Frequently Asked Questions About ARES

Here are a few of the frequently asked questions that amateur operators ask. We will update this page periodically.

What are the membership requirements for ARES?

Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Please inquire at the local level for specific information. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.

What is a Communications Emergency?

The easiest way to think about a communications emergency - an incident - is to begin by using the definition in the ICS (Incident Command System) manual. Section 1.9 defines an incident as any "...planned or unplanned occurrence or event, regardless of cause, which requires action by emergency service personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or natural resources."

What is the Incident Command System?

The Incident Command System is a management tool consisting of procedures for organizing personnel, facilities, equipment and communications at the scene of an emergency. The ICS is designed to assist anyone who has the responsibility for the successful outcome of an incident. The ICS provides a method for multiple agencies - EMA, police, fire, EMS, ARES - to cooperatively interact through a common communications link.

What does my appearance and attitude have to do with Emergency Communications?

It is important that you realize your knowledge of Emergency Communications is not as important as your appearance and attitude during emergencies. Technical ability will enable you to do a good job of communicating, but your personal appearance and attitude will determine the success of the overall ARES effort.

Once someone knows you are an amateur radio operator you are ham radio to them. Everything you do reflects, in some way, on amateur radio and ARES. The person who brings an arrogant attitude to the scene or airways will only cast a negative image of ARES with served agencies and the public at large.

The agencies we serve are professionals that have seen far too many people that are more interested in impressing someone than getting the job done. You will actually impress them far more by being respectful and doing your job in the best way possible. Results, without interference of the served agencies and having a proper appearance, will cement relations with our served agencies and guarantee we will be requested in the future.

Remember that service as an ARES volunteer is entirely at the discretion of the local and district EC's.

What defines a communications emergency?

A communications emergency can be the result of a hurricane, tornado, flood or anything that disrupts normal communications. The common issue is when communications processes are inadequate to handle the flow of information required to service an incident, as defined in the ICS.

What role does Amateur Radio serve?

Our primary role is to support the emergency management community (responders, relief and recovery agencies) with communications during times of emergency and disaster when normal communications are unavailable or overwhelmed. Please understand that we are not a rapid response team. If you arrive at the scene of an emergency just as the sirens are quieting, observe and wait for directions...do not involve yourself until requested!

As a group, we do not provide first aid, transport victims, provide traffic control, or any other function normally provided by public service agencies. We provide communication when public service systems are overloaded.

As a group we will, in many cases, do more than "just" communicate. You are free to do any work for the served agency that they may request, as long as you are comfortable doing the work and it does not hinder your ability to communicate.

Trained operators have learned to communicate accurately, in a timely fashion regardless of the obstacles in the event.

Can we go directly to a scene when we hear about an incident?

Self-deployment adds unnecessary stress to an already chaotic incident and drains allocated resources. Self-deployed volunteers become part of the problem and not part of the solution.

In a nutshell - ARES does not self-deploy. There are no exceptions. If volunteers are needed and mutual aid is requested, your EC will notify you.