when all else fails graphic


2019 Training Classes
ARES logo races logo

Milpitas ARES®/RACES

Ham Radio is a Hobby...
Emergency Communications is a Commitment


List of terms and acronyms you are likely to encounter when working in emergency communications.

  • ACS - Auxiliary Communications Service
    The ACS name was changed to Communication Reserve Unit (CRU) in April of 2017. See CRU.

  • Anderson Power Pole
    State of California OES prescribes the Anderson Power Pole as the standard DC power connector for use by State ACS/RACES personnel, and recommends its use by County and City RACES personnel as well.  Using this standard, highly reliable connector allows quick and easy installation and substitution of radios, power supplies, batteries, and other equipment.

  • APRS - Automatic Packet Reporting System
    Sometimes incorrectly called Automatic Position Reporting System, APRS is a communications protocol that allows stations to send location, weather, location, and other data real-time.

  • ARRL - American Radio Relay League
    The national association of amateur radio in the United States. With more than 161,000 members, ARRL is the largest organization of radio amateurs in the world. ARRL's mission is based on five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership.

  • ARECC - Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course(s)
    Courses offered by the ARRL to teach basic information about emergency communications, ARES®, and the relationship between amateur operators and the emergency agencies they assist.

  • CAL FIRE - California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
    CAL FIRE protects lives, property and natural resources from fire; responds to emergencies of all types, and protects and preserves timberlands, wildlands, and urban forests and provides varied emergency services in 36 of the State's 58 counties via contracts with local governments.

  • CAP - Civil Air Patrol (145.150 MHz)

  • CDF - California Department of Forestry
    Sometimes used to refer to CAL FIRE which is part of the department.

  • CERT - Community Emergency Response Team
    A FEMA program to train citizens in basic emergency response skills.  In Milpitas the CERT program is called SAFE.

  • Chief
    The ICS title for individuals responsible for command of functional sections: Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration. Also used to designate the highest ranking position in a department - Police or Fire Chief.

  • CRO - Chief Radio Officer
    The appointed leader of a RACES group. See EC - Emergency Coordinator.

  • CRU - Communications Reserve Unit formerly ACS.
    CRU is an all-volunteer Emergency Communications (EMCOMM) organization, providing support to the Telecommunications Branch (TCOMM) of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

  • DEC - District Emergency Coordinator
    An appointed ARRL official who directs the emergency Amateur Radio efforts within a district.  (The DEC for Santa Clara County is Michael Fox, N6MEF).

  • DSW - Disaster Service Worker
    To work under a RACES activation you need to be registered as a DSW by the governmental agency you are working for.  This provides workers compensation and liability insurance coverage while working for that agency.

  • DSW Card-
    Identification card issued by the government agency you have registered with.

  • EAS - Emergency Alert System
    An emergency broadcast system using public communications (TV and radio) to alert the general public to an emergency situation.

  • EC - Emergency Coordinator
    An appointed ARRL official who directs the emergency Amateur Radio efforts within a city.  Within Santa Clara County the EC is also the RACES Chief Radio Officer (CRO).  (The EC/CRO for Milpitas is Tim Howard, KE6TIM).

  • EOC - Emergency Operations Center
    A location within a city, county, state or agency from which emergency operations are directed.

  • EMA - Emergency Managers Association
    A committee whose membership consists of the managers of all city Offices of Emergency Services in the County, the manager of the County Office of Emergency Services, and the Emergency Managers of allied organizations. ARES/RACES is represented to the EMA by the District Emergency Coordinator (DEC)/Chief Radio Officer (CRO).

  • EmComm - Emergency Communications
    A general term referring to the act of or the person providing communications services during an emergency.

  • FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
    The government agency concerned with disaster preparation and disaster recovery.

  • First Responder
    The first person or agency to be sent to the scene of an emergency.  This is fire, law enforcement, or emergency medical personnel.

  • FRS - Family Radio Service
    An unlicensed personal radio service in the UHF band.  All radios in this service must be hand-held units transmitting no more than 1/2 watt.

  • GMRS - General Mobile Radio Service
    A licensed personal radio service in the UHF band.  For the price of the license fee (there is no exam) you may set up base, mobile, and repeater systems running up to 50 watts.

  • Go-Bag/Go-Kit
    A bag or pack that has your "call-out" gear (emergency activation gear). Suggested Go-Kit contents.

  • ICP - Incident Command Post
    The location at which the primary command functions are executed. The ICP may be co-located with the incident base or other incident facilities.

  • ICS - Incident Command System
    A management tool to bring multiple agencies together under one command structure during an emergency.

  • MARS - Military Affiliate Radio System
    A military-run radio system that uses frequencies close to the amateur radio bands.  MARS sometimes interacts directly with amateur radio, especially for message handling.

  • Mesh Networking -
    The use of microwave frequencies in the Amateur Radio Bands to create a fault tolerant wireless network for the purpose of sending high speed digital data.

