What is the Amateur Radio Emergency Service?

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is a group of Federally licensed Amateur Radio (slang = “ham radio”) operators who volunteer their skills to assist public safety agencies in the event of a disaster or other incident.


During calamities such as earthquakes and hurricanes, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service has typically been among the first to respond, filling the communications void left by downed telephone lines and power outages – quickly linking and coordinating relief efforts.

These activities are an integral part of the purpose of Amateur Radio as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC § 97.1(a); § 97.401(a)). Amateur Radio is very different from “C.B.”: Amateur Radio operators must pass a Federal examination and be issued a Federal license, which grants them “operating privileges” – such as the right to use high power transmitters (over a thousand watts), different modes (such as voice, Morse code, and even television), and thousands of frequencies.

Furthermore, those Amateur Radio operators who are members of ARES are trained in emergency communications (and related skills) and are Registered Disaster Service Workers (DSWs). Members of ARES have very diverse backgrounds – but share the common goal of assisting when called upon by their communities.

How Does the Amateur Radio Emergency Service Assist Local Agencies?

In Genesee County, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service is coordinated by the ARRL appointed ARES Emergency Coordinator, Tim Crane (KD8VUI), and is hosted by the (GC-ARPSC) Genesee County Amateur Radio Public Service Corps. Amateur Radio is integrated with the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and Emergency Operation Centers.

In the event of a disaster, ARES Responders perform a number of tasks to assist local fire, law enforcement, and other public service agencies:

  • Back-Up Emergency Communications:Most public service communications today are heavily reliant upon land-line telephone, cellular telephone, and fax systems to conduct routine operations. In disasters such as tornadoes (or even power-outages), these systems fail. Subsequently, police, fire, and other public service radio channels become rapidly saturated. ARES Emergency Responders are capable of providing such agencies with a complete back-up radio communications system with many additional channels. Furthermore, ARES is capable of using radio frequencies instead of phone lines to transmit computer data (through radio modems, a.k.a. “packet radio”).
  • Inter-Agency Communications:Most agencies have dedicated frequencies and radios that operate only on those frequencies. ARES members can be assigned to “shadow” key people at different agencies’ operations centers and in the field to allow inter-agency communication when the agencies are not able to communicate through normal channels. Furthermore, because of the special frequency and power-output privileges Amateur Radio Operators have, direct links can be established to locations out of range of normal public safety radios (such as FEMA in Washington, D.C.).
  • Health and Welfare Information:ARES members can collect and transmit health and welfare messages to the Red Cross and out-of-area family members on behalf of emergency workers and people in the community, freeing personnel to concentrate on priority matters.
  • Simulated Emergency Tests:To maintain operator skill and to develop working relationships with the agencies they serve, ARES Responders participate in various disaster drills, exercises, and related activities.
  • Community Events:In non-emergencies, ARES volunteers may assist local authorities by providing supplemental communications for various local events such as parades. ARES Responders also volunteer for special duty to supplement local agency operations.

ARES assists organizations such as:

    • The Crim Road Race
    • The Turri Road Race
    • Back to The Bricks car show.

How Can I Get Involved?

The first step is to contact the Genesee County Amateur Radio Public Service Corps (GC-ARPSC) and arrange to be trained to get your Amateur Radio license: E-mail: ; Web: GC-ARPSC holds meetings the 4th Tuesday of the month. (for more information, see our meetings info page.).

We need your help! Get involved in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service today!


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