London Amateur Radio Club
Home News Beginner?
Become a HAM
Club Events Operating Information Public Service Buy and Sell SIGS,
Links Search this site Site Map
A.R.E.S. is the
"Amateur Radio Emergency Service"
A.R.E.S. is a trained group of amateur radio operators willing to assist emergency services and municipal agencies in an emergency or disaster.
They are specialists in various forms of communications modes from computerized packet radio, long distance HF voice and morse code, UHF/VHF voice, and even amateur television. To be an amateur radio operator, Industry Canada requires that individuals pass examinations in technical and regulatory competence. Morse code is not a requirement for entry level licenses, and is not mandatory for long distance and advanced operations. Amateur operators are usually quite distinctive from citizens band (CB) operators who require no training or licensing.
Our members come from various walks of life including police, fire and ambulance services, doctors, nurses, lawyers, radio and computer technicians, former and current military officers etc. In exercise situations we find ourselves being radio resource people for officials in command post and control group locations.
Communications in a Disaster
Communications is often cited as the weakest link in the command and control component of an emergency.
Experience has shown that in emergency situations, traditional systems become overloaded or are disabled. Groups who normally don't need radio communications such as Social Services, need it. Locations that have not been covered before and now need to be linked can't be because the portables that are being used won't work. Services that don't usually coordinate with each other, need to. People who seldom or never have used a radio are now on them for extended periods of time. Batteries that are used only to monitor for a few hours a day are now pressed into emergency service and fail. Telephone systems become overloaded or fail. Caution should be used when considering cellular phones as a component of your emergency communications system. They are most effective in metropolitan areas. Service outside cities is very limited and is normally restricted to a few phones at a time and concentrated on a transportation corridor. This radio based system could be overloaded during an emergency. These factors can seriously impair emergency/disaster command and control operations.
A lot of key participants only carry portable radios. Usually no one has extra battery packs or chargers. This would mean that there would be a limited life span for their communications. Most batteries are subject to a condition called "memory effect" and, unless they were used for transmitting on a regular basis, would not hold up for more than a couple of hours under emergency conditions. This is applicable for cellular phones as well. At a very minimum, extra batteries and chargers should be available.
Also, portable radios may have problems transmitting out of some locations. Temporary control post locations can have severe problems if they are in buildings constructed mostly of metal. This type of situation can be very frustrating in an emergency. Ideally, base radios should be considered for control group locations, or external antennas with chargers. A suggestion is to have a "global radio" for VHF, one for UHF, and one for 800 mhz (if applicable) to cover area frequencies.
REMEMBER THESE PROBLEMS DO NOT NORMALLY OCCUR IN ANY STANDARD EXERCISE, unless it is a full scale field exercise. This means that the problems can only really be determined in an actual situation. Communications are one of the most critical aspects of handing a disaster, yet they receive little attention in the disaster planning process.
How A.R.E.S. can HELP
Hams have been utilized extensively in major disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, and floods in many parts of the world. Use of amateur radio in Canada has included the Mississauga train derailment, the Barrie tornado, and the Eastern Ontario icestorm, to name a few. To be effective, an Amateur Radio representative should be included in the initial notification of the Emergency Control Group. The A.R.E.S. Emergency Coordinator will initiate a callout of amateur operators to establish a network on a standby basis on a local amateur repeater.
He/she will normally then report to the Emergency Operations Control Group and activate a net control station. In some situations, our involvement may only be until other communications facilities can be established. Other times, it can be until the incident is completed. The A.R.E.S. priorities will be coordinated by the Emergency Coordinator in consultation with the E.O.C.G. members. These may include:
- providing a common communications link between agencies, control groups or services involved attending the Command Post location
- being available to provide any required communications around the disaster site itself
- establishing assembly areas for responding volunteers outside of the effected area
- controlling the assignment of the needed positions
- assisting Social Services and Red Cross with Registration and Inquiry communications
- providing backup facilities for first responders in the event of loss of radio/phone services
- doing long distance relay of status to federal and provincial agencies should outside links be lost
- linking Weather Office to Disaster Site or Control Group to provide weather information in situations where weather is a critical factor
- supplying a team of trained communicators to assist in any related duty such as manning an evacuation perimeter and providing information linking media to Control Groups to ensure dissemination of factual information to the general public
Based on priorities, assignment of tasks and availability of personnel/equipment, more "nets" would be set up on the local repeaters, packet radio, amateur TV and HF long distance systems.
The A.R.E.S. Emergency Co-Ordinator would assess the need for additional volunteers and request mutual aid from other amateur radio groups.
A permanent antenna installation, power supply and desk may be necessary in your Control Group location. By providing these facilities, you can have a team of trained communicators at your disposal in an emergency.
For More Information or to Get Involved Contact the ARES Coordinator on the executive.
Copyright 2000-6 London Amateur Radio Club
Feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org