SKYWARN® Radio Network Conference Guidelines

Emergency traffic, tornado activity or weather that is an imminent threat to life and/or property has top priority.

This guideline applies to the Fort Worth NWS SKYWARN® Radio Desk EchoLink and Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) conference during SKYWARN® weather events. See the RoIP page for other details on connecting to the conference.

*WX5FWD* Radio Conference Operations during a SKYWARN event:

  • The National Weather Service Radio Operator has top priority with the exception of a report that includes a threat to life and/or property. If you hear WX5FWD or Weather Service make a call, stand by.
  • This guide does not replace guidelines for local SKYWARN spotter nets that may be connected to the conference. When necessary, the NWS Radio Operator will follow the guidelines for the connected spotter nets and their net control operators.
  • Radio links and repeaters must be configured to prevent courtesy tones, automatic identifiers, and hang times from being transmitted to the conference. Stations that fail to do so may be muted or disconnected.
  • Wait ½ second after you press PTT to start speaking.
  • Do not tail gate or quick key after other transmissions. Tail gating/quick keying creates two issues.
    • Stations with emergency traffic may not be able to be heard by Net Control.
    • A quick key or tailgate event can cause life or death traffic to be delayed.
  • Pausing between transmissions allows other stations or stations with priority traffic to check in to the net and post a report.
  • A quiet conference, with transmissions limited to reporting criteria, is a huge asset. This makes it easier to place a report or for the NWS to contact stations and linked systems directly.
  • Be aware that NWS radio operators may be working several radios and spotter nets across the warning area. Too much noise or unnecessary transmissions may force the NWS operator to mute or turn down the audio on the offending station in order to take other reports. Then when the offending station or net actually needs to transmit a report, the NWS operator may not hear it.

How to place a report to an active net:

  1. Position report information. Your location report shall consist of the following:
    1. Your location and proximity to the nearest city or town.
      1. Example “I am 3 miles east of Denton on HWY 380”
      2. Example “I am 1 mile south of the City of Corinth.”
    2. Avoid giving minor street intersections that are in towns or counties, except as required by local nets or emergency management. The NWS may not have knowledge of those streets. It causes time to be spent looking on maps that do not have radar data. We prefer you reference locations from major highways and roads.
  2. Do not key up yet. Think about your report at this point in time. Get it formed in your head.
  3. If the system is active, wait for the other transmissions to complete.
  4. Key up and wait ½ second after you press PTT, then give your callsign clearly and unkey. Wait to be acknowledged.
  5. When acknowledged, key up and wait ½ second after you press PTT to start your report. If net control needs clarification, net control will ask what they need to know to complete the report. Be prepared to repeat the entire report in case the NWS asks for the last report given.
    Examples of a complete report is:
    1. “This is KC5GOI, I am 3 miles west of Denton on HWY 380, I have golf ball sized hail. KC5GOI.”
    2. “This is WB5NZV, I am 4 miles west of Krum. I have a lowering to my northeast. I do not see rotation at this time. WB5NZV”
    3. “This is KD5JOY, I am on the south side of the City of Justin. I see a tornado to my north west moving east. KD5JOY”
  6. Your report is accepted when Net Control acknowledges your report.
  7. Please be ready to repeat your report or provide more information. Depending on what you report, the NWS may ask questions.

Operational guides:

  • Make a habit of regularly checking and setting your EchoLink station audio levels using EchoTest before connecting to the conference. Do NOT assume they are set correctly. Use EchoTest, not someone else's station or ears. Wha tyou hear from echotest is how everyone else will hear you. If set correctly, all connected stations will have nearly the same audio level, making you much easier to understand and listen too without constantly re-adjusting the local receiver.
  • Watch the level of your voice when you give your report.
    1. if you are speaking too loudly it causes audio problems.
    2. If you are a weak signal station on a repeater, it makes understanding a report even more difficult as you could be knocking yourself out of the repeater.
  • If net control states there is a problem with understanding your report, audio issue, not making the repeater, etc. Please check your system settings or if on a repeater or link improve your location before trying again. The only exception is if you have an imminent threat to life and property. If you are told three times, check out of the net. You are eating up time on the air.
  • Connected stations that are sending unnecessary noise or transmissions to the conference may be muted or disconnected.
  • BREAK BREAK is to be used only for an imminent threat to life or property.
  • Note: This is copied directly from the NWS Basic Storm Spotters guide.

