The Net Control Manager (NCM) program was designed to make Amateur Radio Net check-ins, management of net resources and net reporting easier and more efficient than using pen and paper. This is not meant however to be a replacement for pen and paper, which will always be your best backup should something go wrong.
The NCM is designed to make ARES, RACES and other EM net logging and reporting as easy and intuitive as possible. Its many features are aimed squarely at these ideas.
NCM was also designed to be easily usable by the Net Control Operator (NCO) alone, however someone else keeping log while you control the net is always a good idea. I suggest you keep it open on your computer as you call the net. Set the timed refresh to 5 or 10 seconds. If the NCO is also the logger, do NOT set a timed refresh value.
Using NCM like any utility of this type should be practiced. Go ahead and create a TE0ST net from the drop down. Add stations, delete stations, sort columns, edit fields, do all the things you would do during a real net. Then when you are complete be sure to close your net. This net will stick around for a while so come back and play with it more, re-open the net (right click the 'Net Closed' button) add some more calls, etc.
Popups... NCM works best with popups enabled in your browser. Many features require popups to display additional information. There are NO, None, Zero, Zip ads in this application and never will be.
Cookies... I don't like them. But in one circumstance (which you as a general user may never see) NCM does set a cookie. Even then its voluntary via a button that says "Save as Cookie". If you never see that button, then a cookie will never be set, if you see it then the choice is yours. Despite what you may have heard, cookies are safe, very small text items added to your computer to assist with web pages. If you choose to see only the County and State optional fields that cookie would only have 5 bytes (17,18).
Some reports found under 'Reports' and other in the hamburger menu have two modes of operation. For example the ICS-214 and ICS-309 reports are specific to the net that is open at the time. But if a net is not open and you request one of those reports NCM will ask you for a net number. This is also true for ICS-205A and 'Map This Net', all will ask for a net number if no net is currently open.
In the hamburger menu the 'Create a Heard List' and 'Search by Call Sign' will also ask you for an appropriate net number.
Its not uncommon for a net to shift some sations off the primary frequency to another secondary frequency for reasons like message for example. But generally this shift is to a frequency within the same band. However some nets by necessity use multiple bands, maybe because of propagation differences across a net covering many different states. An even better example would be a country wide net, with multiple net controls.
To accommodate this scenario a new item has been added to the 'Frequency' dropdown used when creating a new net. The "Multiple Bands" and "80/40 Meters" selections comes with several new concepts for your net. Standard nets for example do not allow for the same call sign to appear more than once in any given net. This restriction will be lifted for any net set up as a multiple band net. This allows the same net to accept check ins from multiple bands.
A more visible change is the addition of a "Band" column to the optional columns list available by clicking the 'Show/Hide Columns' button. This new column is a dropdown with a comprehensive list of all current ham bands. Proper use of this column would be to set this for each station checking into a "multiple band" net, and changing it when the same station logs into the net from another band.
It is not currently required that the 'Band' be changed when a station logs in a second time. However for purposes of reporting (ICS-214, ICS-309) it only makes sense to do this to demonstrate why duplicate calls have checked into the net. I plan to make this mandatory in the near future, once I figure out how... LOLOptional Columns
NCM is equipped with 23 unique columns of information that make up its on-screen table. Thirteen of these are optional and may not be showing by default. Each group (KCNARES, PCARG, CARROLL, etc.) has a default display that may include one or more of these optional columns. But it is also possible for each user (like you) to see a selection or all of the optional columns by simply clicking the orange 'Show/Hide Columns' button in the menu bar. Click the box next to each column you want to see or un-click any you don't want to see. Then click the 'Save to Cookies' button, on the next table refresh your optional columns will be displayed or hidden depending on your selection.
If your group would like to have a different set of defaults than what currently comes up, please email me with your selections, or take a screenshot of the above referenced box, and I'll set them up for you. In the future this will be an optional setting your group can make itself. (Another to-do item)what3words added to station profile
The station profile accessed by right clicking a call sign now shows the 'what3words' address based on the latitude and longitude of the record clicked. The what3word address will change based on that lat/lon combination.
what3words is a really simple way to talk about location. We have divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily and with less ambiguity than any other system.
