If one studies the FCC rule book carefully, it becomes apparent that there
is one major reason that we are able to enjoy our hobby of radio communications. The primary reason that we are permitted
to engage in radio is to provide the nation with a large cadre of trained communicators to assist with any response the nation
requires in difficult circumstances. All of the other stuff, DXing, National Traffic System message handling, amateur TV,
digital modes etc. is secondary to the concept of our skills being used to aid the country in time of need.
That time of need might be a hurricane, an earthquake, floods, tornados, or something as simple as a backhoe cutting
through the cables that connect a 911 center to the community it serves. Even a hospitals computer system crashing can generate
a need for backup communications. At that point, restoring communications becomes absolutely vital to protect the safety of
people and property.
To do that various organizations have been created over the years to make this task more organized and easier to initiate.
One of the most complete organizations doing this is Amateur Radio Emergency Service, a service of the American Radio Relay
League. The ARRL has divided the country into Divisions. Each Division is sub-divided into Sections. Each Section has an individual,
appointed by the Section Manager, whose title is Section Emergency Coordinator. Each county within the Section has an Emergency
Coordinator (also appointed by the Section Manager with input from the SEC) who coordinates activities with their local county
or municipal Emergency Services staff. The EC also serves as the head of the local ARES unit.
The local ARES unit or group is the heart of amateur radio’s response in times of need. The members of the local
group train together and practice their skills during events called Simulated Emergency Tests (SETs). In coordination with
local and regional emergency services from the municipality, the county or the state. The members also train on-line in the
basics of the Incident Command System taking tests provided by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) in order
to be considered expert enough to be deployed to participate outside of their local area should the emergency require more
assistance than the local group can provide. All of these members provide their own equipment including radios, antennas,
power plus they provide their own clothing, food and shelter for at least several days. They do this all because they love
to provide assistance to their fellow citizens in time of need. They also do this because not only do the radios have to function
without the benefits of infrastructure but so do the radio operators. Trying to provide communications when you are hungry,
cold and wet is not fun. Sometimes it is not even possible, so the members make sure that they can do the job when needed.
In other pages on this web site, you can find discussions and projects intended to allow you to construct the equipment
you will need to be of use in an emergency. There are articles on suitable radios that are mostly self contained. There are
articles on power sources (batteries) that will allow one to operate for some period of time without line power or a generator.
What I have not discussed so far are the preparations one should make to be similarly self-contained for that same period
of time. That is also one of the reasons for this page.
In addition to your radio, antenna and power source, you need to consider what you yourself will need when the infrastructure
is damaged and/or unavailable. This particular list comes from the South County ARES Group in Southern California.
Grab and Go Kit Check List
o 2 meter HT plus 12 hours worth
of batteries (a dual band 2M/440 is better)
o Consider a waterproof bag to
protect it from the elements
o 1/2 wave gain antenna for better
performance and a magnetic mount antenna
o AC to DC adapter and auto cigarette
lighter plug cable to power HT
o Remote speaker/microphone or
o Headphones with correct connector
to plug into radio, for use in noisy areas
o Extra coax for antenna and connectors
and adapters for radio
o Thomas Guide Map book or other
o Repeater listing frequency Directory
o Users manual for your radios
or cheat sheets
o Message forms, writing pads,
pens and clipboard
o SCARES badge, copy of FCC license
o Appropriate clothes for the
weather, terrain and duration. Dress to stay warm and dry.
o Hat, sunglasses and sun block
during warm sunny weather.
o Food, water, and needed medicines
for at least 12 hours
o First Aid Kit, First Aid and
o Night time gear, flash, light
extra batteries and bulb, reflective vest, flares in vehicle
o Small tool kit, gas and water
shut off tools
o Second radio with 12 hours of
o Base station antenna i.e.. J-pole
and mounting hardware
o 50 feet of coax with connectors
o Scanner radio and frequency
list of local public safety agencies
o Large 12 volt battery, Gel or
deep cycle, charger, 100 feet of AC power cord, large gauge
o Poster paper, markers and tape
o Hard-hat for your head
o 3-way electrical adapter (for
2 prong outlets)
o Waterproof paper
Each ARES group will have a similar list which may be slightly different to this one. Different areas
of the country will have different needs in terms of personal protection from the elements. Different seasons of the year
will also require other items of clothing and other items. This list is also only for a very short term deployment (less than
24 hours) The list for a longer deployment will have many more items particularly in terms of power, food, clothing and personal
shelter. These longer lists are normally available from your local ARES team. Many ARES groups have acquired trailers or RV
type vehicles in which they have constructed their own Emergency Communications Centers. Often these are built in coordination
with their local governmental ES agencies and are equipped with governmental radios in addition to the amateur gear. Usually
they are equipped with gasoline or diesel generators to enable operations for an extended time period. This fact does not
relieve the individual operator of the responsibility to ensure their own survivability and comfort since few of the operators
deployed will be working in said trailer or RV. They will usually be operating from emergency shelters or feeding or first
aid stations out in the community they serve.
So far we have been dwelling on the very serious aspects of serving in ARES and they are very important,
however there are lighter aspects to training and serving in ARES. ARES units also often volunteer to assist with communications
for community events such as charity bike races or various foot races sponsored by charitable agencies. Some units volunteer
for community events such as town fairs and the like. These are excellent opportunities to test your equipment in a non-emergency
situation and also to demonstrate the value and fun of amateur radio. Many good contacts are available within the community.
By participating in these fun events you also join a network of people who can assist you in the future. One of the people
I met at such an event was very helpful when I needed some welding done for a tilt-over flagpole antenna that I was building.
The movers and shakers in your local community are often the same people you will be working with in a disaster response situation.
Building relationships with them in these non-emergency events will pay big dividends when the situation is much more serious.
The opportunity to serve your community in times of need is a very big responsibility but it is also a
huge honor. All of the gear that you acquire to be of service is needed by you
in the situation, and most of it will be of use even when you are not so occupied. Your radios and antennas etc. are just
as useful on a day of casual DX at the beach or in a city park. The discipline you develop to make sure your go kit is well
stocked and ready will also serve you well when getting ready for Field Day or a family vacation.
Please really consider serving your community as a member of your local ARES group. It is a wonderful
way to serve your community and a wonderful way to hone your skills as an amateur radio operator.