Getting Started as a CERT Radio Operator

Many CERT members become Amateur Radio Operators (“Hams”) after they join CERT, with the goal of supporting the CERT mission through communications. They pass the license exam and buy a radio, but don’t have any operating experience, and are understandably a little nervous about jumping on the air in a CERT “Net” and messing things up. We’ve all been there.

An excellent beginner’s guide (pdf) can be downloaded here: Smooth Ham Operator
This is focused on general ham usage rather than CERT or emergency communications, but it’s a great start for new operators.

Program two memories in your radio to the two channels used on the twice-monthly net; one repeater, one simplex. The frequencies  and schedules are  here.

Use your radio’s manual and the concepts you learned in studying for your license. Remember to set the frequency, the repeater offset (or none for simplex), and for the repeater, tone mode and tone frequency. Putting them in memory channels eliminates the need to fumble with radio settings in real time during the net.

Then, tune in to one of the regular nets and just listen, never keying PTT. They usually last about half an hour. Maybe listen to a couple of them if necessary. Then when the routine is familiar, and you see that many of the regular participants are themselves a little clumsy on the air, wait for the “Any Late or Missing Checkins” call, wait for some dead air, and chime in. The group wants new net participants, not reasons to discourage them. Any clumsiness will be greeted with help and friendly suggestions, not scorn.

If you’re not heard on the repeater, don’t give up – try the later simplex session. The repeater setup is more complicated, and you can ask for help with it during the simplex portion. Remember we want participation, not reasons for exclusion.

Communicator Gateway Hands-on Workshop

If you would like some hands-on instruction on using your radio, the San Diego Chapter of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) conducts free monthly “Communicator Gateway” Workshops on the second Saturday of the month. This two-hour workshop is intended for anyone getting started (or struggling) with a handheld “HT” radio. For more information see After You Pass. It is strongly recommended that you rsvp if you are planning to attend, both so that they can plan to have adequate training materials, and because they occasionally skip a month.

Some Tips for Yaesu radio users

Many of us, especially new hams, use Yaesu handheld radios (“HTs”). This isn’t a specific endorsement or requirement, and there are many other excellent radios in use by CERT members. But in recognition of the high use of these radios in the group, there is a “Tips” page (pdf) applicable to some of these HTs and other Yaesu radios at Yaesu Operator Tips

Yaesu operators sometimes accidentally enable Wires mode, causing a beep that interferes with the start of each transmission. The tips page discusses that and a method to permanently disable it. So this information remains accessible, we have mirrored a copy of the pdf file from the site where it was created, The local copy (pdf) is at Turning_Off_WIRES_on_Yaesu_Radios.pdf.

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