IntroductionThe C.A.R.L.A. System currently covers a large part of Northern & Central California and parts of Western Nevada. Because of the wide coverage area, new users are coming up on the system all the time. These guidelines are intended to help new users understand how best to use the system, and as a reminder for current users.
GuidelinesPause on TX, prior to speaking
Remember that because the system spans a number of links to tie it all together, there is some latency involved when bringing up all those links. Depending on how far apart on the network two people are, on average there can be a 1 second latency betwheen when one user keys up and all the links come up (this can be as much as 3 seconds if a backup RF link is in service), and thus their audio is heard throughout the system. Pausing before speaking will prevent the first part of your transmission from being cut off (and potentially having to repeat your message) and allow others further along in the system to hear the full conversation. 'Quick keying' may be convenient but often keeps someone from hearing that critical word or callsign on a distant part of the system.
Use the Local PL
All of the repeaters on the system have a local PL, which prevents the rest of the system from being activated and allows two users to converse on just a single repeater. It's also very helpful for saving wear and tear on the system. This is especially important in situations where one or more sites are on backup power. Please use the local PL whenever possible.
For more information, see the PL & Courtesy Tones page.
Minimize Non-Voice Traffic
In designing the system, we have taken steps to have the system be as 'quiet' as possible. We use PL and reverse-burst on all the links, and other than identification messages, and important broadcast messages (such as a site being on backup power), we try and keep the controller-generated 'chatter' to an absolute minimum. We feel that these policies help create a system that is pleasant to use and converse on, as well as for people that just like to monitor in the background. To this end, we ask our users to similarily minimize non-voice traffic. This includes such things as Automatic Number Identification encoders (like Motorola MDC or MODAT formats, GE-Star, Kenwood FleetSync), and end-of-transmission notifications (also known as 'roger-beeps'). As a courtesy to everyone who uses the system, we strongly urge everyone to disable these features when using the system.
Be Mindful of Talk-Time
Although we all enjoy a good rag-chew on the local machine, please keep in mind that some of the repeaters on the system are solar powered. They've been designed to meet the energy needs of the system based on average use, but remember that more and more people are using the system and this will extend the TX time which may cause some of the solar powered repeaters to shut down temporarily. This is especially important during the winter months when daylight charging hours are short and access to repeater sites limited. (Another reason to use local PL when possible!) Also, keep a mindful ear for a net in progress or the system being used during or after a major catastrophe. That is when it is critical to keep non-essential traffic to a minimum so the system can be utilized to its full potential and purpose.
Courtesy Tones, Messages & Doubling
Good radio etiquette dictates that you wait for the courtesy tone before responding to the last person. It allows others to jump in from throughout the system and avoid doubling or never getting in the conversation because of no breaks between link radio transmissions. Also, try not to talk over ID's as it might make it hard for the receiving person to hear you and with certain controllers, they won't transmit out the link port, rendering your key-up futile. Another helpful hint to avoid doubling in any system that has several people involved in a conversation is to key-up and let go quickly and then key-up again. As long as you didn't hear anyone talking when you un-keyed your chances of not doubling with someone are greatly improved.
If you enjoy and rely on using the C.A.R.L.A. system, get involved! C.A.R.L.A. relies on the contributions of its members and principals to keep the equipment operating. If you use one machine primarily, consider supporting it. For more information on finding out what you can do to help, check out our Support page. The C.A.R.L.A. linked repeater system is, and has always been, open to use by all licensed amateurs. Welcome and have fun!