Articles for Amateur Radio Newsletters aimed at new hams
 written by Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS, Rowlett, Texas



NHP #17: Alphabet Soup


R.A.C.E.S. is an acronym for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. R.A.C.E.S. is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and sanctioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) per Part 97, subpart E. R.A.C.E.S. is an organization of licensed amateur radio operators who volunteer their time and equipment to provide supplemental communication to local, county and state governments in times of an emergency or natural disaster.

A major function performed by R.A.C.E.S. in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is providing information to the National Weather Service during periods of threatening or severe weather. R.A.C.E.S operates only in the event of civil emergency or civil preparedness exercise. And it only operates at the request of a county, state or federal emergency officials.

The R.A.C.E.S. organization in Garland is authorized by the City of Garland, Office of Emergency Preparedness, and by the Dallas County Fire Marshals Office.

It should be noted that once a frequency or repeater has been declared in use for R.A.C.E.S., only R.A.C.E.S.-authorized members may use it. Officially, R.A.C.E.S. does not allow communications with the general amateur radio population.


A.R.E.S. is an acronym for Amateur Radio Emergency Service. It is an umbrella organization of the American Radio Relay League. League membership is not required for A.R.E.S. participation.

A.R.E.S. is an organization of licensed amateur radio operators who volunteer their time and equipment to provide communications for a variety of public service activities. It usually is run under the direction of an Emergency Coordinator (EC)

This type of communications service is used most times with agencies like the Red Cross for everything from "lost child" communications to running chase for hot air balloons. A.R.E.S. operation is not however sanctioned by any government agency. A.R.E.S. operations may be started by the Emergency Coordinator.

This differs from R.A.C.E.S. in that a R.A.C.E.S. function may only be activated at the request of the sponsoring government agency.

If an A.R.E.S. net is in operation, it is considered polite to yield the frequency to A.R.E.S. members unless you have something of an emergency nature to add. It is fairly common to find that many amateurs maintain a dual affiliation in both R.A.C.E.S. and A.R.E.S. and this is, in fact, encouraged.


MARS is an acronym for Military Affiliate Radio Service. MARS is administered by the U.S. Armed Forces. Its mission is health-and-welfare communications support for military personnel and their loved ones. MARS has existed as supplemental communications in one form or another since 1925.

MARS has three branches, Army MARS, Navy/Marine MARS and Air Force MARS. Each branch has its own requirements for membership.

MARS operation takes place on frequencies usually adjoining the amateur bands. Various MARS branches have their own repeater and packet networks.

A good introduction to Army MARS is on the Internet at the following URL:


NTS is an acronym for National Traffic System. The national Traffic System is an ARRL umbrella organization that handles message traffic around the United States and around the world.

All that is needed to join NTS is the desire to help. Much of the local traffic carried by NTS is on 2 meter and packet radio. The long haul messaging is done by HF radio on both voice and CW.

Before you jump into this, get a book or two on the message-handling procedures because there are some legalities involved, and you will want to listen awhile to the nets before you handle your first message.

The messages passed by NTS are usually routine. But, the real reason for the existence of the NTS is to efficiently pass traffic in times of emergency, such as flood (in the example of the Midwest these past few weeks), tornado (such as Lancaster Texas last year and Arkansas this year), and other natural disasters (Mexico City earthquake comes to mind).

Training for NTS is an ongoing affair. Depending on the traffic net in which you want to participate, find out when and where the training sessions are held. In Dallas the early net is at 6:30 PM Local time on the 146.88 repeater and training of some kind is usually done. The late net in Dallas is currently being held at 10:30 PM on the 147.12 repeater until the 147.15 machine is back in service.

73 and GL from
Gerry WD4BIS


Return to NHP Index

Copyright 2005 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.

Permission in advance is granted to those who use this for non-profit Amateur Radio club newsletters as long as it is used unmodified including this copyright notice and that notice is given to the author via email ([email protected]). In addition, please forward a copy of any newsletter this appears in to: Gerry Crenshaw WD4BIS, c/o GARC, 1027B W. Austin St, Garland, TX, 75040

Web site maintained by Janet Gobeille Crenshaw (WB9ZPH)