Fall 2009 Issue

What Is Your Location?

During the course of most amateur radio contacts, giving your precise location is not critical.However, during emergency communications correctly giving your location is essential.Here K6SOJ describes how to properlystate your location.

By D. W. Thorne,* K6SOJ

If you hear someone ask, “What is your location?” or say, “Say your location.” (on phone), or send “QTH?” (on CW) how do you reply? The correct answer will vary based upon the time, place, and situation. To state your location effectively and appropriately takes knowledge and experience in proper operating procedures plus a little common sense.

If I break a pile-up working a DXpediton station, I would say to the DX: “You are 59 in northern California.” That information is all the DX station would need or desire. If I say much more, I will probably be ignored (or worse) and run the risk of being labeled “a lid.”

However, “armchair DX operators” (engaged in a casual QSO) in other countries may be interested in knowing what county or city I live in, or some other geographical or historical information about the area in which I live. For example, “I’m 40 miles northeast of Mt. Shasta, which is 14,192 feet high.” VHF and UHF operators are often interested in knowing from what grid square your signal is originating. For example, “I am in Siskiyou County, California, grid square CN91.”

By contrast, most stations in a public service net need to know a station’s approximate location because they may have message traffic to a certain general area. Say your location in a manner such that most people will recognize where you are located. When working DX or stations around the U.S., I usually say my location as, “I am located in northern California, 10 miles south of the Oregon border.” The reason I add the second part is because many people think of Sacramento and San Francisco as “northern California,” and I am actually 300 miles north of those population centers! I might also add, “I am 115 miles inland from the Pacific Coast,” and/or add, “I am in Siskiyou County,” or the name of my nearest town, which is Macdoel. My location information depends upon the type of contact.

In EmComm (emergency communications) work, whether it is local VHF or in wider-area HF nets and contacts, the casual guidelines change. Information must be more specific! When reporting an emergency incident, such as an automobile accident or some lost hikers just found in the woods and urgent help is needed, all the examples given above are useless to first responders!

Once contact with another station is established, the location provided must be accurate and specific. The location must be stated in such a way that rescuers can find it and in such a manner that the location stated cannot be mistaken for any other place! The location must also be sent in a way that the receiving station and/or agency will recognize any landmark references you are saying. (Of course, you must know where you are!) When reporting to an amateur radio operator who will be relaying the message to local authorities who (hopefully) are familiar with the area, you should reference local roads, landmarks, and other topographical features.

Saying Your Location Effectively
Here are some examples of how to say your location effectively:
“I am reporting a house fire at 811 North Flame Street, Belltown; cross street 8th Ave.”
“The accident is on HWY 97, approximately 14 miles south of Midland.”
“I am on HWY 39, one-quarter mile north of mile marker 14 in Cormorant County.”
“The smoke is on the west side of Sheep Mt. at about 5500 feet elevation.”

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