UPDATE 2019-05-12): A column for W3W has now been added to the optional columns display. Any legitimate three word address will automatically update the grid, latitude and longitude fields to reflect this location.
In the mean time consider installing the what3words app on your smart phone.
See https://what3words.com for more information.
Reload your screen (page reload): The blue 'refresh' button only does a content refresh not a page reload. Be sure you have recently reloaded your entire screen if you can't find something or if something doesn't seem to work correctly.
Before starting a new net, be sure someone hasn't already started it. Check the dropdown for a green (open) net.
If your group is not yet in the dropdown list when creating a new net, choose the hamburger menu in the upper right corner and select 'Create a new Group' from the dropdown. You can build your new group here. Be sure to refresh the page before trying to open a new net using your new group.
For smaller screens learn to use the Windows commands 'Control +' and 'Control -' or Mac commands 'Command +' and 'Command -' to fit the content to your monitor.
Nets more than 2 days old can not be edited. Contact me if you need to make a change.
To enter a line break (carridge return) to the 'Comments' field put <br> or simply space twice where you want the break. Then continue to type. Do not use the return on your keyboard. All simple HTML markups are available to use.
Entering NON-Hams into the system. To do this use the call sign NONHAM and put both the first name and last name (if you have it) into the 'Name' box. The system will make an appropriate entry.
Late Check-Ins (after log is closed). The best thing to do is enter them as an 'In-Out' in the 'Status' column. This will assign a one-minute value to TOD but more importantly it will allow your log to close properly.
Duplicate calls are not allowed and will be ignored by the system. However if you have chosen 'Multiple Bands' or '80/40 Meters' as your frequency while building the net, they will be allowed. Its hoped you will indicate which band they checked in from using the 'Band' column.
If you have an idea how to improve Net Control, please send them to Keith Kaiser my eMail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Before clicking the 'Start A New Net' button check to see that someone else has not already started the net for you. To do this,
Reload your web page
Then check the dropdown list for the net, the open ones are in green.
The net should open.
A net with a green background (second one in this example) is an open net (is still in use).
A net with a blue background (not shown in this example) is a pre-built net. See below for more information.
Nets for the past 10 days will be listed by day of week and date of that net.
Before clicking the 'Start A New Net' button check to see that someone else has not already started the net for you. To do this,
Reload your web page
Then check the dropdown list for the net, the open ones are in green.
If not already created then...
Click the blue 'Start A New Net' Button at the top of the page.
Enter your call sign in the top most box, this is your personal call sign, NOT the club call sign.
Select the call sign for the net from the dropdown box, or select "Name your Own", you will be asked for this immediatly. And the rest of the information needed to include your group in the dropdown.
Select the type of net. If you select 'Name your Own' or Event you will be asked for that information after you submit.
If not already showing, select a frequency from the next dropdown box. If you select 'Other Frequency' option you will be asked for the frequency.
If the net you are creating is meant to be associated with another net (making this a sub-net), the next dropdown has a list of the only possible parent net selections.
Click 'Click to create a Pre-Build Event' if you are pre building a net for a future event.
Click on Submit.
At this point a new net grid should be displayed, listing you as having opened it.
This information panel in the upper corner contains repeater and simplex frequencies and other information relevant to the group of the net that is currently open. By clicking the hamburger menu icon (three bars) an option menu will be displayed. Choose what part of this menu you want to change, create a new group, or display this document.
The New is used to edit or create Preamble, Agendas and Closing documents.
Each of the Preamble, Agendas and Closing documents can be individually edited from there individual displays.
See the section on reports below for information about the reports menu.
The background color of this menu bar will change from purple to red over the course of 10 minutes. Use this as a visual reminder to do a station identification.
Entering Station call signs (There are a number of possible ways to do this.) All entries can be done with a tab tab (double tab) after entering a call sign in.
1) Type the call sign (or any portion of it) and wait for the hints to reveal the correct station. Then single click on that station. It will populate the call, the name and other fields into the appropriate locations then you MUST click Check In.
