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.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service, a program of the ARRL, offers to its partners at all levels, trained Amateur Radio Service licensees who are skilled in the use of a wide range of emergency and disaster communications techniques and who are committed to supporting our partners’ missions in service to the public.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®), a program of ARRL, The national association for Amateur Radio®, is comprised of organized, trained, qualified, and credentialed Amateur Radio operators who augment and support vital communications on behalf of the public through partner agencies and organizations during emergencies and disasters. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service, through its volunteer radio communicators, strives to be an effective partner in emergency and disaster response, providing public service partners at all levels with radio communications expertise, capability, and capacity.

Amateur Radio operators (“hams”) possess unique skills. While a ham’s FCC license allows the operation of radio equipment on a wide range of frequencies with varying propagation conditions, hams also are capable of setting up field stations and portable antennas, and using non-conventional means of getting a message through when other systems are overloaded or have failed.


These skill sets are created and improved by the local ARES group through thorough training that is formal or informal, and often in conjunction with local agencies where the team can meet the individuals with whom they can expect to be operating during a true emergency.  This effort is a strong contributor to developing mutual trust and understanding among the key individuals managing any emergency operation, and should be exercised at every opportunity.

The ARES group has actively engaged in the following steps so that it has the ability to perform certain actions and meet its objectives. Further, a goal of the ARES program is to ensure that program participants continue to improve and develop additional capabilities for serving the needs of partners.

  • Net operations and traffic passing provide experience in on-the-air operating, including net procedures and routines that are easily learned and adopted. Experience resulting from regular net participation ensures that established procedures and routines for net participation become rote practices for participants.
  • The Amateur Radio discipline of DXing (contacting distant stations) offers ways of improving skills in operating under adverse conditions like interference (QRM) and static (QRN). The skills involved in copying transmissions subject to severe noise levels or interference come only through the actual experience of operating under severe conditions. Contacting DX stations, even occasionally, offers the unique experience necessary for skill level improvement.
  • Radiosport, also known as “contesting,” teaches ways to operate with a fixed format at high contact rates. Learning a fixed routing plan and employing common practices and terminology sets the expectations for network participants so they can anticipate the procedures used by the net and more readily adapt to the net routines.
  • Effective exercises offer locally developed scenarios to practice for hazards and threats. Having an established written policy relating to the most likely emergency scenarios allows ARES participants to understand the procedures for activating for a given situation.  Severe weather events may be quite different from a wildfire, for example, requiring contact with different agencies and different skill sets from ARES participants. A well-written emergency communications plan greatly simplifies activation procedures and ensures that smaller items are not inadvertently overlooked.
  • Emergency and disaster response provides experience with actual pressures and changing requirements found in such environments. Having the opportunity to participate in emergency or disaster response offers one with valuable lessons and experiences. Therefore, it is important for those involved in the response to participate in the After-Action Review (AAR) and debriefing process, so that all participants can learn from those who have operated in emergency conditions. Careful attention to details and retention of notes is an important part of completing this important educational task.

In this application, capacity means the limits imposed by available ARES resources and the scope of the Amateur Radio service. These limits may be technical, personnel, equipment, or regulatory, in nature, and may prevent the ARES group from providing additional services. Each ARES group has capacity limits, and it is incumbent for ARES Leadership to be acutely aware of their capacity to serve, so the group is never overcommitted. Further, each group should strive to match their capacity with partner needs and plan for extension of that capacity as appropriate. An emergency communications plan should detail existing ARES group capacity and plans for expansion, depending upon local needs.


There are two methods for establishing and determining capacity:

  1. Utilization of effective communications methodologies, including
  • Various available field resources for communicating, such as VHF, UHF, HF, repeaters, accepted simplex frequencies, and local/regional HF networks
  • Integrating messaging networks such as high-speed multimedia (HSMM) networks, the National Traffic System (NTS), and NTS-Digital (NTSD), along with new technology and data communications, and
  • Cross-training with other communications services such as Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS), and local public safety.
  1. Engagement with the Community through
  • Working with state and local officials
  • Participation in neighborhood programs
  • Cooperating with local CERT, National Weather Service SKYWARN, and similar programs, and
  • Assisting with community events.

All participants shall have a valid Amateur Radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission. All participants must have a serious interest in providing volunteer radio communications support in an emergency. All participants shall have an interest in self-improvement and maintaining standards for excellent community service.

Previously, participation in ARES was open to all interested Amateur Radio operators.  The only requirements were a valid FCC license and an interest in serving. There were no requirements for ARES participants to be trained and no skill sets were specified. In contrast, many of the partner agencies that ARES serves have mandated and structured training programs where all participants receive the same training and, when deployed, would be qualified to assume any position they were assigned to.

Therefore, changes have been made to resolve this issue identified by our partners about the inconsistent training required of ARES participants. Under this policy, a national standard for qualification in ARES is instituted to address the needs of our partners Training is expected to be phased in over time and will be required for all ARES participants. Such training will be measurable and recognized across a broad spectrum of the country by served partners.

Three levels of training will allow ARES participants to enter the program and migrate to higher levels of qualification and service.


  • Level 1 — This is the entry level for those new to Amateur Radio or emergency communications. This introductory training is conducted by the local ARES group to meet their needs and those of their served agency or partners. This training could be formal or informal, and would introduce the ARES participant to the fundamentals of emergency communications and provide instruction on how participants are to conduct themselves while deployed.
  • Level 2 — To qualify for this level, participants shall have completed the following courses: ARRL’s EC-001 Introduction to Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (or current equivalent) and FEMA IS-100, IS-200, IS 700, and IS-800. Participants are also encouraged to take advantage of training opportunities available through partners to enhance their knowledge and skill set.
  • Level 3 — This level of training prepares ARES participants to take on leadership positions such as EC, ADEC, DEC, ASEC, and SEC, and other designated positions in the ARES program.

Participants are required to complete ARRL’s EC-016, Emergency Communications for Management, along with FEMA courses IS-300, and IS-400. Participants are strongly encouraged to complete the FEMA Leadership Development series of courses IS-120, IS-230, IS-240, IS-241, IS-242, IS-244, and IS-288.

Are you ready to join our team or do you have more questions, please fill out the form below and a member of the staff will contact you directly.

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