Amateur Radio Emergency Service – ARES and RACES – FIRST AID and DISASTER RADIO COMMUNICATION FIELD SUPPLIES
Two national amateur radio emergency services exist – ARES and RACES.
RACES – Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service is coordinated and run by the US Federal Government activated among preexisting membership of amateur radio volunteers as part of disaster relief agencies implementation of disaster recovery.
ARES – Amateur Radio Emergency Service is established through ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) which is the leading national non-governmental organization for all-things amateur (HAM) radio.
Both organizations consist of non-paid citizen volunteers who are licensed , experienced and trained in the fundamentals of disaster relief communications on the amateur bands. The primary purpose is to provide secondary and backup communication to local first responders and disaster victims in the wake of downed primary infrastructure radio services (public service, cellular, electrical blackouts, etc..)
ARES and RACES differ in one fundamental area: Structure vs. Flexibility
RACES is a very structured and procedural communications framework only implemented after or during the disaster response and recovery has been initiated. RACES control operators may only talk with other RACES stations.
ARES is a much more flexible framework in that amateur radio operators are able to communicate in a time friendly and fluid transmission environment before, during and after disaster response and recovery has been initiated.
Both are essentially two sides of the same coin. RACES is turned “on and off” by a directive from a federal disaster relief agency. ARES is an “always on” emergency service.
** Please check the links at the bottom of this article for more detailed information on membership and participation in both of these organizations.
The following lists of disaster response first aid and radio communication field supplies are very useful for any concerned and prepared amateur radio operator during a time of crisis.
FIRST AID and DISASTER RADIO COMMUNICATION FIELD SUPPLIES
2 Meter or Dual Band handheld transceiver plus a vehicle battery supported mobile unit.
Scanner: Police, Fire, EMS, Agency, NOAA Weather, Air Traffic operations. (Each State and locality has different laws regarding scanner usage and possession. It is generally understood that holders of a valid FCC Amateur Radio license are legally entitled to use public service scanning capabilities. However, check you local ordinances for specific details.)
One day’s worth (or more) of fully charged high capacity batteries for the radio with battery charger (automobile).
Extended portable mobile antenna. Examples: A roll up J-pole or 2M / 440 Slim Jim, 2M / 70cm mag mount antenna, Yagi or similar directional antenna.
Extra coaxial cable, ear phones, microphone, cell phone and charger, paper, pens.
Personal Identification: Drivers license, ID card, FCC license, FEMA ICS and NIMS certifications, family and friends contact information. Put all of these important documents into a water / weather proof plastic bag or resilient and easily accessible disaster storage container.
Clothing: seasonal, weather and temperature specific. Food and Water. Energy, nutrition, electrolyte vitamin packets, survival rations, personal medication and prescriptions.
CASH: Assume all ATM and electronic funds and banking capabilities are down. Divide the cash into several securely stored areas within vehicle, equipment and your person to mitigate potential loss from weather, looting, theft and unforeseen conditions.
ARRL message passing and traffic handling forms. Specifically ICS-213 forms. Log Book. Up to date road book and local / regional Map.
GPS hand held device for directional and location information. Get one that includes a satellite emergency location beacon.
Other Items: folding chair, tent, sleeping bag, rain gear, duct tape, rope, hammer, screwdriver, wrench, emergency road flares, extension cord, plastic tarp, fire starter / lighter, extra fuel, Bible, extra parts and repair items for your radio equipment and vehicle, etc…the list goes on. Be Safe and Be Prepared.
First-Aid Supplies: surgical gloves, antibacterial ointment, soap, alcohol wipes, face mask breathing filter, space blanket, medical tape, bandages and cotton sterile dressings of all sizes, body fluid – blood decontamination and wound compression, scissors, tweezers, petroleum jelly, cold compress, burn and insect bite cream, eye wash, antacid, anti-diarrhea, digital thermometer, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, sunscreen, regional snake bite kit, potassium iodide for thyroid protection from nuclear fallout, a small suture – stitch kit, etc.
These, of course, are a partial list of items and preparation. The best preparation is training and thinking through, prior to a disaster, the implications of a total collapse of a local, regional and national power, economic, public service and communication infrastructure.
Stay Awake. Situational awareness is key. We believe we live in a comfortable and safe environment. Recognize that everything we enjoy about modern society can be thrust back to the dark ages within three minutes.