SKYWARN Net Do’s and Don’ts

With the severe storm season upon us, this is a timely reminder for all SKYWARN spotters. The ultima

Skywarnte goal of our SKYWARN net should be to provide the most effective and efficient net possible in Mercer County. To that end, here are some reminders when acting as a spotter and checking into a severe weather net.

1. DO follow all instructions of the Net Control Station.

2. DO monitor the net frequency (W3LIF repeater) for important information.

3. DO check into the net if you observe severe weather in your area.

4. DO make your report using the Time-Effect-Location (TEL) format. Keep reports as brief as possible!

5. DO take SKYWARN training and obtain a spotter card.

6. DO act professionally at all times. You never know who may be listening, and we want to portray our ham radio organization as a professional public service to our community.

7. DON’T report cloudy skies or light rain at your location. Remember – the weather in various parts of the county will vary. If you are not observing any of the criteria for reporting below, please do not make a report.

8. DON’T check in or transmit during a tornado warning or when the net is operating under Condition Red unless you have IMPORTANT information.

9. DON’T  rebroadcast any information that you hear over a scanner, television, the internet, or radio. Often, these reports can be misleading and inaccurate. Only report events that you actually observe.

10. DON’T answer any calls from the National Weather Service on the repeater, unless you are a net control station and are authorized to do so.

11. DO make sure you and your family are safe in the event of severe weather before performing any SKYWARN duties. If you choose to operate mobile during severe weather, please use the utmost caution.


ACTIVATING THE NETWORK

 Methods of initial awareness of severe weather and the need to activate the network:

  • Tune to the W3LIF repeater, where SKYWARN nets are held. LISTEN FIRST! Before you transmit, listen for a few minutes to see if a net is already in progress.  Others may have begun to activate the net.

  • If you are hearing reports on the repeater that meet the criteria set by the NWS.

  • Request by EMA or other county official

 Please note: The need for activation occurs when only one of these criteria are met.


CRITERIA FOR REPORTING

The following weather events should be reported to your net control station:

  • TORNADO

  • FUNNEL CLOUDS

  • WALL CLOUDS

  • ROTATING THUNDERSTORMS

  • WIND GUSTS (ESTIMATED OR MEASURED 45 MPH OR MORE)

  • WIND DAMAGE (TO LIMBS, TREES, ROOFS, ETC.)

  • HAIL (WITH DIAMETER OF LARGEST STONES)

  • FLOODING (BASEMENTS, EXTENSIVE STREET FLOODING, SMALL STREAMS)

  • HEAVY RAIN (0.75 INCHES OR GREATER IN 1 HOUR OR LESS OR 3 INCHES IN ANY TIME FRAME LESS THAN 24 HOURS)

  • CONTINUOUS LIGHTNING FIRE/DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING

  • ANY DEATH OR INJURY DUE TO ANY OF THE ABOVE (If this is to be reported to net control, please be advised to try to describe these things in the most professional way possible.)

 Remember to always give the three most important parts of a report

  1. TIME – TIME OF OCCURRENCE

  2. EVENT – HAIL, TORNADO, FUNNEL CLOUD, ETC.

  3. LOCATION – COUNTY AND DIRECTION/DISTANCE FROM NEAREST TOWN

 Often severe storms strike quickly and are isolated in our area. There will be times when there is  no radio operator at the NWS to make direct contacts to you. This is when your main link to the  NWS is via the 800 Severe Weather Hotline. One person, often the Net Control Station, should be  delegated to using the HOTLINE to relay severe weather reports. This will avoid duplication and  keep the 800 lines free. Whenever calling the Severe Weather Hotline identify yourself as a  SKYWARN member in Mercer County.

 The radio operator at the NWS and your net control station can provide information on the current watch/warning status for  your county and a brief radar synopsis. It is up to the net control operator to determine what level of  net activation is required given certain circumstances. The degree needed varies, but could be  effectively arranged in a four-tier system.


