In Review Communication Planning

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Overland Commander

Rank V

Off-Road Ranger I

245 Lewis Avenue, Westbury, NY, USA
Member #


Ham Callsign
KD2QMS - The Commander
This article is a reprint of the OB Communications Planning Guide, available elsewhere in the forums.



Communications is the process by which we integrate activities across the Overland Bound community, coordinating event planning, schedules, on-scene guidance, social networking, and emergency coordination. Passing information in support of these activities is the function of the communications plan and its execution during Overland Bound events.

Communications for all Overland Bound (OB) events are initially planned out by the specific event’s planner or planning committee, in accordance with guidelines prepared by the Overland Bound Communications Committee (OBCC). This document contains the OBCC guidelines adopted by the national OB organization, and a basic communications plan which can be adapted for use in specific events as required by local conditions, available communications networks, and local convention.

Purpose of the Committee

We support and promote amateur radio operation within the overlanding community. We promote proper and legal radio use, help drive members to obtain their amateur radio license, and help new licensees get on the air effectively.

The committee consists of:

· Brien Wankel, #3553, Brien, K7XPO, Southwest Region

· Randy Beck, #13744, Overland Commander, KD2QMS, East Region

· Ryan Collings, #1410, RyanC, Midwest Region

· Pat Mandas, #7193, KG6JXZ, West Region HF, ARES, DMR, Winlink, APRS

Communications Planning

Event organizers are responsible for the overall conduct of OB events, and the quality of their communications plan will assist in the efficient conduct of event operations. To that end, the OBCC has assembled this document, containing communications guidelines based on current battle group practices and ham radio procedures, to assist organizers in generating a communications plan that can be readily used and understood by participants.

Event planners should note that this plan is usable “as-is”, for those not desiring to spend large amounts of time on comms planning. However, in some areas, there are local practices that should be considered, such as commonly used channels/freqs that are in use and known to local operators, or other items that should be noted. In the New York area, there is a 10m repeater providing worldwide comms that is mirrored on VHF 146.460. Occasionally, it can be heard in the long island area on the OB calling freq 146.460. While not obtrusive, sometimes inaudible, and unlikely to be impacted by simplex VHF comms between OB trucks, event planners should consider local conditions. Having a plan and publishing it to participants is the important point, and not adhering to this plan just because it is completed.

In fact, the sample comm plan included may be used as is, for an instant, workable plan, or may be appended and adapted as required to suit local practices and event conditions.

Key Elements

Assuring efficient communications within OB events requires effectively articulating how we will accomplish various communications tasks, and how we will interact across the radio bands used for event communications.

ü Legality – OB requires legal use of all communications technologies. This means that all FCC regulations are observed, and, when required, that only licensed operators transmit on appropriate radios and bands. Listening on all bands is encouraged, but unlicensed transmissions are prohibited except in the case of serious emergencies as defined by the FCC.

ü Propriety – OB encourages all participants to listen carefully and study communications procedures whenever possible. We insist that proper radio procedures are followed at all times.

ü Orderliness – When an event has published a comm plan, all participants are encouraged to obtain copies from the organizers, and follow the plan. Chaotic, random communications do not enhance the event or OB professionalism and standards, and the use of a proper comm plan will promote orderly and professional communications.


Overland Bound has made a commitment to Ham Radio as the primary communications medium for OB functions. As such, OB communication plans will be structured in the following order of preference:

1. Ham Radio VHF (2M) band is always primary;


3. Citizens Band

4. Cell Phones may serve as backup communications whenever signals are present;

5. Emergency locator technologies will be incorporated whenever available;


Event Planners

The event planners for OB events, in addition to other responsibilities, will research area communications for each event. At a minimum, they will:

1. Obtain a list of repeaters and operating data for the event area;

2. Develop an event comm plan using the agreed OB communications frequencies/channels, and add or adapt the plan for local requirements as necessary;

3. Insert local repeater data into the event comm plan;

4. Publish the comm plan to all participants;

5. Verify band capabilities of all operators;

6. Assign the roles of Trail Boss and Tail Gunner to appropriately licensed multi-band operators for each trail run;

7. Ensure Trail Boss and Tail Gunner have all necessary radios in vehicles to cover bands in use;

8. Assign a Net Control Operator for in–camp communications and event coordination;

9. Coordinate with local ham radio clubs and VEs for assistance in running desired classes and exams, and for help in promoting the ham radio aspects of OB communications;

Trail Boss

1. The Trail Boss will lead each trail run, and will coordinate tactical communications during the run;

2. Maintain up status on all bands in use;

3. Verify the radio status of each operator;

4. Assign multi-band operators to act as relays for single-band operators;

5. Brief communications before departing, ensuring that unlicensed operators are informed about the necessity of “listen only” radio discipline (except in emergencies);

6. Transmit safety and trail information as necessary;

7. Monitor convoy communications for proper discipline and professionalism;

Tail Gunner

1. The Tail Gunner will go last on each trail run, and will observe operations for safety and stragglers;

2. Maintain up status on all bands in use;

3. Communicate essential operator status information to the Trail Boss;

4. Transmit safety and trail information as necessary;

5. Monitor convoy communications for proper discipline and professionalism;

Home Base

1. Establish a camp base station and provide group communications for arriving operators, schedule and location information, and facilitate base area communications;

2. Adopt a tactical call sign (“Home Base”) for the event;

3. Serve as central point of contact for event scheduling, coordination, and safety;

4. Serve as relay when required;

5. Coordinate tactical base area communications during the event;

6. Verify the radio status of each participant;

7. Transmit safety and event information as necessary;

8. Monitor event communications for proper discipline and professionalism;

Communications Plan

The Plan

The communications Plan should include, at a minimum, the items contained in the OB Standard Comm Plan. The Standard Comm Plan may be used for all events, or may be modified as necessary by event planners, however, the essential elements of information should be retained:

1. Event data

2. Organizer Contact information

3. Effective Dates

4. Bands utilized

5. Channel Names

6. Channel freqs

7. Repeater information, offsets, and codes

8. Explanatory notes

Communications Procedures

OB events follow commonly accepted radio procedures as defined in ham radio practice, materials, and testing. Specific communications procedures adopted by OB are as follows:

1. Trail Boss will identify the convoy call sign, his status, and call sign, at 10 minute intervals, i./e. “Overland Bound Rubicon Runners, Trail Boss, WN5DDD”, or “Trail Boss, Rubicon Runners, WN5DDD mobile, on Overland Bound Rubicon Net”, or words to that effect

2. Initial calling freqs as identified in the standard comm plan will be used to initiate contact, but then subsequent calls will be made on alternate freqs

3. Each convoy will identify a freq from the comm plan for simplex vehicle to vehicle operations during the run;

4. Base operator (“Home Plate”) will identify the event, the event call sign, the licensee call sign, at required intervals, i.e. “Expo East Home Plate, WN5DDD”;

5. Trail Boss and Tail Gunner always have priority on convoy channels during runs, and may call “silence” on the air as required to break in and transmit required information;

In all cases, the purpose of OB communications is to enhance orderly transmittal of information without unnecessarily cumbersome procedures, so we follow a “less is more”, or K.I.S.S. strategy. By following a few simple guidelines as set forth herein, our events will be enhanced, and our reputation protected.
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