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About ARES

The KD0FGV 146.640 repeater is located on a tower at the Indianola Fire Department. In this photo, Warren County ARES members are adjusting the repeater antenna with the assistance of the Indianola Fire Department.
What is ARES?

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is an affiliate of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The majority of ARES work is carried out at the county level. 

ARES has a strong history of support to local communities. Whether serving in such disasters as the World Trade Center on 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building Bombing, the Joplin, Missouri tornado, or Colorado flooding, amateur radio operators rise to meet the challenge of communications within their local communities. More locally, amateur radio operators have assisted with such disasters as the Parkersburg EF-5 tornado of 2008 and the Creston EF-2 tornado of 2012

Amateur radio operators, or "hams" as they also known, are often the first on the scene and fill the gap in time before normal communications can resume. During disasters, cell phone towers are often overloaded or inoperable; public-safety radio systems are filled to capacity; and the loss of power takes many remaining options off-line. This is where ARES operators are prepared to fill the void, passing life-saving information back and forth among communities, hospitals, shelters, and public safety centers. You may never notice the "hams" in your neighborhood on a daily basis, but during disasters they emerge as a "Ghostbusters-like crew" to serve their communities (Andy Vuong, the Denver Post, 09/13/2013). Because amateur radio enthusiasts are completely self-sustaining and independent of existing infrastructure, they can function for days using their own generators, batteries, radios, antennas, computers, and cables. With flexibility afforded by allocations all along the radio spectrum, amateur radio operators have the capacity to get the information through in times of trouble--across town or around the world.

And the cost to their communities? 

Nothing. It's free. In fact, amateur radio operators are strictly prohibited by federal law from receiving any sort of compensation for their work. Amateurs provide all of their own equipment. Part 97 of the FCC's rules recognizes that amateur radio exists in part as a resource for local communities, providing radio spectrum, trained operators, and the means to communicate in times of disaster.

How is ARES organized?

Each ARES team is overseen by an Emergency Coordinator and often one or more Assistant Emergency Coordinators. County Emergency Coordinators direct the work of ARES within their appointed counties. They work with regional and state-level ARES personnel and serve as a point of contact for emergency management officials and local government representatives.

Each county ARES unit is intended to be self-sustaining, but units often assist one another with public service events or disasters. In this case, individuals or designated "mutual aid teams" from one county ARES program will travel and work under the direction of the Emergency Coordinator of the county requesting assistance.

Amateur radio operators have the capacity to get the message through when all other modes fail. Read this article from The Atlantic to learn more about how amateur radio emergency communications work: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/ham-radio-disaster-preparedness/473598/
What training do ARES members have?

ARES members commit themselves to ongoing learning and practice. Each ARES member completes training in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) courses about the Incident Command System (ICS), a nationally-utilized system for emergency response. ARES members routinely participate in message nets, field exercises, and drills to test their ability to construct radio stations in the field and get the message out.

ARES members are trained communicators. There is much more to getting a message through than just pushing a button and talking. Each amateur radio operator is self-sustaining in radio equipment and power supplies, yet at a moment's notice can join with others and form a net. A "net" is an interconnected network of amateur radio operators stationed at various locations. 

Nets can be informally developed with a few amateur radio operators free to call one another as needed. When many operators are involved, there becomes a need for more structure. In this case, amateur radio operators participate in a directed net coordinated by a "net control station" (NCS). The NCS acts as a clearinghouse for all information, or a "traffic cop" of sorts for the net. All amateur radio operators participating in the net request permission to speak and voluntarily follow the directions of the NCS. This results in an orderly exchange of information that ensures each communication request is dealt with thoroughly and in order of priority.

An example of a directed net is posted below from the 2012 Boston Marathon. Amateur Radio operators supported communications all along the course route. This audio clip is a time-compressed sample of what communication in a directed net sounds like. At the beginning of the net, the NCS station checks in individual amateur radio operators (known as "stations") to ensure they are at their assigned locations. Around 5 minutes into the clip, you will hear stations calling to request resources along the race route or relay information about racers taken to hospitals in ambulances. All of this information is recorded and passed along to the race organizers by the NCS. Any questions are investigated by the NCS, who then relays this information back to individual stations along the course. At the end of the net, stations ask "permission to secure" (leave for the day). Amateur radio operators remain on the course until the event has concluded at their location to ensure participant safety.

Keeping the message clear is a priority for amateur radio communicators. To accomplish this, several methods are used:
  • ARRL radio traffic form - This form provides a systematic way for amateur radio operators to ensure the message received at destination is the same one sent from origin. It helps to avoid the challenges from the "telephone" game we all played as children. To radio amateurs, passing accurate and unchanged radio messages (known as "traffic") is of the highest importance.
  • Use of a phonetic alphabet - Many letters sound the same, and in a chaotic situation or when radio signals are partially obstructed, letters can be difficult to understand. Amateur radio operators use an international phonetic alphabet when spelling words out. These words are chosen because each one sounds distinctly different from the other.
    • Alpha
    • Bravo
    • Charlie
    • Delta
    • Echo
    • Foxtrot
    • Golf
    • Hotel
    • India
    • Juliet
    • Kilo
    • Lima
    • Mike
    • November
    • Oscar
    • Papa
    • Quebec
    • Romeo
    • Sierra
    • Tango
    • Uniform
    • Victor
    • Whiskey
    • X-Ray
    • Yankee
    • Zulu

How can I participate?

To learn more about how to participate in ARES, click the "Join Warren County ARES" link the the navigation bar on the left.

To find ARES affiliations in other areas, visit the ARRL ARES web page at: http://www.arrl.org/sections

How can ARES help me?

Warren County ARES can provide:
  • Trained amateur radio communicators
  • Portable or fixed-location communications capability (we provide all of our own equipment)
  • Coordination with amateur radio operations in surrounding counties 
  • Tested and reliable VHF/UHF radio communication from anywhere within Warren County, and the ability to link to amateur radio systems in other surrounding counties
  • Communication that is independent of the power grid (through use of batteries and generators)
  • Relief on strained public service channels through the use of varied amateur radio frequencies and modes

What is the cost?

Services are always provided free of charge. FCC rules prohibit compensation to amateur radio operators for their work.

How can I find out more?

To learn more about Warren County ARES and:
  • how amateur radio can provide a primary or secondary communications link for your nonprofit event or public safety agency;
  • how Warren County ARES is organized and members are trained; or
  • how amateur radio works,
contact Brad Proctor, Warren County ARES Emergency Coordinator, at kd0wfx@gmail.com.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service - Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, LA

The video below shows how amateur radio operators can communicate with one another to pass traffic during times of disaster. After the news interview, the remainder of the video plays recorded audio of amateur radio operators passing radio traffic about nurses trapped in a New Orleans hospital when a crowd was trying to break in. These radio nets were one of the only reliable ways to pass information in New Orleans at the time.