ACARA fully supports the use of ham operators and equipment for emergency communication service—fortunately, here in Vermont we have few disaster/emergency situations to contend with, other than ocassional ice storms or localized flooding. However, the ability to set up in the field and run an effective, self-contained, self-powered communication station is what hams are all about.
Many, if not most, of our contesting and other pursuits entail the development of the skills necessary for emergency communications. Not to mention accumulation of the needed equipment! The ARRL’s annual Field Day gives us a chance to really strut our stuff and show the public what hams can do when called upon.
ACARA has an EmComm section whose members meet periodically or when called upon. In the fall of 2011, we decided to try breakfast meetings for a change, and found we really like them! We'd love to have you join us, but to find the current date/location contact Robin first, until we settle on something "permanent."
ACARA owns and maintains a repeater which is made available to the ARRL’s Addison County branch of ARES for use in emergencies, drills, and for events they may be assisting in. The repeater was upgraded and returned to service in the first quarter of 2010, and isl once again be open to all ham operators any time. Emergency traffic always rules (per FCC and ARRL), and has priority. The ACARA repeater is under the excellent hand of Duane/WA1NRA, who has single-handedly been responsible for its care over the past decade or more. You can see a few photos of the repeater from the “Pictures” page.
The National Weather Service’s Skywarn program is an interesting place to start your exploration of public service opportunities. The program relies on reports from its weather spotters of severe local weather events to aid in accurate weather tracking and forcasting. Many ham operators participate, but it’s not just for hams. On completion of the training, participants who wish to join Skywarn are given a phone number to call with their weather observations. Check our Skywarn page for more info and links.
ARES & RACES
Ham, as individuals or as members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES [“aireez”]) have been instrumental in providing communications in all sorts of disasterswhen normal modes of communication have failed. A number of ACARA members are members of the local ARES group.
San Fransisco earthquakes, hurricanes Katrina & Rita and others in the past, floods, ice storms, ...you name it, hams have been there helping. ARES is the ARRL’s emcomm branch and is under its administration. The ARRLhas agreements in place (Memorandums of Understanding—"MOU"s) with various agencies for which emergency communications are provided when needed (Served Agencies—"SA"s). The Federal Government administers its own ham radio emcomm service group called the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES [“rayseez”]). Hams who are members of one are often members of the other as well.
There’s a saying popular among EmComm providers: Ham radio is a hobby—EmComm is a commitment. The ARRL has several very good online EmComm courses available, Level1 is a great starting place if interested in committing to EmComm service. See the links in the right column above for detailed info.
ARRL EmComm Newsletter
Use these links to see videos about the use of ham operators in the aftermath of Katrina and in other emergency situations. The files are large, size and format are indicated. If your browser has the necessary plug-in you can click and view (will open in a new window), otherwise, right-click and “Save link as...” to download to your hard drive. QuickTime (Mac/PC) can be used, or other PC movie-viewer such as RealPlayer, Windows Media Viewer, etc.
Katrina [mpg4, 52MB]
An over-view of ham ops in emergencies with Walter Cronkite /KB2GSB [66.5MB, mpg1]
EmComm Brochure (PDF)
RACES.net [Fed. website]
EmComm Forum (non-affiliated, might be of interest)