Repeater Operating Tips

Helpful hints for operation on the repeaters … (not counting 10 meter FM) by Ed Karl K0KL

A. Unlike HF operation, it is unnecessary and poor procedure to call “CQ”. Many operators used to come “up” to VHF and failed to recognize that we have an open circuit to all who normally listen to the repeater. There is no hiss from the speaker as on HF (the squelch function takes care of this nicely) so many radios are left on frequency.

B. Merely announce your call letters. Anyone listening who wants a conversation will respond.

C. DO NOT use the phrase “… KX6XXX monitoring”. To monitor implies the function of a control operator, if you are listening, or are listened to, someone will answer.

D. The repeaters (except the San Pedro VHF repeater, which is for standby service only) all have what is called a “courtesy tone” or beep. This usually takes a few seconds after you have letup on the mike switch. The purpose is to force courtesy, or leave a place where someone may join the conversation. Always remember to leave space for someone to join in. Failure to observe the courtesy tone will result in the repeater shutting itself down until you do stop transmitting. Then you get the “steel ball award” for timing out, people will point fingers at you and send unkind notes.

E. The word “break” is used for emergency situations only. It should be uni-versally recognized and immediately turn the repeater over to the station making the request. It functions differ-ently on HF. On repeaters it’s a must do not ignore this request.

F. Use common sense. When the weather is really foul, be sensitive to the need for emergency communications. No official exercise is necessary, just recognize another station might be in a jam and need help. Leave extra space between short comments. Don’t get into long winded contacts at a time like this.

G. “Q” Signals are entirely inappropriate on FM or repeater operation. “Q” signals are a form of shorthand useful in a CW message or contact. It is easier to say QTH than “my l o c a t i o n i s …”. QSL acknowledges receipt of a piece of traffic or information. It is not another way of saying; “OK, roger, I understand, gotcha, or even received”. This may be OK on other services, or even sound slick, you think, but NOT on repeaters, makes you sound like you’re from another planet. Why don’t you ever hear QTR? (What time is it?) It’s easier to just ask.

Squelch: Generally, FM radios have a squelch control. The noise you here is not “squelch”. Squelch is quieting the noise, or background, when there is no signal. The presence of a signal quiets the channel, the squelch opens up and you are able to hear the station. Generally set the squelch about 10 degrees beyond where it quiets the radio.
The Big Rock system has several inputs. Check the guide and find where the inputs are physically located in the county. Select the input best for your location. These inputs all use the same frequency and the PL or sub-audible tone causes the inputs to open up and feed the repeater output. Ask a control operator or club member more about the system. It was well engineered, covers the county well and can do a great deal. Just be sure you understand how to use it most efficiently.

We have “auto patch” or the use of telephone over the repeater. It is free to MARS members who just need a password to activate the feature. It also works in areas where cell phones have no or spotty coverage, a handy tool. But if you don’t know how to use it, or don’t know the password it is of little value in an emergency.

And finally, let’s help out newcomers find the way. Don’t holler at their ignorance of the way life is, or the way they operate. Encourage them and invite them to meetings, give soft handed advice; then we’ll all enjoy their friendship.