2) Perhaps the best way is to enter the call sign then tab twice. The system will automatically enter the names, and additional information. If it can't find it in our DB already it will go to the FCC data base and pull the needed information. If the call sign can not be found in the FCC DB a comment is entered and both the call sign and comment will be highlighted in color.
The 'Refresh|Timed' button is used to set the automatic refresh time for the data on the page. Clicking the 'Timed' half gives you a dropdown of choices. Manual is the default, you have to click it each time you want a refresh. The rest should be understandable as is, every 5 seconds, etc.
If you are net control and NOT keeping the log, set your refresh to 5 seconds.
If you are taking the log but NOT net control leave the default (Manual).
If you are both leave the default (Refresh or Manual).
When a new station checks into one of the nets for the first time an entry will also be made to the TimeLine Log.
To delete an entry, locate the small red x at the end of the row. Click on it, or on the words (Click to delete).
A dialog box will open asking you to confirm. Choose your option.
Another method if the above doesn't work is to type in the 'Tactical' column 'DELETE' in all caps. Be sure its the only thing in the cell and not adding to a tactical call. You'll know if this worked because NCM will respond with a "DELETED successfully", the row will be deleted on the next refresh.
A delete is not undoable, if needed just add the call again.
In both cases this action is recorded in the TimeLine Log to document the deletion.
If you mis-typed a call, delete it, then simply reenter the correct call sign.Back to the Index
Sort Columns - Most columns can be sorted simply by clicking on the column header (name). Click once and it sorts in one direction, click again and it reverses. Any kind of refresh (page or content) returns all columns to their original order.
The default sort is a somewhat complex algorithm that took a while to figure out. Basically its sorted first by the control stations, starting with the primary net control station, followed by the logging station. It seemed logical to keep them at the top. At the same time it seemed logical to move the checked-out stations to the bottom. The exception to this is a control station that has checked-out. I left them with the other control stations in case its status was in question. All others are then sorted by the time of check-in. They are recorded to the second but only displayed to the minute.
Close Net - Clicking this button should be the last thing the NCO or logger does at the end of a net. After asking who (enter your call sign) is closeing the net it populates the Time Out fields and calculates the Total Volunteer Hours at the bottom of the table. It does not reset any log out times that may already be indicated. Total Volunteer Hours are calculated to the second from log-in to log-out times. You are automatically taken to the ICS-214 report after closing a net.
To re-open a closed log, where the time out is showing, RIGHT click the 'Net Closed' button and confirm. Be advised however that this resets all entries (except those already checked out) for timeout to NULL. There is no current method to reset the time out by station. I'm working on it. Contact me if you have an issue or need help.
If you are just looking at a past log or the current log, you may just leave the page, or close the page. But please DO NOT use the Close Net button again.
In general rows will appear in alternating white and light green, in ledger style..
Row Colors Based on ROLE
LIGHT BLUE - These are the control station(s) for the net, based on Role.
Row Colors Based on MODE
Row Colors Based on STATUS
Row Colors Based on TRAFFIC
Row Colors Based on entry ERRORS are shown in Red
blank - This is the default indicating no specific role for this station
PRM - This designates the primary net control operator
2nd - The backup net control operator
LSN - Liaison to anther group/net/facility etc. You might want to use the TACTICAL column to indicate who the liaison is for. (i.e. SEMA)
Log - The person keeping the Log if not the PRM
EM - Emergency Manager
PIO - Public Information Officer
# This is the APRStt number assigned to this station on this net. Only 0-99 are APRStt usable. More details on use coming...
Band this station has checked in from.
Right clicking on the column head 'Call Sign' creates a heard list of this net.
This same functionality is available by selecting the hamburger menu (right of Help in upper corner) and selecting 'Create a heard list'.
A variety of different formats is created. Copy/Paste the one you want.
Right clicking on the call sign displays a floating, modal report showing details of this stations net operations.
The use of a head-shot picture is optional, let me know via email if you want it.
First Name is the operator's first name. Last Name is a separate column.