Net activation to STANDBY

 When used: When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued, but no weather activity is  occurring in the area. Note the expiration time of the watch.

 A net control station will then be established and take and log check-ins. Now is the best time to  establish where potential observers are located for the upcoming event, not when the severe  weather is hitting. The net control station will also relay watch information frequently. Normal use  of the repeater will continue, however, please leave a pause between transmissions should net  control need to break in to take the net to a higher level. You will possibly hear the “weather alert” on the repeater.

 As the storms approach your area, the net may need to be fully activated. There are three levels of  full activation.


Net Activation to CONDITION GREEN

 When used: Used during ALL Tornado Watches and during Severe Thunderstorm Watches when active weather is occurring.

 Nets for Flood/Flash Flood Watches are normally not required. There may be exceptions when the  NWS would request additional spotter reports, ex. remnants of a tropical storm moving through the  area.

 The first priority, during condition green, would be taking and relaying weather reports to the NWS.  Second would be check-ins. The Net Control Station takes control of frequency and gives frequent  updates on net status and weather watches. Prepare for further upgrade as storms approach or if  severe weather reports begin coming in.


Net Activation to CONDITION YELLOW

 When used: If a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING and/or FLASH FLOOD WARNING has  been issued for your county.

 Priority must be given to collecting and relaying weather reports. Net Contol will announce warning information frequently. Only reports meeting the criteria  mentioned earlier should be requested. “It’s not raining here” reports are not needed, unless  requested.


Net Activation to CONDITION RED

 When used: If a TORNADO WARNING has been issued for your county.

 Net Control Station takes total control of frequency. Net Control requests tornado, funnel cloud and wall cloud reports. If there are no tornadic reports, Net Contol requests reports meeting the above  criteria. Stations without one of the above reports should maintain radio silence. Net control will relay Tornado Warning information frequently.

 Condition RED events are rare. However, real emergency organization in these instances is what will make the NWS, trained spotters and all licensed amateurs involved with ARES fulfill their  missions and shine.


 Often, if one waits until a warning is issued, it is too late to organize spotters, collect reports and  relay them to the NWS in a timely manner. Spotters are also requested to check-in/check-out in Stand-by and Condition Green, when possible. This will help net control know where available spotters are before the storm moves through the county.

Let’s all work together to make a great and informative SKYWARN program here in Mercer County. Thanks in advance for your contribution!

Mercer County Emergency Communications Net

QST – Beginning Thursday, July 11 at 8:30pm, the Mercer County Emergency Communications Net will begin monthly nets immediately preceding the Thursday Night Soapbox net on the W3LIF repeater (145.350 -). The purpose of the net shall be to provide training in emergency net procedures, testing emergency communications equipment, and relaying general traffic that pertains to Mercer County ARES and RACES. This net will meet regularly on the first Thursday of each month.

This will be a directed net handled by an ARES net control operator. If you are interested in becoming a net control operator, please see this post. We hope that you will join us for this opportunity to gain training in emergency net procedures!

Net Control Operators Needed!

Net control operators are needed for the Mercer County Emergency Communications Net as well as the Mercer County Skywarn Net.

If you have a desire to act as a net control station and have a station with solid access to the W3LIF repeater and can possibly work simplex as well, we could use your help!

The goal is to get a roster of net control operators to be available during sever weather, emergencies, and our Emergency Communications training nets. You do not need to have previous net control experience if you would like to help…training will be provided.

If you are interested in becoming a net control operator, please fill out the following form:

FLDigi Training at Penn State Shenango

On Saturday, May 25, 2013, about 12 local operators met at Penn State Shenango for training on the FLDigi software. The session was led by Assistant EC for Lawrence County, Greg Singer, KB3WCU. He helped novice and experienced users alike in tweaking the settings and getting the most out of the software.

Focus was placed on the mode being used throughout the WPA Section for emergency communications MT63-2000L. Special thanks to Greg for leading the session and to all who participated!

20130606-215631.jpg