On Air How To and Best Practices
For those new to GMRS, please refer to the American Radio Relay League’s guide to repeaters. Although it is written for Amateur Radio, many of the customs and courtesies should be used on GMRS. The entire document can be found here.
Here are some specific pointers and repeater rules for our group also.
Don't Discuss Access Codes or Radio Configuration requirements on the Radio!
Do not discuss anything about the repeater configurations on air. Don't talk about what tones are used, or even what types of tones are used. This protects us from non-members abusing the system.
Using your Callsign
-Per FCC guidelines, you are required to state your call sign every 15 minutes during a conversation and when you sign-off with your last transmission. As you'll read below, announcing with your callsign is also very common and preffered.
Using the repeater for the first time.
Our repeater users are a friendly bunch who enjoy seeing the repeaters getting used. If you are new and have just programmed your radio, don't be a stranger. Key the mic and say something like, This is new user WRJV123 using the repeaters for the first time. Could I have a signal check please.
If there is anyone monitoring you can expect them to come back to you with a report on how you're sounding, and likely a friendly welcome to the group.
Don't Kerchunk the repeaters!
"Kerchunking", briefly keying up on your radio makes us wonder if there is an issue with the repeater. If you are trying to see if you have coverage, please state that you are testing, such as “WRJV123 testing.”
Roger Beeps and Identifiers
Because our system uses courtesy tones on certain repeaters, please disable any courtesy tone or "roger beep" on your radio.
If you are using MDC-1200 as an IDer, please only use the Beginning of Transmission (BOT) setting so the ID appears correctly in the stack and the MDC is muted on equipped radios. End of Transmission (EOT) settings reverse the ID stack and are mostly not muted. You are still required to verbalize your full call, even if using a digital IDer.
Can you hear me now?
If you get a new radio, change your antenna, or are somewhere new around the Front Range, don't be afraid to jump on a repeater, state your callsign and ask for a radio check / signal check. This is very common and can provide helpful information about your setup to diagnose any problems you have.
Announcing you are Listening
Sometimes it seems like there is nobody on the repeaters, but it's much more likely that there are several - they are just all listening! Checking in when you switch on your radio at home or on the move let's people know you are there, and is an opportunity for the start of a conversation.
The way to announce yourself is e.g. :
- "WRJV123 monitoring"
- "WRJV123 mobile" (if you're on the move)
Calling another User.
When calling another user, use your full call sign, followed by the station’s call sign you are trying to reach. This is referred to the “Hey you, it’s me” format. For example,
- "WQZR789 this is WRJV123"
- “WQZR789, from WRJV123.”
- “WQZR789 (pause), WRJV123.”
You'll often hear people in GMRS using just the numeric values of someone elses callsign for ease. GMRS is often a little less formal than ham.
- "789 this is WRJV123 do you copy?"
- "789 (pause), WRJV123
There may be more than one "789" out there, but you'll just have to deal with that if two people come back!
If the other party doesn't respond, best practice is to bring thing to a close by either stating "WRJV123 Clear", or "WRJV123 monitoring" so that people know you're done.
Take your time, and timeouts.
It is also best practice to key up for at least 1 second before speaking, so the beginning of your transmission does not get cut off. It's also best practice to leave 2 seconds between transmissions to allow the repeaters to reset and allow anyone else to break into the conversation.
Breaking in to join a conversation or make a comment.
If you would like to break in, please key up and state your call sign in the gap between transmissions, then un-key. This tells everyone you would like to talk, and they will then tell you to “go ahead” when they are ready. Don't use the word "break". That's a CB thing!
Breaking in because of an Emergency.
If you can call 911, do that before using the radio.
Unlike CB, the word "break" is ONLY reserved to open the frequency for emergency traffic. Emergency traffic is defined as anything that can, or is, causing harm to life or property. If you see a traffic accident with injuries, or a house or field fire, for example, use the following phrase to get the attention of anyone on the frequency:
"Break, Break, Break, WRJV123 with Emergency Traffic."
Then state your location, what the emergency is, and what you may be doing to help. (You are under no obligation to help if you do not feel comfortable.) It is best to wait for acknowledgement after you transmit “Break, Break, Break,” so you know you are talking to someone that can possibly help. However, even if you are not acknowledged, someone might be listening that cannot immediately respond, so go ahead and state your emergency traffic anyway.
Program Simplex Channels too!
Yes, we are all about repeaters, but talking directly radio to radio is convenient when everyone has the same channels programmed into their radios. Check out our suggested simplex channels and code them into your radios along side the repeater channels.
Be a good Radio Citizen.
At the end of the day, what's really important is to be a good radio citizen and respect others on air and do your best to follow best practices. We are a friendly group and making mistakes is ok, but being intentionally disruptive is most definitely not.