By Doug Stinson, KG6ADR and Steve Wilson, KG6HJU
ARES Logo Many people are confused about the relationship between the Community Emergency Response Team's Communication group (CERT Comm) and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service/Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service1 (ARES/RACES) group. Are they competing groups? Will they interfere with each other on the air? We'll try to briefly answer those questions.

     ARES is a nation-wide group of amateur radio operators dedicated to providing communications services when normal communications are stretched thin or disrupted. ARES establishes relationships with existing emergency service providers -- police departments, fire departments, hospitals, the Red Cross and others. During an emergency, those organizations may find their usual communications systems are taxed, because the volume of messages exceeds the system capacity, or because a disaster has damaged their system.  They then call on ARES for assistance, supplementing their normal communications system. There is a formal system for "activating" ARES and notifying members that their assistance is required.

     CERT is a way of training and organizing people who spontaneously volunteer to help in a disaster. CERT Comm assures that some of those volunteers are capable of setting up a communications system which serves the internal needs of CERT.

     CERT Comm and ARES are complimentary organizations that interact extensively. For example, ARES has identified certain amateur radio frequencies as the primary frequencies for emergency communication within Fremont. CERT Comm depends on ARES to manage the use of those frequencies by conducting a "directed net". Such a net brings order to the airwaves. Each CERT district communications post will be a participant in this net, along with ARES members assigned to other "served agencies".

RACES Logo      Coordination is required to make this interaction effective. To that end an ARES officer is a non-voting member of the CERT Comm Steering Committee. All CERT Comm procedures are consistent with standard ARES practice. During the major CERT drill each April, ARES runs the tactical net. We encourage people to be CERT trained and be members of both CERT Comm and ARES. Since it takes a fairly large disaster before people spontaneously volunteer, an ARES member is more likely to be "called out" than a CERT Comm member. This provides more opportunities to practice and to serve. For planning, those who are members of both organizations should make clear to which organization they will respond when "the big one" hits.

     For additional information on ARES, contact Jeff Koger, Fremont's Emergency Coordinator, at [email protected].  or vist the Fremont ARES Home Page. For additional information on CERT Comm click the links on the navigtion bar on the left of the page.

1) It is beyond the scope of this article to describe in detail the differences between ARES and RACES. Basically, RACES operation is authorized by emergency management officials only, and this operation is strictly limited to official civil-preparedness activities. ARES operates with a much broader charter. However, should the President invoke his War Emergency Powers to silence amateur radio operations, RACES may continue to operate on certain specified frequencies. Nationally, there is a push for dual membership in and co-leadership of both organizations to allow seamless switching between both modes of operation as the situation demands.

2) Jeff took over as Fremont EC in early 2005.

This page last updated 04/16/2005