By now most of you are aware of the term ARES, but what is ARES? Actually it is an acronym [A.R.E.S.] which stands for Amateur Radio Emergency Service. The name sounds impressive and the operation is quite impressive.

A brief history

Ham radio might be considered a precursor to the social media of today. This form of communication dates back to the 1890s. It wasn’t until 1912 when the Radio Act was passed, granting federal licensing to ham radio stations. Ham radio stations today are regulated by the United States Federal Communications Commission. In 1935, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) was established by the American Radio Relay League. Licensed amateur radio operators belong to the ARES, having registered their equipment and qualifications to be ready to assist the public in the event of a disaster. The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service was established in 1952, serving as a civil defense radio service that activates in emergencies. Following Federal Emergency Management Agency protocols, ham radio operators have authorization to transmit during emergencies after the president invokes these powers.

After World War II, it became evident that the international situation was destined to be tense and the need for some civil-defense measures became apparent. Successive government agencies designated to head up such a program called on amateur representatives to participate.

In the discussions that followed, amateurs were interested in getting two points across: First, that Amateur Radio had a potential for and capability of playing a major role in this program. And second, that our participation should be in our own name, as Amateur Radio Service, even if and after war should break out. These principles were included in the planning by the formulation of regulations creating a new branch of the amateur service, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service or RACES.

Recognition of the role of Amateur Radio as a public service means responsibility. Every amateur should have access to the current version of the FCC rules and regulations for Amateur Radio [Part 97], which includes the Amateur-Satellite Service and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. RACES could be the only part of Amateur Radio allowed to operate if the President invokes the “war powers” granted him by the Communications Act.

Upon proclamation by the President that there exists war or a threat of war, or a state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency, or in order to preserve the neutrality of the United States, The President, if he deems it necessary in the interest of national security or defense, may suspend or amend, for such time as he may see fit, the rules and regulations applicable to any and all stations or devices capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations within the jurisdiction of the United States as prescribed by the Commission, and may cause the closing of any station for radio communications…

We will discuss RACES in more depth in later issues.

“The Amateur Radio Emergency Service [ARES] consists of Amateur Radio licensees 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 to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. The Local ARES Emergency Coordinator can provide specifics. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency- powered equipment is desirable but is not a requirement for membership.”

The above quote comes straight from the ARES Manual. In Madison County, the Communications Division has primary [lead] responsibility for providing for the communications needs of Madison County Emergency Management and local government. This falls within the mission of RACES. Many members of the Communications Division are also members of ARES, but their primary obligation is to the County organization. ARES members not a part of EMA are viewed as a “communications resource” as defined in the County Communications Plan to be utilized as necessary to accomplish the overall mission. As necessary the Emergency Management Staff will request the County ARES EC [Emergency Coordinator] to provide additional communications resources. The EC can as needed request additional qualified resources from other Counties.

What is Radio Service?

A radio service is a categorization of users of the radio spectrum that have a common specific radio communications purpose. Examples include the Broadcasting Services, the Aeronautical Mobile Service, the Land Mobile service, the Maritime mobile service and of course, the Amateur Service. The word “Service” in ARES’ name has a different meaning than the “Service” in RACES. The meaning of “Service” as used in ARES is consistent with the meaning of public service – actions carried out with the aim of providing a public good. RACES is an FCC-regulated radio service. ARES is an organization of individuals who apply specialized telecommunications skills for a public good.

The Amateur Radio Services comprise the Amateur Service, the Amateur-Satellite service and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. Most amateur activity is conducted in the Amateur Service. A person doesn’t join the Amateur Service, they get a license and operate in that service in accordance with the applicable rules. When an Amateur communicates via one of the many Amateur satellites, they don’t join the Amateur-Satellite service, they operate in that service according to the applicable rules.

Send comments or questions to W9GNR@arrl.net

Quote of the Month

“I have been frankly fascinated with that unpaid group of people with those ham radios, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) makes available a wireless system that seldom if ever can be totally disrupted by a disaster — ham radio operators are the heart, the soul and the life blood of that system.” — The Hon. Mayor Willie Brown, Mayor of San Francisco (1996-2004)

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