HAM Radio 101

How the ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) is Structured: Ham Radio 101

The ARRL governance structure divides the United States into 15 ARRL Divisions. Every three years, ARRL members in each Division elect a Director and a Vice Director to represent them on the ARRL’s Board of Directors. The Divisions are:

  • Atlantic–Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland-DC, Northern New York, Western New York, Western Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey
  • Central–Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin
  • Dakota–Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota
  • Delta–Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee
  • Great Lakes–Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio
  • Hudson–Eastern New York, New York City-Long Island, Northern New Jersey
  • Midwest–Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska
  • New England–Connecticut, Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Western Massachusetts
  • Northwestern–Alaska, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Western Washington
  • Pacific–East Bay, Sacramento Valley, Pacific, Nevada, San Francisco, San Joaquin Valley, Santa Clara Valley
  • Roanoke–North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
  • Rocky Mountain–Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
  • Southeastern–Alabama, Georgia, Northern Florida, Puerto Rico, Southern Florida, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Central Florida
  • Southwestern–Arizona, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara
  • West Gulf–North Texas, Oklahoma, South Texas, West Texas

The ARRL Field Organization Structure divides the United States and its territories into 71 administrative sections listed above. Each section is headed by an elected Section Manager (SM). Most sections consist of entire states, but some states have more than one section. The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is then broken down further into District and Local organizations. The National level is run by the ARRL Field Services manager. They maintain contact with the federal government and other national agencies. They make sure the national preparedness program is being followed throughout the nation.   

Section Level

The Section Manager is accountable for carrying out the duties of the office in accordance with ARRL policies established by the Board of Directors and shall act in the best interests of Amateur Radio. The Section Manager is a liaison with the Division Director and recruits, appoints, and supervises section-level staff to administer the Field Organization’s principal areas of responsibility in the section. These areas are emergency communications, message traffic relay, technical activity/problem solving, volunteer monitoring, government relations, public relations in the general community, information services for amateurs, and cooperation with affiliated clubs.

The Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) is the assistant to the Section Manager. The SEC is the most important role in the section. The job responsibilities include advising the SM on all section emergency policy and planning, including the development of a section emergency communications plan. They also recommend candidates for Emergency Coordinator and District Emergency Coordinator appointments. They promote ARES membership drives, meetings, activities, tests, procedures, etc., at the section level.

District Level

Large Sections are broken down into Districts. Not all Sections have Districts. The boundaries of a District may depend on a variety of things, including repeaters or government functions. A District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) is assigned. Job responsibilities include:

  • Coordinate the training, organization, and emergency participation of Emergency Coordinators in the district of jurisdiction
  • Make local decisions in the absence of the SEC or through coordination with the SEC, concerning the allotment of available amateurs and equipment during an emergency
  • Coordinate the interrelationship between local emergency plans and between communications networks within the area of jurisdiction
  • Act as backup for local areas without an Emergency Coordinator and assist in maintaining contact with governmental and other agencies within the area of jurisdiction
  • Provide direction in the routing and handling of emergency communications of either a formal or tactical nature, with specific emphasis being placed on Welfare traffic
  • Recommend EC appointments to the SEC
  • Coordinate the reporting and documenting of ARES activities in the district of jurisdiction
  • Act as a model emergency communicator as evidenced by dedication to purpose, reliability, and understanding of emergency communications
  • Be fully conversant in National Traffic System routing and procedures, and have a thorough understanding of the locale and role of all vital governmental and volunteer agencies that could be involved in an emergency
  • Encouraged to earn certification in Levels 1 and 2 of the ARRL Emergency Communications Course

Local Level

The Local level is typically broken up by county. This is run by an appointed Emergency Coordinator and a number of assistants. The EC’s job responsibilities include:

  • Promote and enhance the activities of ARES for the benefit of the public as a voluntary, non-commercial communications service
  • Manage and coordinate the training, organization, and emergency participation of interested amateurs working in support of the communities, agencies, or functions designated by the Section Emergency Coordinator/Section Manager
  • Establish viable working relationships with federal, state, county, city governmental and private agencies in the ARES jurisdictional area which need the services of ARES in emergencies
  • Determine what agencies are active in your area, evaluate their needs and which ones you are capable of meeting, and then prioritize these agencies and needs. Discuss planning with your Section Emergency Coordinator and with counterparts in each of the agencies. Ensure they are all aware of your ARES group’s capabilities and, perhaps more importantly, your limitations
  • Develop detailed local operational plans with served agencies and partners in the jurisdiction, setting forth precisely what each of your expectations are during a disaster operation. Work jointly to establish protocols for mutual trust and respect
  • All matters involving recruitment and utilization of ARES volunteers are directed by the EC in response to the needs assessed by the agency officials. Technical issues involving message format, security of message transmission, Disaster Welfare Inquiry policies, and others should be reviewed and expounded upon in detailed local operations plans
  • Establish local communications networks that run on a regular basis and periodically test those networks by conducting realistic drills
  • Establish an emergency traffic plan, with Welfare traffic, utilizing the National Traffic System as one active component for traffic handling. Establish an operational liaison with local and section nets, particularly for handling Welfare traffic in an emergency situation
  • In times of disaster, evaluate the communications needs of the jurisdiction and respond quickly to those needs. The EC will assume authority and responsibility for coordinating emergency response and performance by ARES personnel under his or her jurisdiction
  • Work with other non-ARES amateur providers of Amateur Radio emergency communications to establish mutual respect and understanding as well as a coordination mechanism for the good of the public and Amateur Radio.
  • Work to grow the ARES program, making it a stronger, more valuable resource that is able to meet more of the agencies’ local needs
  • ECs are encouraged to complete the ARRL EC-001, Introduction to Emergency Communications training course

The EC can, at their discretion, appoint Assistant Emergency Coordinators (AEC) to cover the areas they need.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at KE8FMJ@gmail.com.

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