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In an Emergency, Amateur Radio Operators Can Handle Your Communications
ARES is administered nationally by the American Radio Relay League (the ARRL), but operates under FCC guidelines set out in CFR 40 Part 97. Use of hams for emergency communications is a long-standing tradition, typically called upon when other means of communication fail. However, as stated in the FCC rules, hams can also provide communicvation services for public service events, or other events where radio communications are helpful.”
ARES serves both governmental and non-governmental agencies through “Memoranda Of Understanding” (MOUs). These MOUs and other non-binding agreements explain the roles and responsibilities of the participating partners. If an MOU exists on the national level, between the ARRL and an organization (Red Cross, FEMA, Civil Air Patrol, etc), then it need not be reiterated at lower levels. Agencies and organizations signatory to MOUs are referred to as “Client Agencies” or “Served Agencies” (SAs). MOU’s exist at the national level for the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, National Weather Service and others and are on file at ARRL Headquarters.
Town Emergency Managers and local service agencies are encouraged to set up MOU’s with their local ARES group as part of their EOP’s (see below). Including ARES in table-top or full/partial-scale exercises can prove beneficial should a real need ever occur.
It is important to know that all ARES services are provided at NO COST, per FCC regulations.
The ARRL has produced a brochure (PDF) that provides an intro to emergency communications and ham radio operators, download via this link †. You might want to take a look at the videos below, too. They're short, but can give you an idea of how ham operators can be used by your organization in a disaster situation.
VIDEOS—Ham operators at work—Click to view in a new window, if your browser has the necessary
video plug-in. Otherwise, right-click and “Save link as...” to download:
Katrina [mpg4, 52MB]
Walter Cronkite, KB2GSB, narrates an over-view [66.5MB, mpg1]
For Town Emergency Managers
So, if all else fails and you can't use the phone/fax/email/ how can you contact ARES? This you’ll need to work out as part of your MOU with your local ARES group. In general, if you can reach any ARES member in your vicinity, or even a ham who is not registered with the local group, that ham can then get the ball rolling. Even if there is no near-by ARES member, contacting any ham operator can get things started. Before the need arises, check your zip code, and those nearest, to find any ham who may be living within range and speak to him or her about getting in touch with the nearest ARES group. The ARRL has a handy locate-by-zip-code database you can use. It’s a good idea to re-check annually as info changes. Vermont’s primary ARES contact is Robin Conway, firstname.lastname@example.org, the Vermont Section ARES Emergency Coordinator. She can assist you in setting up your ARES connection.
ARES operators will have all the needed equipment to get on the air: radios, antennas, power, cables, etc. Nonetheless, ensuring a relatively quiet space, the ability to safeguard equipment during breaks, power if available, are examples of things to work out before-hand so all runs smoothly.
Many national agencies have their own radio systems and frequencies, a number of smaller, local agencies may as well. If yours does, ARES members can fit right in to your established protocols and procedures. However, a pre-need introduction to your equipment and systems will go a long toward ensuring a smooth interaction. If you do not have a radio system in place, ARES members come fully equipped! The ARRL maintains MOUs (see below) with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, and others. The MOUs can serve as a base for your own agreement with your local ARES group, even thouggh not strictly necessary..
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ARRL National MOU’s: www.arrl.org/served-agencies-and-partners [web]
ARES & RACES—Two Flavors of Emergency Communication Operations www.arrl.org/ares-races-faq [web]
Locate Hams by Zip [web]
About ARES www.arrl.org/chapter-1-ares [web]
VT ARES Members † (name/location only—MS Excel)
Districts, Chair Contacts— demhs.vermont.gov/programs/lepc/addresses [web]
Websites: demhs.vermont.gov/programs/lepc [web]