YOUR FIRST TRANSMISSION
Your first transmission on a repeater is as simple as your call-sign. If the repeater is quiet, pick up your microphone, press its switch, and transmit your call-sign “WB4IUY”, or “WB4IUY listening” to attract someone’s attention. After you stop transmitting, you will usually hear a short, unmodulated carrier transmitted by the repeater that lets you know that the repeater is working. If someone’s listening and interested in talking to you, they will call you after your initial transmission. Some repeaters have specific rules for making yourself heard, but in general, your call sign is all you need to do the trick.
If you want to join a conversation that is already in progress, transmit your call-sign during the break that occurs between transmissions. The station that transmits after you drop in your call-sign will usually acknowledge you. Don’t use the word “BREAK” to join a conversation (unless its the operating practice in your area). In some areas, ”BREAK” indicates that there is an emergency and that all stations should stand by for the station with emergency traffic.
If you want to call another station, i.e.; “AC4QD”, this is “WB4IUY”. If the repeater is active, but the conversation that’s in progress sounds like it is about to end, wait until it is over before calling the other station. However if the conversation sounds like it is going to continue for a while, transmit your call-sign between transmissions. Once you are acknowledged, ask to make a quick call. Usually, the other stations will stand by for you. Make your call short. If your friend responds to your call, ask him to stand by on frequency until after the conversation is over or, if possible, ask him to meet you on another repeater or a simplex frequency.
If you are in the midst of a conversation and a station transmits his call sign between transmissions, the next station in queue to transmit should acknowledge that station and permit him to make a call or join the conversation. It is impolite not to acknowledge him and, furthermore, it is impolite to acknowledge him and not let him speak. You never know; the calling station may need to use the repeater immediately. They may have an emergency on their hands, so let them make a transmission promptly.
THE PAUSE THAT REFRESHES
A brief pause before you begin each transmission allows other stations to participate in the conversation, so don’t key your microphone as soon as someone else releases theirs. If your exchanges are too quick, you can prevent other stations from getting in. Again, there may be an emergency, so leave that pause. The “courtesy beepers” found on most repeaters force users to leave spaces between their transmissions. The beeper sounds a second or two after each transmission to permit other stations to transmit their call signs in the intervening time period. The words “ROGER”, and “OVER” etc. are also quite unnecessary since the repeater has done this for you with the “beep”.
Keep each transmission as short as possible. Short transmissions permit more people to use the repeater. Most repeaters promote this by having timers that “time-out”, i.e., shutting down the repeater whenever someone transmits too long. With this in mind, most users keep their transmissions brief. Learn the length of the repeater’s timer and stay well within its limits. The length may vary with each repeater ; some are as short as 90 seconds and some are as long as 10 minutes. Another purpose of a repeater timer is to prevent extraneous signals from keeping the repeater on continuously, which could damage the repeater’s transmitter.
You must transmit your call-sign at least every 10 minutes during the course of any communication. You don’t have to give the call sign of the station you’re talking to...it’s a matter of common courtesy to give your call when beginning your first transmission. This lets others know who you are. Never transmit without identification. For example, keying your microphone to turn on the repeater (sometimes called kerchunking) is illegal if you don’t identify. If you don’t want to engage in conversation, but simply want to see if you can access a certain repeater, simply say your call and “testing”. Example: “WB4IUY testing.” Thus you have accomplished what you wanted to do, legally..
After you have made a contact on a repeater, move the conversation to a simplex frequency, if possible. The repeater is not a soap box; you may like to listen to yourself but others who may need to use the repeater will not be as appreciative.
The function of a repeater is to provide communications between stations that would not normally be able to communicate because of terrain or equipment limitations. It logically follows that if stations are able to communicate with out the need of a repeater, they should not use the repeater except for the initial contact. Besides, simplex offers a degree of privacy that you cannot experience on a repeater. When selecting a simplex frequency, make sure that it is a simplex frequency designated for FM simplex operation. Check band plans listed in the ARRL Repeater Directory. If you do not have one, check with someone who does.
FIXED STATIONS AND PRIME TIME
Fixed stations should stay off the repeater during rush hours. At these times mobile stations have preference. During mobile operating prime time, fixed stations should yield to mobile stations. Don’t abandon the repeater completely; monitor mobile activity. Your assistance may be needed in an emergency..
Support your local repeaters. Many repeaters are run by clubs whose members pool their resources to operate the repeater. Some repeaters are funded entirely by an individual. It takes a lot of work and money to get a repeater on the air and maintain it. If you’re a regular user of a repeater, you should help support the effort to keep the repeater on the air. Don’t be a free loader, support your local repeater club. Without support, the repeater may not be there when you need it!!
Most of the repeaters that you are likely to encounter are open to all users. There are no restrictions to use the repeater’s facilities. However, limited access repeaters do exist. Their use is restricted to exclusive groups. Although such operations go against the grain of the spirit of the hobby, “closed repeaters” are legal according to section 97.85(a) of the FCC regulations.
There are some repeaters that are opened, bu t require the use of special codes or subaudible tones to gain access. The reason for limiting access on “open” repeaters is to prevent interference. Actually not desirable, but the only way the repeater group can counteract any persistent interference problem....this also includes malicious interference.
Use only the minimum amount of power necessary to maintain communications through the repeater to avoid the possibility of accessing distant repeaters on the same frequency. The use of minimum power is not only a courtesy to distant repeaters, but is a FCC requirement.
An autopatch is a device that allows repeater users to make telephone calls through the repeater. Usually, only club members are provided access codes to access this feature. Logically, if this is the case; please maintain the integrity of the clubs wishes.
Whatever is used, the same autopatch operating procedures apply. Never use autopatch for anything that could be construed as business communications. The FCC strictly forbids any business communications on amateur radio. A lot of information is covered in the FCC rule book and the ARRL operating manual.
Never use an autopatch to avoid a toll call. Autopatch operation is a privilege granted by the FCC, abuses of auto-patch privileges may lead to their loss. Before attempting to use an autopatch on a repeater, make sure that you are familiar with your rigs features.
Once a call is established , do not speak at the same time as the party at the other end of the line, (you may have to tell the other party that you are on a phone patch and that you can’t hear each other at the same time), because an autopatch only provides communications in one direction at one particular time. This is “half duplex”; while you are transmitting, you obviously cannot hear the other end of the conversation, whereas on a telephone you can talk and listen at the same time. Thus a telephone is “full duplex”. To inform the party at the other end of the line that you are finished talking and that party can speak, the use of the word “OVER” may help.
Many autopatches have timers that terminate the connection after a certain period of time, so keep your telephone conversation as short as possible.
Of course there’s much more that can readily be found in various ham publications. ARRL is always a sound choice.
The foregoing was just a part of the common operating procedures for FM and repeater operation. Monitor your local repeater and listen to how these procedures and variations thereof work in actual practice. Learn to recognize bad habits as just that...not good operating procedure.
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