Before each Centralia ARES meeting, we begin with a net check-in via radio with each team member. This serves several purposes. First, it forces each of us to use our radios thereby ensuring they are working, set to the correct frequency and are capable of communicating with the Emergency Operations Center.
Next, it uses the same net preamble used if you were responding to a call out for a disaster situation. Finally, it forces us all to use the ITU (or Law enforcement at times) phonetic alphabet which we must be familiar with.
Net control duties are usually assigned in turn to each team member. That member reports to the EOC before the 6:15pm net is due to begin. The net preamble is provided and the team member receives a review of how the EOC radios are activated, how their frequencies are selected and how to turn them on and off.
The net control preamble sheet is a simple check off sheet where each team member is listed in alphabetical order by their call sign. To assist the operator, those call signs are also listed phonetically (example: kilo, delta, 7, oscar, whiskey, November). Each team member is called and if they respond, a simple check mark in the box indicates they will be attending the meeting that follows.
This same format is used for drills however after everyone has checked in, the net control will provide additional information such as staging area locations or other frequencies to be used.
The Centralia ARES check in net is done on the ARES simplex frequency of 146.540 Mhz. Therefore to check in, each operator must be within simplex range. While this check in could be done on either the Capitol Peak Repeater or the Bawfaw Repeater, there is no need to use valuable time on a repeater and team members should be responding to the area for training anyway thereby placing themselves in simplex range. Each team member should adjust his or her arrival into the area to be ready for the 6:15 pm net.
Most Centralia ARES team members check in using their mobile 50 watt radios and external antennas. While this is usually easy, you are encouraged to test your handheld radio from time to time if within range. The following page shows the Centralia ARES net preamble.