The use of Tactical Calls at Public Service Events is becoming more and more common place and it is legal. The use of tactical calls can and does increase the efficiency and speed in identifying a specific function or person. They also eliminate confusion when working with other agencies that have no idea what amateur radio call signs are or mean. Using “ Rest Stop 1 from Net Control” is a lot easier and to the point than “WA0TJT this is KC0BS.” The assignment of a tactical call should, if possible, relate to the amateurs function at the event. Tactical calls such as “Sag 1, Aid Station 4, Police 2, First Aid, Logistics” and so on provide a verbal “picture” of the function.
Sometimes a tactical call by location is not the best solution, 'West end of parking lot B' for example. In this case its easier to just use the call sign default suffix such as 'TJT'. But for the NCS to remember where 'TJT' is located becomes more difficult. Putting that information in the comments line is problematic because you may need to use that field for a report from 'TJT. Which would then blank out the tactical postion information.
For the best of both worlds NCM allows for multiple lines within the Tactical field. Any thing entered after the initial tactical call 'TJT' followed by two spaces becomes a second line in the Tactical field. Now you can have a tactical of 'TJT' and below it in the same box it might say 'West end of parking lot B'. You might find it advantageous to put the job title first, for example 'SAG 1', then the 'TJT'. Just don't forget the two spaces.
Phone number including country code (optional) and the area code, any readable format is acceptable.
eMail address of this station.Back to the Index
This is the Maidenhead Grid Sqare location of the operators home station and will be added automatically by the system.
Any changes made to this field will also result in an update to the latitude and longitude fields.
A Maidenhead locator compresses latitude and longitude into a short string of characters. The position information is presented in a limited level of precision to limit the amount of characters needed for its transmission using voice, Morse code, or any other operating mode. The chosen coding uses alternating pairs of letters and digits, like so:
In each pair, the first character encodes longitude and the second character encodes latitude. These character pairs also have traditional names (see diagram), and in the case of letters, the range of characters (or "encoding base number") used in each pair does vary.
More information is available here.
Right clicking a grid field will take you to a QRZ map showing that grid and all the other hams in it.
Latitude of this station.
Longitude of this station.
Time In - The time the station was added to the data base and is not editable.
Time Out - The time the station was shown 'OUT' of the net. This would also reflect any In/Out or BRB out times as well. This value is editable but you'll have to ask me for the how.
Time Line is used to enter any comments or reports made by this station. They are then populated into the TimeLine Log table. Each comment is individually entered into the timeline log for reporting in the ICS reports. Each click in this field clears the previous entry, but it has been saved. Changes to several of the column values are also logged here.
Total volunteer hours, and minutes on this net.
CREDS or Credentials - Shows this station operators credentials (if known),i.e. ARES, RACES, etc.
For the best of both worlds NCM now allows for multiple lines within the Credentials field. Any thing entered after the initial credential i.e. 'KCHEART' followed by two spaces becomes a second line in the Creds field. Now you can have a credential of 'KCHEART' and below it in the same box it might say 'St. Lukes Northland'. More lines are possible if needed, simple use two spaces for the next line.
Shows the County, State and Highway Patrol District or ARRL District -- For some Nets these are already shown.
Right clicking on the county name will display a Google map of that county.
NCM is equipped with 23 unique columns of information that make up its primary table. Thirteen of these are optional and may not be showing by default. Each group (KCNARES, PCARG, CARROLL, etc.) has a default display that may include one or more of these optional columns. But it is also possible for each user (like you) to see part or all of the optional columns by simply clicking the orange SHOW/HIDE Columns button in the menu bar. Click the box next to each column you want to see or un-click any you don't want to see. Then click the 'Save to Cookies' button, on the next table refresh your optional columns will be displayed or hidden depending on your selection.
If your group would like to have a different set of defaults than what currently comes up, please email me with your selections, or take a screenshot of the above referenced box, and I'll set them up for you. In the future this will be an optional setting your group can make itself.
Between the list of nets dropdown and the Call Sign entry box is a General Comments field. To make it visible hover your cursor over the open space between these two fields. A yellow box will be displayed capable of any amount of text you paste or type into it. Anything entered in this field is timestamped and put into the Time Log table for this log. It only remains visible in this box to the person who entered it.
Why would you want this?
