Severe Weather Net
Standard Operating Guidelines
This document provides specific guidelines for Amateur Radio Operators within Linn County to support a Severe Weather Spotter network. Specific services supported are:
- Provide weather observations and damage reports from Linn and adjacent counties to Linn County Emergency Management Agency (LCEMA) and the National Weather Service office in Davenport.
- Provide backup communications between Linn County Emergency Management and adjacent counties.
All Amateurs are encouraged to monitor the developing weather situation by monitoring local media and NOAA Weather Radio (162.475 MHz) for forecasts of severe weather. (This is in addition to what should be a regular review of the Hazardous Weather Outlook and the Storm Prediction Center forecast each day.)
If conditions indicate that severe weather will develop within the next few hours, Amateurs should monitor the 146.745 MHz repeater.
EC, AECs and Amateurs that frequently serve as inter-county liaisons or radar operators should periodically make their availability known on 146.745 MHz.
3. Activation Procedures
3.1 Request to Activate the Spotter Network
Linn County EMA should activate Amateur Radio spotters by:
- Paging Amateur Radio (pager code 1480), requesting “Set Storm Watch”, or
- Contacting an Amateur on the Emergency Contact List.
3.2 Activation Procedure
The following steps should be taken to activate an Amateur Radio response to a probable severe weather event:
- Attempt to notify the EC and all AECs.
- Designate a Net Control station and establish a net on the 146.745 MHz repeater (145.150 backup). If conditions permit, listening Amateurs should be requested to check in with net control identifying their location and if in fixed or mobile operation.
- If operations need to move to another repeater or simplex frequency, a station should remain on the main frequencies to redirect operators to the correct net.
4. Operational Procedures
4.1 STANDBY Net Operation
The net may be operated in STANDBY mode if severe weather is not an immediate threat to Linn County. This mode is used if weather related traffic is necessary but does not warrant full-time occupation of the repeater. Net Control should periodically broadcast that the net is in STANDBY mode, and that stations may call other stations without permission from Net Control. However, extra time (two seconds) is requested between each transmission and long exchanges (more than one minute) should be moved to a different frequency.
4.2 ACTIVE Net Operation
The net shall be operated in ACTIVE mode when severe weather is in progress or imminent. During an ACTIVE net, Net Control shall limit traffic to weather and safety related traffic only. This is a formal net and all traffic flows through the designated net control. Net control shall broadcast minimum reporting criteria for each category of severe weather (lightning, wind, hail, damage) as necessary to control redundant reports and limit traffic to manageable levels. Refer to the Severe Weather Net Checklist for suggested reporting levels.
4.3 LCEMA Liaison
There should be a person located at Linn County Emergency Management (a different person than Net Control) to pass reports to Emergency Management personnel. This person should man the radio next to the radar monitor. Due to the level of activity in the EOC, the liaison should monitor the net and present only relevant traffic to Emergency Management. In the event the LCEMA has not yet been activated, severe weather reports may be relayed direct to the NWS via their 800 spotter telephone number.
4.4 Net Control
Due to activity and noise levels, Net Control should NOT be run from the station console at LCEMA if possible. Net Control should operate from any other convenient location. It is Net Control’s responsibility to manage the traffic level on 146.745 by establishing minimum reporting criteria. Other participating operators are expected to listen to NCS instructions regarding reporting criteria.
4.5 NWS Liaison
A method to pass spotter reports to the NWS office shall be established. A single contact point shall be designated to avoid duplicate reports. The communication method shall be (in order of preference):
- Via the Amateur station at Linn County EMA (if manned). EMA personnel will relay via NAWAS. This is the preferred and most efficient method if EMA is staffed.
- Via telephone call to the NWS using the 800 number.
- Via NWS web-based reporting interface.
- Via a liaison station maintaining radio contact with ham radio volunteers at NWS QC offices.
The liaison function should be reassigned as necessary to utilized the most preferred method available at the time.
4.6 Adjacent County Liaisons
Stations should be appointed to serve as liaisons to adjacent counties as dictated by the areas potentially affected by the severe weather. The operating frequencies of liaisons are detailed in the Severe Weather Net Checklist .
Reports to/from adjacent counties should include:
- Periodic radar summaries including storm positions, movement, and characteristics.
- Damage Reports from Linn and adjacent counties (if time and traffic levels permit).
Tactical Callsigns to be used when reporting to Linn County:
- If operating on 146.745 MHz. – The Amateur’s callsign. (This avoids confusion with other stations from adjacent counties that may check in.)
- When operating on a closed coordination frequency – The name of the adjacent county being served.
Tactical Callsigns to be used on the frequency of the adjacent county:
- “Linn County Weather”
4.7 Spotter Reports
Severe Weather Spotter participants should report:
- Severe Weather observations that exceed the minimum reporting criteria established by net control.
- Storm Damage (if severe weather is not in progress. Do not provide damage reports during the weather event unless requested by NCS).
- Threats to life or property.
Observations should include:
- Time that the condition was observed, if other than current.
- Source of the report, if not a personal observation.
- Description of the Condition.
- Location of reporting station (using common references) and the relative location of the severe weather condition if different than his location. This should include the estimated direction and speed of the severe weather condition, if possible.
Observations should not include “rain stopped here”, “clear in the west”, etc. reports. These “fair weather reports” are almost never useful. Make them only if specifically asked by NCS.
4.8 Public Service Liaisons
This station’s responsibility is to provide reports of hazardous situations direct to the appropriate public service agency. This station should normally monitor the Linn County Storm Watch Net. At the direction of net control, he should be capable of moving to an alternate frequency with a station reporting a hazard to relay detailed information to the appropriate public service agency (such as accidents, downed power lines, or roads blocked by downed trees). After completing the report, the liaison should ask for any additional incidents that need to be reported (in case additional stations have been sent to the alternate frequency to report a hazard). If no response is heard, he should return to monitoring the 146.745 repeater and advise net control that he is back on frequency.
Participation is terminated with the agreement of LCEMA. Stations that wish to terminate prior to the closure of an ACTIVE net should notify net control, if traffic levels permit. Net control should confirm net termination with stations with designated assignments (e.g. liaisons) and with mobiles actively engaged in tracking cells.
6. Storm History
Both EMA and the NWS office is interested in the history of severe storms, even after the threat of additional damage has passed. Reports can be collected by net control when in STANDBY or ACTIVE mode, or submitted by individual Amateurs. These reports may be submitted directly via NWS web interface.
7. Safety Considerations
Neither LCEMA nor LCARES specifically request Amateurs to respond to designated locations to watch for severe weather. Amateurs wishing to spot from their mobiles are advised to operate in pairs. Any mobile spotters operate at their own risk. Only locations with near-by shelter from severe weather should be chosen, such as an accessible permanent structure. Your vehicle is not sufficient protection.
ARES members should prepare themselves for Severe Weather Net operation as follows:
- Make sure the radio to be used is not in danger of a lightning strike.
- Providing a source of emergency power for radio equipment, in case of commercial power failure.
- Extra charged HT batteries, if an HT will be used.
This plan was originally approved at the 2 June 1998 Planning Committee meeting. Most recent edit: 2 January 2020.