail Park running 5 watts into a 5/8 wave magmount antenna on the car roof. W6XYZ back to Net”.

After all stations have transmitted ask them again to report over the air any weak or missing transmissions and/or email the NCS their reports using the RST method.



On voice we replace “R” (Readability) with “Q” Quality. Best signal report is q5 s9

Worse is q1 (unable to copy).

Hopefully members will experience the difference between indoor handheld antennas as NOT well suited for simplex. There can be many variations taking off from this theme.

Timing: Perhaps three stations/minute or 20 stations in less than 10 minutes?

Changing frequencies

Many variations are possible. For example meet at 1910 hours at the first alternative net frequency and call for checkins for 5 minutes. Then NCS will announce a third net frequency that will begin at 1915. NCS can send a list of check-ins for three nets. Can change bands to 440 from 2m (possibility to compare signals on different bands). Can change to a repeater.

Handling messages.

One exercise is to have one station send a short message and have everyone email their copy to the net manager.

Another exercise is a demonstration, on net frequency, of two efficient operators passing a short formal message in KE Modified form 213 with full headers. Have the receive station purposely ask for a few fills like; “word after, word before, between blank and blank, please confirm, all before, all after, etc”. These two operators should agree to participate before the net. The traffic would be passed on net frequency for purposes of this demonstration.

Stations can also be paired to change frequencies and pass a message (multiple can be happening simultaneously), some stations could monitor others. It is helpful to have several stations agree to prepare messages to send ahead of the net.

Net Operation

Hand off NCS role to various stations for practice.

Simulate traffic: EC10 has emergency traffic

for EC5.  A variation is EC10 and EC5 do not copy each other, requiring the NCS to designate a relay station. The traffic would be passed on net frequency for purposes of this demonstration although changing frequency to pass traffic could also be done to allow more than one set of messages/relays, simultaneously.

Sample Ideas for Net Exercises

Training Material

The Critique: Lessons Learned on the September 30, 2018 SET

Fundamentals of Net Control (based on lessons learned since the 2018 SET (by KM6UCF, KE6BEE, and NI6A) 

KaroEcho Sept 30, 2018 SET Broadsheet.  Detailed SET Info Sheet Here  --  Held in parallel with the KE CERT 2018 Drill

The Role of a Message Center and Message Center Manager

Primer for New Licensed Hams in El Cerrito/Kensington: Getting Started 

Recommended Base, Portable, and Mobile Dual Band Antennas for Newbies

Primer on the Pros and Cons of Handheld, Mobile, Portable, and/or Fixed Station Operations

Disaster Communications Primer for El Cerrito/Kensington CERT Trainees 

KARO/ECHO Training Goals (Four Progressive levels. This is the Extensive Detailed Long Form)

KARO/ECHO Training Goals (Four Progressive levels)  This is the short version in outline form that corresponds to the four types of progressive go-kit/jump-kit  Training is based on the four types of deployment (Level A, Advanced B, Extra C, and MAT Qualified).

KARO ECHO Go Kit / Checklist Recommendations. This Go-Kit is based on the above four types of deployment (Level A, Advanced B, Extra C, and MAT Qualified).

Karo/Echo Simplified three page Jump Kit (Go-Kit) Check-List

A Jump-Kit Check-List with Extensive Discussion/Explanation

Back-Up Emergency Power Systems for EmComms

The ABCs of Battery Power

Palo Alto Amateur Radio Assn. Presents "All You Ever Wanted to Know about Batteries

The Battery University: Solid Information on how to take care of any battery

Understanding the use of VHF/UHF antennas for Disaster Communications

Recommended Base, Portable, and Mobile Dual Band Antennas for Newbies 

Emergency Communications Field Operations Manual and Handbook (Karo-Echo) (Rev 04/2020)

Karo-Echo Communications Plan 

Net Operations Best Procedures

KARO/ECHO Training Manual on How to Work a Directed Net 

A List of Relevant HF, VHF, UHF SIMPLEX EmComm Frequencies in our area

Mapping/Pathfinder Tool: Identify any obstructions between your QTH and any distant point.

The VERY BEST EMcomm Guide, by the IARU (thanks to Rod, W6ROD). THE authority to rely upon!!!***!!!***

Basic Training: An Excellent Beginner's Video for Emergency Net Operations by the Marin Amateur Radio Society

High Frequency Operations (HF)

Short Introduction to HF Antennas and Propagation

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) antennas for short range radio communications (short skip)

Introduction to HF, Short Wave, and SDR Listening

Reducing RF Noise Interference on HF (the High Frequency bands) 


Definitions of ARES Message Precedence Designators (Emergency, Priority, Welfare, and Routine)

Message Handling Best Practices  (Advanced -- See Chapter 8 of the KARO-ECHO Field Operations Handbook)

Formal Written Traffic versus Point to Point Verbal Tactical Comms: When to write it down and when not to.

Handling Welfare Messages and ARL Numbered Messages

Using ICS-213 Form Made Simple

ICS-213 (pdf) (fillable PDF) (Word)

ICS-213 Fillable. docx

Comparing ICS-213 Message Form with the ARRL Message Form (a very short critique)

A Breakdown of the Standard ARRL/ARES Message Form Made Easy

A Short Example Why We Use the ARES/ICS Modified Message Form

The FOUR Time/date Stamps of the KAROECHO Modified form 213 and a succinct clarification on the use of the word count (check) 


The KARO-ECHO Hybrid/Modified ARES/ICS Message form (as above) but in a fillable Adobe PDF format

The Radio Relay International Message Form (Coincidentally identical with the KaroEcho form) FILLABLE

Obtaining Fills efficiently in Message Handling (short easy to understand primer)

Succinct Presentation on Using Prowords, Getting Fills, Op Notes, and  Handling Instructions based on the 03/25/2021 Net

Using Q signals and Handling Instructions  (The HX field in the ARES preamble message form)

For a Wealth of Additional and Advanced EMcomm Training Material please visit KaroEcho's