Emergency Preparedness

Much is said in Amateur Radio Circles about emergency communications and our ability to get messages through under adverse conditions. Indeed, it is this capability which provides us continued support, respect, and use of the frequency spectrum. The very first item in Part 97 of the FCC Regulations is the Basis and Purpose of the Amateur Radio Service. Paragraph 97.1(a) states that the first principle for providing for amateur radio is "Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications." In effect, emergency communication is our reason for being and the justification for allocating valuable radio frequencies to be used without remuneration. If we can’t or don’t provide communication in emergencies and disasters, then we aren’t "doing our job".

Many hams will say they are willing to help in an emergency. When disasters strike they come out of the woodwork to offer their services and equipment for the public good. This sounds great, but sometimes these individuals are more willing than able to serve. Hams, who are good technicians, have super strong signals, DXCC awards, and satellite experience may, not be able to manage net control duties or prepare messages in standard ARRL format. Good emergency communicators are trained and prepared for the task.

How does one become prepared to respond effectively when disaster strikes? The first step is to let the person in charge of emergency communications in your local area know that you are interested in becoming actively involved in the effort. The individual to see is usually the Emergency Coordinator or EC. The EC is an ARRL appointed official designated to manage the efforts of amateurs in a local area such as a county. It is his or her job to develop an emergency communication plan outlining the agencies where assistance is needed such as the Red Cross, Emergency Operations Centers, etc. and to secure operators to man stations at these locations.

The EC operates through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service or ARES organization. Membership in this group would be the place to start your quest to become an effective emergency communicator. If you don’t know who your EC is then check with your local Ham Radio Club for information. In addition, check the Mississippi ARRL home page at www.arrlmiss.org for a list of ARRL officials in the state. You can also find help at the ARRL web page www.arrl.org .

You should provide the EC with information about your interests and your station capability so that he or she can make appropriate assignments. Your EC will need to know if you have emergency power, or can operate on the HF bands, UHF repeater, packet, APRS, or mobile.

After you sign-up as an ARES Member, your duty is to prepare yourself to serve when called upon. Your EC will conduct training sessions and nets to help you gain the communications skill needed for you assignment. You’ll need to know net operating procedures, message writing, traffic handling, record keeping and to understand necessary relationships with served agencies. You’ll also need on–the-air practice to develop and maintain your skills in these areas. One good way to do this is to check into local and statewide nets designed for traffic handling or training for emergency purposes.

Also, participate in SKYWARN events and Field Day as well as the Simulated Emergency Test. Participation in club sponsored public service projects such as bike rides and walks gives valuable experience in tactical communications.

The next step is to develop your station resources so you will be able to respond in an expedient manner with the equipment and materials needed to do the job. This will require some personal planning and organization so that little time is wasted getting ready to go when the call to service comes.

Amateur Radio Operators, who are willing to be of service during an
emergency situation, should recall the Boy Scout Motto "Be Prepared."  It is
one thing to say you can help, but it's important to be ready when needed.
When the call comes from the Emergency Coordinator (EC) requesting a station
to report to a certain location to assist in emergency communications would
you be ready to go on short notice, or would you have to scramble around to
collect things you think you might need?  The good operator, like the good
Scout, is prepared.  Have your "Ready Kit" packed so you can pick it up as
you go out the door.  Sometimes you may have to stay in the field a long
time, if there is a major disaster.  In such a situation you would need
additional personal and support gear.

Let's review some of the preparations and priorities associated with
personal participation in emergency communications activities.  The
following checklists have been gathered from ARRL publications ARES Field
Manual, and the ARRL Operating Manual. ( used by permission )


1.      Check that you and your family are safe and secure before
you respond as an ARES volunteer.
2.      Check that your property is safe and secure before you respond as an
ARES Volunteer.
3.      Monitor your local emergency frequencies.
4.      Follow the instructions you receive from the ARES officials in
charge on the above frequency,
5.      Contact your local emergency coordinator, or his/her designee, for
further instructions.


The net control station and/or ARES officials on the designated emergency
net will provide additional instructions, including information on
frequencies used for other resource and tactical nets.  Normally, a resource
net will enroll volunteers and provide information on how you can assist.

* Be prepared to operate. Check all equipment and connections.
* Check-in with your assigned contact.  Deploy to assignment with "Ready Kit."
* Obtain tactical call sign for you location/assignment.
* Initiate personal event log.
* Enter assigned frequency(s) on log sheet and on emergency/frequency plan.
* Use log form to record messages handled.
* Use a formal message form when a precise record is required.
* Use tactical call sign for your location, while observing FCC's
ten-minute ID rule.
* Monitor your assigned frequency AT ALL TIMES.  Notify the NCS if you
have to leave.


The following represents recommendations of emergency equipment and
supplies ARES members should consider having available for use during an
emergency or public service activity.

Forms of Identification
* ARES Identification Card
* FCC Amateur Radio License
* Drivers license

Radio Gear
* Rig (VHF)
* Microphone
* Headphones
* Power Supply/extra batteries
* Antennas with mounts
* Spare fuses
* Patch cords/adapters
* SWR meter
* Extra coax

Writing Gear
* Pen/pencil/eraser
* Clipboard
* Message forms
* Logbook
* Note paper

Personal Gear (short duration)
* Snacks
* Liquid refreshments
* Throat lozenges
* Personal medicine
* Aspirin
* Extra pair of glasses
* Sweater/jacket
* Personal Gear (72-hour duration)
* Foul-weather gear
* Three-day supply of drinking water
* Cooler with three-day supply of food
* Mess kit with cleaning supplies
* First-aid kit
* Personal medicine
* Aspirin
* Throat lozenges
* Sleeping bag
* Toilet articles
* Mechanical or battery powered alarm clock
* Flashlight/lantern with batteries
* Candles
* Waterproof matches
* Extra pair of glasses

Tool Box (72-hour duration)
* Screwdrivers
* Pliers
* Socket wrenches
* Electrical tape
* 12/120V soldering iron
* solder
* volt-ohm meter

Other (72-hour duration)
* rig (HF)
* hatchet/ax
* saw
* pick
* shovel
* siphon
* jumper cable
* generator, spare plugs, and oil
* kerosene lamps, camping lantern, or candles
* 3/8-inch hemp rope
* highway flares
* extra gasoline and oil

The checklist above includes about everything you would need for
either a short duration event or one for about three days.  The short
duration list would be the same as your "Ready-Kit" in a grab-and-go bag.
These items are the minimum set of supplies you would need if you were to go
to a Red Cross Shelter during a disaster or to help with a public service
event such as a bike race.

Here is a simplified checklist for your "Ready Kit"
* 2-Meter HT
* 2-Meter Magmount Antenna and  coax
* Earphones
* Paper and pencils
* ARES ID Card
* Extra batteries
* Appropriate clothing
* Food and water

All amateurs and especially ARES members should get themselves organized and
like good Boy Scouts and be prepared to go to the field and be of service.
Are you ready?

From the JARC W5PFC Report by Ron Brown, AB5WF