Here is what you need to know about the Spokane County ARES / RACES repeater; its purpose, its operation and its function; how it will remain an "open" repeater and what the limitations to that openness will be.
The repeater coordinated on 147.30 MHz in the Spokane area and is licensed to the Spokane County ARES/RACES Support Group (a club) with Pat Dockrey, NQ7M, listed as the license trustee and keeper of the W7GBU club call. It is maintained and controlled by the Department of Emergency Management which is run by the Spokane County Sheriff's designated Deputy Director, Tom Mattern. Authority over and responsibility for the standards of operating practice on this repeater rests with the department, and its directors. The RACES Officer, who oversees the operations of the volunteer RACES program, is an official appointee of the sheriff and must be an amateur radio operator. Robert L Wiese, W7UWC, is Spokane County's RACES Officer, as well as the county Emergency Coordinator for the ARES program, which, in Spokane County, is the operational basis of the county RACES program, with the two organizations seen virtually as one. As RACES Officer, W7UWC has been granted the authority and responsibility to act, with the approval and backing of DES, upon matters of user standards and practices. He will actively seek the counsel of the Deputy Director and will enlist the assistance of all users, and especially those designated as Assistant Emergency Coordinators, to encourage self-policing and compliance.
W7GBU is the on-air home of Spokane County ARES/RACES, and is recognized as amateur radio's emergency service communications hub in this area. All other activities on this repeater are secondary and may proceed only on a non-interference basis with the consent of the RACES Officer. In lieu of dues or a fee schedule, all regular and frequent users of the repeater will be expected to be active members-in-good-standing of the county ARES/RACES program, and it should be remembered that all ARES/RACES members hold full membership only at the discretion of the Spokane County Sheriff. All other users will be considered visitors. Those considered welcome visitors will be: amateurs from other areas; new licensees; amateurs seeking ARES/RACES membership; non-member check-ins to the weekly ARES/RACES Net or to other nets given permission to function on the repeater; and infrequent users wishing to make contact or converse with regular users. Visitors who exceed their welcome by abusing these rules will be challenged.
There is precedent for the existence of amateur repeaters on which only emergency traffic or public service activity is allowed, where "rag chewing" and other related activity is very much discouraged. That will not happen to W7GBU. When public service activities are not being conducted, the repeater will be considered open, within reason, for calls and conversation, just as it is now. There is by no means any desire for "dead air" to prevail. Use of the repeater is encouraged, as is the maintenance of a cordial, casual, friendly and helpful atmosphere. However, users must also remember to respect the fact that the repeater is monitored by many people whose interests lie primarily in the area of public service. It is the users' responsibility at all times to control the nature of conversation so that monitoring is not only tolerable, but comfortable, as well. Also, due to the public service nature of the repeater, users must be prepared at any moment to assist (or relinquish the frequency to those who can assist) with emergency, near-emergency or priority traffic situations such as non-emergency weather spotting. To this end, the squelch tail is set fairly long to allow and encourage ample spacing between transmissions for the benefit of breaking stations. Users should also see this as a good reason to keep transmissions reasonably short, and to avoid "hogging" the repeater, using simplex for longer contacts whenever possible.
As for correct operating procedure, at first it may seem that there is no reason for the emergency net procedure and discipline we learn in training to be applied to our casual conversations on the air --- at least not until now, as we realize there is a need for a respect of order. So, here, we must take a lesson out of our own book. We know from lots of experience that this repeater may be monitored at any time by public service agencies, elements of the news media and, really, just about anybody. As a matter of both pride and necessity, we want to keep our image the best it can be all the time, and a little procedural care by members will be a great help. To this end, users are asked to be a bit more particular here than may be required on other repeaters, doing more than the law requires, just as if the law required it.
So that we may clearly know who is using the repeater, we request that full identification of your station be made during your first transmission within a series of transmissions, in addition to once every ten minutes and when you clear. Also, we ask that when you break in between transmissions on the repeater, simply use your call rather than terms such as "contact," "comment," "question" or even the word "break." Breaking with your call efficiently takes care of many processes at once. If you have emergency traffic and need to get the attention of users, break in with your call plus the words "emergency traffic." Becoming accustomed to this discipline during casual operation will make it all that much easier to perform efficiently in the heightened atmosphere of emergency work.
For this same purpose of order, there are some things we just don't want to hear on the repeater --- ever.
Please curb those burning desires you may have to play around with Citizens Band "slanguage" language. If this is your uncontrollable passion, we suggest you exercise it on eleven meters where it seems to have found favor. Amateur radio never has been CB, should never be confused with CB and must never be allowed to emulate CB. Some of our users have never been CBers but detest its outlaw image. Many others of our users are refugees from the citizens band and find the use of CB lingo, even in jest, to be distasteful. Please respect these wishes and accept the fact that most of us don't have much of a sense of humor on this subject.
Also, if you have a need to converse about subjects that are of an intensely personal or intimate nature, or you have some reason to draw such conversation out of someone else, please, by all means, use the telephone, not the repeater. Likewise with discussions containing heated personal disagreements or intense criticism. Users who are communicating with other users who are spouses or family members should be especially mindful of the pitfalls of personal domestic traffic. Finally, be careful with humor. Don't make another user the butt of a cruel joke or hoax. And no one on this repeater should originate or be forced to listen to humor containing ethnic or sexual situations, slurs or overtones of the same. Immediately advise those who engage you or others in such conversation to keep it off the air.
Users who display a need of some re-direction of their operating practices will be informed in a friendly, caring and helpful manner, off the air (when possible), true to the tradition of amateur radio "Elmering" and self policing. Users who refuse to comply will be declared unwelcome on the repeater and directed to cease using it; and if they are ARES/RACES members, their county credentials will immediately be placed under review by the DES and its directors. Of course, those not in compliance with FCC rules will be subject to fines and penalties as per the Rules and Regulations.
Now, if you are confused by the need for these rules and standards, or you feel like you are being unfairly censored or denied of your rights, there is a good chance that you may be a part of the problem, and you should undertake a careful review of your reasons for being involved with the repeater, ARES/RACES and maybe even amateur radio. However, in reality, most current users will have to examine their operating practices very little, and will feel these changes only as a minor yet positive step toward a more hospitable repeater and a more effective Spokane County ARES/RACES organization. In fact, I can not think of a single current user of this repeater who, after a little soul searching and some attitudinal adjustment, would not find a welcome home on this repeater as a thoughtful, contributing and valued ARES/RACES member. Certainly, no one will be denied that opportunity.
It will be my pleasure to discuss these matters further with anyone at the proper time and in the proper place; however, I will not debate these points on the air.
Finally, at a time when this very part of the radio spectrum is under attack by those who would rather see it in their own hands than in ours, it benefits us little to give them cause to point and say, "Listen to that garbage? Now, give this band to us and we'll do something respectable with it." The example we set has real meaning in our world. For the sake of us all, let's make sure that our example is a good one.