Amateur Radio Emergency Services
Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) consists of volunteer licensed Amateur Radio Operators (HAMs) who utilize their training and skills to provide professional quality radio-based communications support as a public service during non-emergency and emergency events. The word "Amateur" is used as a differentiator to "Commercial" radio because HAMs volunteer their services for free without payment or monetary gain.
Non-emergency events are usually associated with organizations who need auxiliary communications support during community events like charity walk-a-thons, parades, or special events like the Pony Express Re-Ride through El Dorado County.
Emergency events are often associated with disasters where ARES may be activated by official local or regional government emergency management officials to help with some aspect of emergency communications. For instance, during the Caldor Fire, the Communications Director of El Dorado County Sheriff's Office requested support from ARES members of the El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club (EDCARC) to accompany and provide communications support for Animal Rescue officers and personnel with animal evacuation and welfare checks. Additionally, during the late 2021/early 2022 winter storms that knocked out power and cell service in parts of El Dorado County, EDCARC ARES members provided 112 hours of onsite radio communications and generator support for residents seeking help at 2 firehouses and 1 community location.
Learn more about ARES and the EDCARC ARES group by scrolling through the FAQs below.
ARES is sponsored by the American Radio Relay league (ARRL) which is the National Association for Amateur Radio founded in 1914 for the noncommercial organization for Amateur Radio Operators in the U.S. Countries outside of the U.S. have an equivalent organization to the ARRL for Amateur Radio Operators in their country. ARRL ARES provides the overall structure that is supportive in nature, otherwise ARES groups are generally organized at a city or county level. Most ARES groups are autonomous and operate independently. ARES groups geographically located near each other may work together in cooperation to support local/regional disasters.
You must be licensed Amateur Radio Operator (a.k.a. HAM) to be part of an ARES group if you reside in the U.S. Being a member of ARRL is not required. Please visit CERA's Amateur Radio License page if you live in El Dorado County and are interested in becoming a HAM. The ARES group in El Dorado County is the EDCARC ARES group. You'll need to become an EDCARC member and submit the ARES Registration form to the EDCARC ARES Emergency Coordinator. Basic training, local area equipment training, and owning and operating your own personal emegency-powered radio equipment may be required to fully participate in EDCARC ARES events. If you leave El Dorado County, you can continue to be an ARES member by joining another official HAM group that supports ARES. ARES groups usually have weekly net check-in radio meetings that members should attend to be considered active, ready for service, and to stay up to date on ARES group activities.
ARES volunteers are organized by their local ARES Emergency Coordinator. An Emergency Coordinator is a volunteer HAM who is part of an organized ARES group (like EDCARC ARES), who is appointed by ARRL's Section Manager, and who has gone through all the necessary Emergency Coordinator training requirements mandated by the ARRL ARES program. The Emergency Coordinator is responsible for the ARES event volunteers and working with local community officials or non-emergency event sponsors. The Emergency Coordinator can make decisions for the ARES volunteers and ARES operation. Ultimately the local community official or event sponsor is in charge of the event.
ARES members should possess their own radio equipment to fully participate in ARES. Since events that require ARES involvement often involve being on the move, ARES members should consider owning the following equipment. Don't forget to program radios in advance with HAM repeaters channels in the area.
At a minimum, radio equipment that you can walk with:
- A dual-band handheld HAM radio that can operate on 2 meters and 440 MHz
- Handheld radio backup batteries
- Handheld radio car power charger
- Ideally a quarter wave antenna to replace the shorter antenna that came with the handheld radio
An ideal setup includes radio equipment to use in your vehicle:
- The equipment listed above
- A dual-band mobile HAM radio
- Mobile radio car charger
- Mobile radio antenna that can be magnetically mounted (mag mount) to attach to your vehicle
- Antenna adapter cable to connect the handheld radio to the mobile radio antenna
Since ARES events can involve very long and exhausting day(s), consider preparing a "go bag" for your radio equipment and include the following essentials to stay nourished and organized.
- Fluids to replenish your electrolytes
- Nutrition bars
- Prescription medications and over-the-counter medication like Tylenol to relieve headaches
- Hand sanitizer and other essential toiletries
- Any protective gear appropriate for conditions you'll be facing, e.g. N95 mask or respirator if you are helping near wildfires
ARES members should volunteer their time without any expectation of receiving any form of compensation for their services. Expecting compensation is counter to the spirit of being a volunteer ARES member providing a public service. On occasion and at the discretion of the government agency who called ARES into service, the agency may compensate ARES members for mileage if ARES members had to travel great distances while providing emergency communications support.
There are many resources available on the internet to learn more about ARES. Here are some links as a starting point.