Resources for Volunteer Emergency Communications Radio Operators
Resources for all Emergency/Disaster Response volunteers
Anyone who expects to serve as a responding volunteer in an emergency or disaster situation in the United States should obtain at least some training that covers the Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), of which the ICS is a key feature. This training is offered on line at no cost in the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Institute's Independent Study Program (FEMA EMI ISP). Successful completion of each course results in a personalized certificate from FEMA. Most of the government and other public agencies and volunteer organizations active in disasters (VOADs) under whose supervision a volunteer might serve either require proof of such training or will soon require it.
Highly recommended for all volunteers
Recommended for supervisory or other experienced volunteers
Other useful EMI ISP courses
Training for volunteer Amateur Radio operators
As an Amateur Radio operator who wants to serve in time of disaster, you have several challenges to overcome, but there are many resources available to you to help you overcome the challenges. The challenges include gaining and maintaining:
operating techniques that are effective, efficient, courteous, and compliant with the federal regulations that govern Amateur Radio, proficiency in composing and routing both formal and tactical message traffic, and proficiency in using your radio equipment under field conditions.
Some radio operators are under the impression that the federal regulations that govern Amateur Radio are suspended during emergencies or disasters. You may hear them say something like "In an emergency, anything goes." This is not true. In emergency and disaster situations, certain provisions of the regulations go into effect, and certain prohibitions are suspended, but the remaining provisions remain fully in effect. We Amateur Radio operators should, in fact, expect and prepare to govern ourselves with the utmost discipline, compliance, and courtesy during emergencies and disasters in order to achieve our mission of serving the public at those times.
For most Amateur Radio operators, conveniently-located actual disasters utilizing Amateur Radio's services are rare, so skills must be gained and maintained in other ways. Activities that will help you meet these challenges include:
Learn from operators who have experience and good operating practices. Join a local Amateur Radio club and attend its meetings. Join the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Participate in your area's Amateur Radio disaster-preparedness nets. These nets, managed by local clubs, are often held weekly on weekday evenings. Most Amateur Radio operators participate from their homes. Register in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) Register in your community's Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) or Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) program, if any. Read the monthly ARES E-Letter. It is available on the ARRL Web site, and ARRL members can have it sent to them by email. Study the operator's manual for your transceiver, and practice changing your transceiver's settings Learn how Amateur Radio operators handle both formal and tactical message traffic, and practice sending and receiving messages. Participate on an Amateur Radio team in support of a local event such as a walkathon, run, hike, or bike ride. Working at these public service events is fun and a valuable service to the public, and the skills used are very similar to those used in emergency communications. You can often learn of a need for Amateur Radio operators at such events on the Web sites of local Amateur Radio clubs. Participate in the annual ARRL Field Day in late June with your club or on your own. Participate in the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) annually in the fall with your local Amateur Radio group. Look for opportunities to gain related skills and certifications. Encourage and train less-experienced Amateur Radio licensees in emergency communications skills.
Additional Resources for volunteer Personal Radio Services operators
The Personal Radio Services of the Federal Communications Commission include the Family Radio Service (FRS), the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS), and the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Transceivers using these services can be useful in emergency and disaster response situations. They may especially useful for very short range communications, such as within and among urban and suburban neighborhoods during CERT operations. Unlicensed FRS, MURS, and CB operators and licensed GMRS operators are encouraged to make use of the training resources designed for Amateur Radio operators. Here are some additional resources:
FRS/GMRS frequency/channel table as of September 28, 2017 Operator's manual for your transceiver Emergency Communications Training The ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communication (EC-001), available as an online course, as classroom training, and as self-study using the course transcript. This course is designed for licenced Amateur Radio operators, but it is open to all and is of significant value to all volunteer emergency communicators. Federal Communications Commission: Family Radio Service (FRS) Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)