Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is the emergency communications arm of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and was first organized in 1935 as the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps. Since then, ARES has become a vital part of the nation's emergency response. In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security recognized ARES as a vital component of the new Citizen Corps and numerous other governmental agencies have renewed their relationships with ARES.
ARES is part of the ARRL's field organization which is comprised of Sections. In much of the nation a Section encompasses an entire state. More populous states are organized into two or more Sections. An elected Section Manager (SM) appoints leadership positions including a Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC), District Emergency Coordinators (DEC) and Emergency Coordinators (EC). ECs, operating at the county level, may appoint as many Assistant Emergency Coordinators (AEC) as necessary to coordinate operations in smaller regions or subdivisions or to undertake specific tasks.
ARES has Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) at the national level with a variety of agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the National Weather Service. These documents define the general relationship between ARES and the agency at the national level and provide operational guidelines. Local ARES units usually have MOUs or other written or verbal agreements with municipal, state and county governments as well as with emergency management departments, schools, hospitals, police and fire departments and other agencies.
In addition to providing emergency voice communications, many ARES units today are capable of offering data communications to the agencies they serve. Using specialized digital radio modems, ARES units can provide email service through the worldwide Winlink 2000 system and through local D-Star repeaters. This is especially valuable if an agency suffers a prolonged power outage or suffers a critical failure of its telecommunications infrastructure. ARES units are able to quickly deploy to an affected area and establish a digital link to the internet via Amateur Radio, enabling agencies to continue to send and receive important emails.
ARES units maintain a high degree of professionalism and readiness through training and participation in drills and exercises. All volunteers are certified in emergency management protocols through FEMA courses and are trained in emergency communication operations via ARRL training courses. Specialized training, such as digital data communication, is provided at the local level.