The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) is a program established by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to coordinate and train licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment to assist with emergency communications in the event of a disaster. We are not first responders. In a crisis we are able to provide communications in support of agencies such as FEMA, State and Local Emergency Management Agencies as well as Public Safety and Public Welfare organizations like the Red Cross and municipal fire districts.
How is it Organized?
In Rhode Island, ARES is overseen by the Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) and the Section Manager (SM). The state is divided into five districts by county. Each county has a District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) assigned to oversee operations there. Emergency Coordinators (EC) are appointed to assist them on a local level.
How does it work?
We may learn about a situation in a variety of ways; from the media, from a ham reporting a situation on a repeater, or from a direct contact to the SEC or DEC from an agency requesting aid. Information about what is needed, where it is needed and when will be gathered and then forwarded to ARES leadership via whatever means are available (usually via phone or VHF repeater).
Local radio nets are established on pre-planned frequencies in each district and one or more nets well be established for statewide coordination. This will include the use of HF, VHF/UHF and packet nodes as necessary.
The SEC will coordinate the movement of all volunteers and equipment deployments throughout the state. The DECs will establish posts in the affected areas, make their needs known, and log all teams coming into the area to provide aid.
Can’t I just show up?
Given the nature of these types of situations showing up without being properly assigned and documented may result in your being arrested for walking in to an active crime scene!