    Many types of weather information are needed from storm spotters; however, some types of information are much more important than others. Strict adherence to the reporting criteria allows vital information to be communicated as soon as possible. Also, some of the reporting criteria should receive higher priority communication than others. Consider the following the default minimum reporting criteria. You should report the following weather events.

    Urgent Priority

    • Tornado
    • Funnel cloud
    • Rotating wall cloud
    • Flash flooding

    High Priority

    • Hail 3/4-inch diameter or larger
    • Wind speed greater than 58 mph
    • Persistent non-rotating wall cloud
    • Rainfall 1 inch or more per hour

    Lower Priority

    • Hail 1/2-inch diameter or larger (the NCS may lower to pea size if needed).
    • Wind speed greater than 40 mph
    • Cloud features suggesting storm organization
    • Other locally-defined criteria

    NOTE: When reporting 1/2-inch diameter hail, do not use the term “marble” since marbles can come in a variety of sizes. In areas prone to severe weather, some offices may not need reports of 1/2-inch hail.

    Net control has the authority to modify the reporting criteria as needs dictate. This can be either the addition of or reduction in restrictions.

    Information not required for reports:

    • Clear Sky reports
    • Level of lightning activity
    • Rate of rain fall.
    • City siren’s unless the city asks for verification purposes.

    Information NOT permitted:

    • Reports of weather you have heard from the media, over a scanner or citizens. These types of reports are not always from trained spotters. The NWS will ask us to confirm a citizen or a law enforcement report if required.
    • Repeating media reports is redundant at best. All it does is eat up time.
    • Your interpretation of a radar scan. You can use the radar in the field but the NWS interprets the radar. If you are in the field spotting, and report what you see on the radar you have on your phone or PC, you may not be paying enough attention to your surroundings and put your safety at risk. NCS uses it for placement.

    Activity that is not appropriate:

    • Troubleshooting of technical problems. If you know you are having issues with your equipment or are advised of it. Take your station off the frequency in use and troubleshoot the problem on a discrete frequency or at another time.
    • Announcements of non-event related activity.
    • Asking if a Net is in progress. If in doubt, exercise the “Release to Listen” method. Listen for either Net control to state a net is in progress or for the repeater to announce it.
    • Deviating from minimum reporting criteria. Clear sky, lightning, light winds, media reports or scanner derived reports are NOT wanted. The NWS has specifically stated that they do not want rates of rainfall reports. They are notoriously inaccurate. Flash flooding reports will be requested at the appropriate time. If you come up on a roadway that is blocked/impassable, report it if barricades are not in place. It does not take much of a difference in water flow to sweep a vehicle like a Suburban or a ¾ ton truck of the road compared to a Smart car. The size of a vehicle is irrelevant. If you drive through it, DO NOT report it as a road blockage.
    • If you are not in or will not be able to get to the area of concern in a reasonable time, DO NOT CHECK IN. If you can get to the area(s) of concern but it requires some extended drive time (excess of 15 minutes), do not check into the conference until you are in the area of concern. Checking in for checking in sake creates unneeded traffic and can impede the flow of relevant information.
    • If the NWS is in the process of receiving a report, allow them to finish the exchange. If a correction to a report is required, let the report be completed before contacting Net Control to make a correction.
    • Profanity.

    The goal for SKYWARN is to gather and send relevant severe weather event information as observed by trained spotters to the National Weather Service. The collection of this information needs to happen in a timely fashion with minimal delays. This information is used to issue local weather warnings. Those warnings can potentially save people’s lives or keep them from getting hurt. Delaying the information flow is similar to delaying an emergency vehicle from getting to the hospital. The time we use incorrectly could cause delays in warnings or cause a warning to expire or be canceled.

    Your participation as a volunteer is greatly appreciated.

    These guidelines are intended to help make the conference run smoothly and get needed information to the correct people. The more professional we appear in operation improves our value to the public and government agencies. While Amateur is in our title, behaving amateurish is a detriment to that value.

    Note: This guideline was original based on a similar document from Denton County Amateur Radio Club, Denton-ARES.org