Suppose you open a 'Stand By' net for weather. After opening the net add a remark in this field indicating it is stand by only. When the net goes official (NWS asked for a net) add another note that says it is now an official weather net. Both entries will appear in the Time Log and will indicate exactly when it switched between stand by and official. This way moving from a stand by to official net will not require starting a new net.
Suppose you open an emergency net for a large tornado or maybe a seismic event. Because of the number of jurisdictions it might become difficult for one net control operator to support the entire group of stations, or for message handling purposes he/she may ask one or more stations to break off and start a new net for their jurisdiction or a specific need.
It would be nice however if the nets were connected, reportable as one after the event. In this case while creating the new net the additional net control operator can select in the procedures to link this net to the original. The dropdown box (at the bottom of the new net dialog) for this will only indicate the eligible nets to link with. Select the parent of the net being created.
At the bottom of all nets is a reference line, similar to this . Studying this you'll see that the first item is the net number the second is the call sign of the currently open net (#795/TE0ST). Followed immediately by ether "Has S/N: 797, 798" if it is the parent net. Or "S/N of: 795" if it is one of the child (sub) nets.
All nets created in this manner are stand alone nets with their own net control operator (NCO), however they can all be opened in separate tabs of your browser.
If you just want a peek at one of the other nets, parent (if you are the child) or child (if you are the parent) simply click this list and they will display at the bottom of your net. They are NOT editable.
This may seem very confusing until you try it.
Another more common variation of this sub menu is:
The TimeLine Log table is not directly editable by the user. It is used as a log of the activities that take place on the primary net control table. Information is logged with a timestamp of when it happened, who posted or what station was affected and the action taken. Examples of logged actions include any time the Role, Mode, Status, or Band is changed, the action is logged in the Time Log table. This makes it possible to track who was running the net at the any given time. This might be important if authorities need additional information about something that happened at a certain time.
The Timeline Log is also updated anytime a comment or report is added to the 'Time Line / Comments' field on the primary net control page. This makes it very simple to record incoming information from a specific station.
Use it to indicate that Message #xx was sent. No need to put the entire message in, just reference its number. Now a record exists showing when the message arrived and when it was sent and what message it was. But if it is more appropriate for the situation, you can copy the entire message into the Comments field or the general comment field.
Time Log also records any information added to the General comment area of the net control panel. If the net goes on for a significant time (hours) it might be appropriate to copy the weather information to this location occasionaly.
Most ARES/RACES type groups require ICS 100 and ICS 700 certification for credentialing. Click National Incident Management System for more information.
You might also want to check out the ARRL courses at ARRL Courses & Training
Suppose you open an emergency net for a large tornado or maybe a seismic event. Because of the number of stations wanting to check into the net it sometimes becomes impossible to know where everyone is located. Wouldn't it be nice if you could put each stations location on a map? Well now you can.
The APRStt system using the Direwolf TNC by WB2OSZ, and based on work by WB4ABR will be more fully discussed here... soon.Back to the Index
The station profile accessed by right clicking a call sign now shows the what3words address based on the latitude and longitude of the record clicked. The what3word address will change based on that lat/lon combination.
See https://what3words.com for more information.
Responsive Web Design makes your web page look good on all devices (desktops, tablets, and smart phones).
Responsive Web Design is about using HTML and CSS to resize, hide, shrink, enlarge, or move the content to make it look good on any screen:
I have chosen to build NCM in this way. This means if you look at NCM on a iPad it might look different (slightly) than it does on your 22 inch monitor. It for sure will look different on your Android or iPhone. But there is only so much I can do to make NCM a usable application on your iPhone. I see it more as a reference app because doing any real editing will be tricky. But it can be done.
Give it a look on your favorite smaller device. Or just grab the corner of your browser and shrink the window until you notice the differences.
© Copyright 2015-2019, by Keith D. Kaiser, WA0TJT
Written by: Keith D. Kaiser, WA0TJT with the invaluable assistance, understanding and love of Deb Kaiser, W0DLK.
Additonal Authors, advisers, resources and mentors include: Jeremy Geeo (KD0EAV) who is also our server host, Sila Kissuu (AK0SK), Nicolas Carpi for his jeditable, Members of Kansas City Northland ARES, The Platte County Amateur Radio Group, and the many members of Stack Overflow.