  • MOU - Memorandum Of Understanding
    A written agreement between two organizations describing their cooperative efforts.  For our purposes, a written agreement between ARES®/RACES groups and their Served Agency(ies).  This agreement details what services will be provided by the ARES®/RACES group and what commitment the Served Agency makes in return.

  • Operational Area -
    A State OES definition of the entire county, including the unincorporated county land together with all the cities within the county.

  • NC/NCS/NCO - Network Control Station (Net Control) / Net Control Operator
    A station, or more likely, an operator who is running a radio network.  He or she is in charge with maintaining the orderly flow of traffic on that net.

  • NIMS - National Incident Management System
    NIMS is a comprehensive, national approach to incident management that is applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines.

  • NTS - National Traffic System
    An ARRL-run network of operators who pass telegram-like messages throughout the United States.

  • NVIS - Near Vertical Incidence Skywave
    An antenna system designed to send HF transmissions almost straight up, where they bounce off of the ionosphere and return to earth to cover a wide area around the sending station.

  • NWR - NOAA Weather Radio
    The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information direct from nearby National Weather Service offices.

  • OES - Office of Emergency Services
    The organization at the state, county, or local government level charge with responsibility for planning, preparation, and disaster operations.

  • Outpost
    A program used within Packet Communications to provide a Windows based interface. See also PacForms.

  • Packet Radio
    A digital communications system using computer terminals connected via Amateur Radio stations.  Provides a reliable method for transmitting large amounts of data quickly and accurately.  See also TNC.

  • PacForms
    An add-on to Outpost that provides a Windows browser based form that looks like the paper copies of the commonly used forms.

  • PIO - Public Information Officer
    A person assigned to make public statements and handle queries from the press and public.

  • RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
    Amateur radio groups organized by civil authorities to perform emergency communications.

  • Repeater
    A station which receives transmissions from a mobile, portable, or fixed station and re-broadcasts them for extended range usually with higher output power.  Generally located at a relatively high elevation.

  • Resource Net
    A radio net organized for coordination of the movement and tracking of personnel and equipment.  See also Tactical Net.

  • SAFE - Strategic Action For Emergencies
    This is Milpitas' name for the CERT program.

  • SATERN - Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network
    The Salvation Army's internally managed amateur radio effort.

  • SEC - Section Emergency Coordinator
    An appointed ARRL official who directs the emergency efforts within a section.  (The SEC for the Santa Clara Valley Section is Ronald Short, KK7GO)

  • Served Agency
    As an "emergency communicator" you will always be working for someone.  You will never be managing an emergency yourself.  You will be assisting some civil agency (police, fire, etcetera) or other emergency relief organization (hospital, Red Cross, etcetera).  The agency or organization to which you provide communications services is the "served agency".

  • Shadow
    Refers to radio operator assigned to a particular person or VIP to provide them with auxiliary communications. Your role is to follow them around like their shadow.

  • SEMS - Standardized Emergency Management System
    The SEMS law, effective January 1, 1993, incorporates the use of the Incident Command System (ICS); the Fire Fighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies (FIRESCOPE) agreement; existing multi-agency and inter agency programs; the State's master Mutual Aid agreement and mutual aid program; the Operational Area concept.

  • Simplex
    Refers to radio communications where both transmitter and receiver operate on a common frequency without the use of a repeater.

  • SOP - Standard Operating Procedure
    The protocol established by an agency for its operation.

    SKYWARN is a program managed by the National Weather Service that utilizes trained volunteer "spotters" to send in real-time on-the-ground reports of severe weather.

  • SM - Section Manager
    An elected ARRL official who directs the ARRL's efforts within a subsection of a region.  Milpitas is in the Santa Clara Valley Section (SCVS).  (The SCVS Section Manager is Brandon Bianchi, NI6C)

  • Staging Area
    An area where equipment and personal are checked-in and staged prior to being deployed in response to an event.

  • SUV
    Spontaneous Unaffiliated Volunteer. A person who comes forward during a disaster event that wants to be of help but who is untrained and not affiliated with any organized group.

  • Tactical Call Sign
    An identifier used by all radio operators at a specific location. They may include jurisdiction names ("Milpitas EOC"), agency names ("San Jose Red Cross"), location names ("Redwood Shelter"), ICS names ("Fire Base 1 Command"), individual names ("EMS Shadow"), or net names ("Resource"). All calls are made with tactical call signs (for example, "Redwood Shelter, this is Milpitas EOC"). Use operator call signs (W6ABC) only to meet FCC requirements (that is, every ten minutes or at the end of a series of transmissions). A Tactical Call Sign is assigned to a location, not to an operator.

  • Tactical Net
    A radio net organized for the purpose of handling the operational communications associated with an activity.  See also Resource Net.

  • TNC - Terminal Node Controller
    Used for Packet communications.  This device acts like a modem between a personal computer and a radio transceiver.

  • Traffic
    Messages sent over the air.  This can be formal written messages or informal messages.

  • VOX -
    A microphone/radio system that uses the operator's voice to activate the transmitter instead of a manual push-to-talk (PTT) button.  Not recommended for emergency communications.

Last Updated:  September 26, 2018