HAM Radio 101


Be prepared to help your community during a disaster. Get the special training required to be an ARRL emergency communications volunteer. ARRL’s online courses are offered in a variety of formats. Some courses are offered in a session that has a specific start and end date. Others are on-demand courses, allowing students to begin at any time. For more information on ARRL courses visit the Online Course Catalog and the Online Course Registration page.

EC-001: Introduction to Emergency Communications

This is a revision of the former Emergency Communications Basic/Level 1 course. It’s designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. The course has six sections with 28 lesson topics and includes a selection of student activities, knowledge review quizzes, and a final assessment. The course is conducted entirely online and can be completed at your own pace. Before you begin the course, you should have completed the following prerequisites. These are free FEMA courses you can take online:

  • ICS-100 (IS-100.c) Introduction to the Incident Command System
  • IS-700 (IS-700.b) National Incident Management System

When you enroll for this course, you will be asked to provide your date of completion of the above courses. Completion of Introduction to Emergency Communications is required for completion of the Level 2 portion of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES). At the end of the course students must successfully pass the final assessment with a score of 80%. ARRL staff must verify successful completion before students can receive their certificate of completion.

Course Table of Contents from the ARRL:

Course Introduction

The Framework: How You Fit In

  • Introduction to Amateur Radio Emergency Communications
  • Amateurs Professional Image
  • Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Organizations and Systems
  • Partner Agency Communication Systems Working Directly with the Public

The Networks for Messages

  • Basic Communication Skills
  • Basic Net Operations
  • Introduction to Emergency Nets
  • Net Operating Guidelines
  • The FCC Ruling on Drills and Employees
  • The Net Control Station
  • Net Control Station Operator Practices
  • The Net Manager
  • Specialized Nets and Their Operations
  • Severe Weather Nets/SKYWARN
  • Social Media and Emergency Communications
  • Digital Communications

Message Handling

  • Basic Message Handling and Documentation
  • Introduction to the National Traffic System (NTS)

What Happens When Called

  • Preparing for Deployment
  • Equipment Choices for Emergency Communication
  • Emergency Activation
  • Setting Up, Initial Operations, and Shutdown
  • The Incident Command System

Maintaining Readiness

  • Operations and Logistics
  • Health and Safety
  • ARES PIO: The Right Stuff
  • Alternative Communication Methods
  • Hazardous Materials Awareness
  • Marine Communications

Alternatives and Opportunities

  • Propagation, Space Weather, Solar
  • Other Training Opportunities

EC-016: Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs

This course is designed to train licensed Amateur Radio operators who will be in leadership and managerial roles organizing other volunteers to support public service activities and communications emergencies. It covers preparing and organizing to support local community events in coordination with governmental and other emergency response organizations, as well as deploying their services to provide communications when needed in an emergency. This course is available on the website to all ARRL members. It is a self-study course that you may complete at your own pace. This is not a course which you can easily complete in a weekend, so plan accordingly.

If you are currently serving in a leadership role in your local ARES organization or are training to assume more management responsibility, you may want to complete the final assessment for this course and earn the certificate of completion validating your study. Students who successfully complete the curriculum activities and receive their certificates will indeed be ready for leadership roles in situations where lives and property are at stake.

Completion of Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs is required for completion of the Level 3 portion of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES).

Before you begin the course, you should have completed the following prerequisites:      

  • ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Level 1/Basic (EC-001)
  • SKYWARN Training

And the following FEMA courses:

  • ICS-100 Introduction to Incident Command System
  • ICS-200 Single Incidents and Initial Action Incidents
  • IS-700 NIMS: An Introduction
  • IS-800 National Response Framework

Throughout this course you will find additional FEMA courses that are referenced as preparation for topics within the course. The additional courses required are within the FEMA Professional Development Series, which includes: 

  • IS-120.c An Introduction to Exercises
  • IS-230.d Fundamentals of Emergency Management
  • IS-235.c Emergency Planning
  • IS-240.b Leadership and Influence
  • IS-241.b Decision Making and Problem Solving
  • IS-242.b Effective Communication
  • IS-244.b Developing and Managing Volunteers 
  • IS-288.a The Role of Voluntary Organizations in Emergency Management

Students must submit an application to take the final assessment and earn a certificate. The application includes a reference from your Section Manager and documentation showing completion of the prerequisite courses.

Course Syllabus:

1. Amateur Radio Relevance in a Changing World

2. Key ARES Management Positions

3. ARRL Field Staff and Section Level Support Positions

4. ARES Management and the Incident Command System

5. Review of Basic Net Operations

6. Health and Welfare Traffic Management

7. Digital Options in Message Handling

8. Working with Served Agencies

9. Building Your ARES Organization

10. Training

11. ARES and the Media

12. FCC Rules on Emergency Communication

Here are a few examples of suggested student learning activities in the course:

  • Develop a list of topics or questions you would use to guide the post-emergency debriefing. 
  • Consider the modes that do and do not have forward error correction or other ways to assure that their transmissions are correctly received.
  • Match these modes’ utility in deployments and activities in which you have participated in the past. Which ones could have worked out well? Why or why not? Prepare a presentation outline you could use in talking to public safety leaders about your own group. 

PR-101: Public Relations 101 for Radio Amateurs

This is a basic training course for public information officers (PIOs) and anyone interacting with the media and promoting Amateur Radio. It’s designed to give hams a quick overview in public relations activities. It uses the skills of experts in various aspects of public relations to provide volunteer PIOs with the basic skills and expectations that a PIO needs to know to be effective in their home region. PR-101 covers everything from the basic news release to websites and video work.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at KE8FMJ@arrl.net.

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