ARES is a field organization of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the largest amateur radio advocacy and fraternal organization in the United States. Today, at a national level ARES provides the organization and guidance to help amateur radio operators to establish local emergency communications volunteer groups. ARES Emergency Coordinators work with local government agencies such as police, fire, sheriff, search and rescue and offices of emergency management to determine what emergency communications needs may exist and how to best serve the community.
Florida ARES is divided into 3 Sections North Florida, West Central Florida and South Florida. The North Florida Section is divided into 11 Districts (see map on left); not all regions and districts are active. Each active region and district has an Emergency Coordinator who works to understand the local community’s needs, and organizes resources to maintain a level of emergency preparedness and communications readiness for that community.
Hillsborough County’s ARES Emergency Coordinator is Jonathan Rubin, KJ4NYD.
Although the primary purpose of ARES is to provide emergency communications, ARES members are also routinely asked to provide non-business communications support at public events such as parades, marathons and bike rides.
Emergency service is one of the basics of the Amateur Radio Service and there is sometimes confusion about ARES, the ARRL arm of emergency services and RACES, the government arm of amateur emergency services. Many organizations, like us, combine the two and just switch hats if the need arises.
ARES is activated before, during and after an emergency by request of the local Emergency Managers. Generally, ARES handles emergency messages, including those between government emergency management officials. ARES also interacts with the local communities during non-emergency times and may provide communications support for parades, runs and other community activities.
RACES was established by the United States Government in 1952 and is codified in law under FCC Part 97, Section 407. RACES is now a partnership between Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). RACES was designed to provide a quicker and smoother transition in the event the President ever needed to silence the regular Amateur Radio Service when invoking the War Powers Act. Despite four wars involving the United States since 1952, this has never happened.
In addition to wartime communications, operations under the RACES rules can provide or supplement communications during emergencies where normal communication systems have sustained damage. It may be used in a wide variety of situations, including natural disasters, technological disasters, nuclear accidents, nuclear attack, terrorist incidents, and bomb threats.
The ARES/RACES program provides core leaders to plan, promote, facilitate and interface with the amateur community to ensure a level of readiness that will allow the ARES/RACES program to be effective in times of emergency. The Hillsborough County ARES/RACES program relies on our local clubs and the local amateur radio community to make ARES/RACES work.
Hillsborough County ARES/RACES supports the County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as part of ESF #2 ( Communications ) and in that role provides an auxiliary/ back-up means of communications in times of emergencies or disasters. Additionally we support the City of Tampa’s EOC, various emergency services, utilities, hospitals, the Red Cross, shelters and more.