Amateur Radio Emergency Service

Amateur radio operators belonging to ARES (and its predecessor, the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps) have responded to local and regional disasters since the 1930s, including the attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. During the Katrina event more than one thousand ARES volunteers assisted in the aftermath and provided communications for the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and other individuals related to the relief effort. After Katrina Hancock County, Mississippi had lost all contact with the outside world, except through ARES operators who served as 911 dispatchers and message relayers.

ARES has deployed for a variety of other emergencies and disasters, including the 2003 North America blackout. The blackout covered a wide geographical area of North America. In the United States its scope included Cleveland, Detroit, and New York City. Landline telephones and cell phone systems were overloaded and Amateur's ability to operate off the grid was put to the test. On Long Island in New York many pieces of health and welfare traffic were passed on VHF and HF nets. Because some television and radio stations had gone off the air amateurs helped fill the lack of information. This was not the first time that amateur radio operators assisted during a blackout in New York City. On a warm evening of July 13, 1977 lightning caused a power outage across the city and most of its suburbs. Radio operators started communication nets on simplex and on a repeater located in the Chrysler building.



Amateur Radio

My name is Gerry Parks.

I am the Adams County Wisconsin:

ARES - Emergency Coordinator

RACES - Radio Officer

SKYWARN - Net Control Operator


Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service

The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a standby radio service provided for in Part 97.407 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations governing amateur radio in the United States.

The concept of a standby "Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service" to replace the conventional "Amateur Radio Service" during wartime was developed in 1952 as result of input from the American Radio Relay League and the Department of the Army's Office of Civil Defense. During World War II, the Amateur Radio Service had been silenced and a new War Emergency Radio Service (WERS) had to be created from scratch in a process that took six months.

The resulting standby RACES service was designed to provide a quicker and smoother transition in the event the President ever needed to silence the regular Amateur Radio Service again when invoking the War Powers Act of 1941. Despite four wars involving the United States since 1952, this has never happened.

When so activated, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service will consist of only those amateur radio operators who have previously registered with State and local governments to provide emergency radio communications for them in times of emergency. Other amateur radio operations might be suspended and operations under the RACES rules might be restricted to certain frequencies within the amateur radio bands.

In addition to wartime communications, operations under the RACES rules can provide or supplement communications during emergencies where normal communication systems have sustained damage. It may be used in a wide variety of situations, including natural disasters, technological disasters, nuclear disasters, nuclear attack, terrorist incidents, and bomb threats.

In the past, actual RACES station licenses were also issued to civil defense organizations. To prevent abuse of station licenses by officials who were not licensed amateur radio operators, limitations on the duration of non-emergency operation and stations that might be contacted were incorporated into part 97.407. Such RACES station licenses are no longer issued, and any operations under the RACES rules would now use licensed amateur radio operators as control operators.

In daily practice, most amateur radio operators enrolled with their local government for possible operations under the RACES rules are also members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, organized by the American Radio Relay League. ARES provides emergency communications in the conventional Amateur Radio Service without the need for an emergency declaration from the government.