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ARES - Amateur Radio Emergency Service
When emergency agencies are required in a zone of disaster, their regular means of communications can be affected by the same disruptive causes as others.  That creates a need for a supplemental or back-up communications system, one that comes complete with equipment and trained operators who are licensed by the United States government, all at no cost to the public or the agency involved.  In fact, these men and women are volunteers, members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) sponsored by the ARRL.
While the primary activity of ARES is to provide emergency communications during disasters, ARES also provides essential communications for public events including parades, marathons, walkathons, bicycle tours, and other large events where swift, reliable communications can protect and improve the safety of the general public. To achieve these goals, ARES provides amateur radio operators with training in emergency communications, directed net procedures and on-air discipline, formal message handling, and emergency preparedness.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is a part of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Organization. ARES consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.
Amateur Radio is in need of persons who recognize how crucial our back-up service is to those agencies that respond in times of emergency and to the members of the public we serve. New volunteers are needed for this important community resource.  As a licensed ham, you too are encouraged to consider helping in this vital service and give something back to a hobby/service that we all love.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization, is eligible for membership in the ARES. The only qualification, other than possession of an Amateur Radio license, is a sincere desire to serve. Because ARES is an amateur service, only amateurs are eligible for ARES Registration.  The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.

What do Amateur Radio operators do during and after disasters?

Amateur Radio operators set up and operate organized communication networks locally for governmental and emergency officials, as well as non-commercial communication for private citizens affected by the disaster. Amateur Radio operators are most likely to be active after disasters that damage regular lines of communications due to power outages and destruction of telephone, cellular and other infrastructure-dependent systems.
How do Amateur Radio operators help local officials?
Many radio amateurs are active as communications volunteers with local public safety organizations. In addition, in some disasters, radio frequencies are not coordinated among relief officials and Amateur Radio operators step in to coordinate communication when radio towers and other elements in the communications infrastructure are damaged.

What are the major Amateur Radio emergency organizations?

Amateur Radio operators have informal and formal groups to coordinate communication during emergencies. At the local level, hams may participate in local emergency organizations, or organize local "traffic nets" using VHF (very high frequencies) and UHF (ultra high frequencies). At the state level, hams are often involved with state emergency management operations. In addition, hams operate at the national level through the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service(RACES), which is coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), which is coordinated through the American Radio Relay League and its field volunteers. In addition, addition, many hams are involved in Skywarn, operating under the National Weather Service.

What are some examples of emergencies involving Amateur Radio?

  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- 2005
  • Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne in Florida -- 2004
  • Severe weather in Virginia -- May 2004
  • Tornadoes in Illinois -- April 2004
  • Amtrak train accident in Mississippi -- April 2004
  • Earthquake in Central California -- December 2003
  • Hurricane Isabel -- September 2003
  • Northeast blackout -- August 2003
  • Midwest tornadoes -- May 2003
  • Shuttle Columbia recovery effort -- February 2003
  • Wildfires in Colorado -- June 2002
  • Tornado in Maryland -- April 2002
  • Flooding in Kentucky -- March 2002
  • World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks -- September 2001
  • Flooding in Texas and Louisiana (Storm Allison) -- June 2001
  • Earthquake in India -- January 2001
  • Earthquake in El Salvador -- January 2001
  • Ice storms in Southwest -- December 2000
  • Tornado in Alabama -- December 2000
  • Avalanche in Alaska -- March 2000
  • Fires in Los Alamos, New Mexico -- May 2000
  • Hurricane Floyd -- September 1999
  • Tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas -- May 1999
  • Colombian Earthquake -- January 1999
  • Tornadoes in Arkansas and Tennessee -- January 1999
  • Hurricane Mitch in Central America -- November 1998
  • Flooding in Texas -- October 1998
  • Hurricane Georges -- September 1998
  • Tornadoes in Florida -- February 1998
  • "500-Year Flood," Grand Forks, N.D., and East Grand Forks, Minn. - April 1997
  • Western U.S. floods - January 1997
  • Hurricane Fran - September 1996
  • TWA plane crash - July 1996
  • Oklahoma City Bombing - April 1995

Emergency Communications Training — What Is It and Why Should I Take It?

Emergency Communications, training consists of a series of courses designed for amateur communicators. After successful completion of these courses, the participant can be credentialed in Amateur Radio emergency communications. Credentialing is a process used to demonstrate education, basic knowledge, understanding and skill in a subject area.
With the exception of those amateurs registered with RACES organizations or served agencies such as the Red Cross, amateur emergency communicators have not been expected to have formal training (Red Cross communications training usually dealt with the use of their message forms). Many amateurs thought that the basic skills they learned through everyday communications, contesting and public service events included everything they needed to be an effective emergency communicator. This may have been the case in the past, but it left a very poor image of Amateur Radio with our served agencies.

Amateur Does Not Mean “Not an Expert”

The world expects those who present themselves as an expert or capable of doing a certain job task to be competent in that task. For instance, if a volunteer fireman comes to your aid, you would expect that person to be knowledgeable in fire fighting and rescue skills and able to safely use his equipment. The firefighter must participate in training and practice to be able to do the job and be able to show proof of that training. We hold our volunteer firefighters to a high standard. Why should we not also expect our volunteer emergency communicators to meet designated standards?
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