Emergency Operation is one of the basic, yet important operations of Amateur Radio. There are two types of emergency operation services in amateur radio. First service is ARES (ARRL Arm of Emergency Service), and the second one is RACES (The Government body of amateur emergency service).
In this post, we will understand ARES and RACES along with the information about emergency operations during which these amateur radio operations are carried out, why hams are carrying out these emergency operations, and more.
Both, ARES and RACES become operational in crisis situations where other sources of communications do not work or are purposefully turned into a deactivate mode for security and safety reasons. These situations may include natural disaster, crisis like war, fire, etc. One such example where ARES was used is the attack on the World Trade Center in Manhattan in September 2001. Another example of ARES emergency operation is 2003 North America Blackout. Also in September 2005 when Hurricane Katrina had hit, this emergency operation was carried out to co-ordinate with the disaster relief team and activists. Similarly, RACES operation becomes activated during nuclear accidents, terrorist incident, and war. During Hurricane Katrina, more than 1000 ham operators have provided their contribution. And, it was the largest emergency operation done in the United States by ARES.
Hams have to follow Ham Spirit while they are on ARES operation. Ham Spirit is a set of norms that every ham must follow. These norms include the following:
ARES and RACES both are emergency amateur radio operations, which are governed by different bodies. Whereas ARES is run by ARRL, RACES comes under the government regulation, but the common thing between the both works during an emergency situation. ARES becomes operational before the emergency as soon as it gets the news about something that could result into an emergency. ARES remains operational during the emergency situation until the emergency is cleared, and it remains operational for a longer period after the emergency or crisis is over. On the other hand RACES is activated and operated during the crisis, disaster, or an emergency situation. In some cases, it remains operational for a short period after the emergency or crisis is over.
Ham radio is not just about communicating within a community to entertain others or mingle with new people, including other amateur radio operators. It is an activity that involves services as well. At time of crisis, amateur radio, as a service becomes the only medium of communication, and this communication demands skills. Operating in emergency is not for everyone. Only skilled hams can operate during a crisis to help others. Also, the ham operators who have completed a few years of practice in amateur radio are always willing to participate in ARES and RACES operations because during these operations they learn a lot about amateur radio, its real use, and handling frequencies. During ARES and RACES operations, hams are not paid but they provide their support as volunteer to help others while implementing their skills and enhancing their knowledge.
Not every ham, even if he/she has years of experience cannot be a part of emergency operation. Only the hams who have registered at local ARRL emergency co-ordinator can join ARES during an emergency. And, the hams who have taken a license from the local civil defense organization can be a part of the RACES team during an emergency operation. So, in addition to your experience, you will have to get a license. You can use your own call sign to become a part of the team during an emergency operation.
As already stated that during an emergency operation, you need to operate on certain frequencies, these frequencies vary for both RACES and ARES operations. For example, RACES station is allowed to establish a communication with other RACES station, ham who has RACES license, amateur stations that are registered with the civil defense organizations, selected authorized stations of the United States, and the station regulated by FCC. On the other hand, an amateur operating under ARES can communicate with any amateur radio station.
During ARES and RACES messages related to the danger to public, safety instructions, individual’s safety instructions, law and order, sabotage, and RACES drills can be transmitted.