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Amateur radio emergency communications

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Title: Amateur radio emergency communications  
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Subject: Amateur radio, Radio Amateurs Emergency Network, DX-pedition, Amateur radio in India, International Amateur Radio Union
Collection: Amateur Radio Emergency Communications, Emergency Communication
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Amateur radio emergency communications

Solar-powered Amateur Radio Station in tents. Note the portable VHF/UHF satellite and HF antennas in the background
Rugged HF transceiver for voice communications

In times of crisis and natural disasters, amateur radio is often used as a means of emergency communication when wireline, cell phones and other conventional means of communications fail.

Unlike commercial systems, Amateur radio is usually independent of terrestrial facilities that can fail. It is dispersed throughout a community without "choke points" such as cellular telephone sites that can be overloaded.

Amateur radio operators are experienced in improvising antennas and power sources and most equipment today can be powered by an automobile battery. Annual "Field Days" are held in many countries to practice these emergency improvisational skills. Amateur radio operators can use hundreds of frequencies and can quickly establish networks tying disparate agencies together to enhance interoperability.

Recent examples include the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan in 2001, the 2003 North America blackout and Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, where amateur radio was used to coordinate disaster relief activities when other systems failed.

On September 2, 2004, ham radio was used to inform weather forecasters with information on Hurricane Frances live from the Bahamas. On December 26, 2004, an earthquake and resulting tsunami across the Indian Ocean wiped out all communications with the Andaman Islands, except for a DX-pedition that provided a means to coordinate relief efforts. Recently, Amateur Radio operators in the People's Republic of China provided emergency communications after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and U.S. hams did similar work following Hurricane Ike. They were there on the Boston Marathon bombing when the cellphone systems were instantly overloaded.

The largest disaster response by U.S. amateur radio operators was during Hurricane Katrina which first made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane went through Miami, Florida on August 25, 2005, eventually strengthening to Category 5. More than a thousand ham operators from all over the U.S. converged on the Gulf Coast in an effort to provide emergency communications assistance. Subsequent Congressional hearings highlighted the Amateur Radio response as one of the few examples of what went right in the disaster relief effort.[1]


  • Organization 1
    • International 1.1
    • Australia 1.2
    • Canada 1.3
    • Chile 1.4
    • Republic of Ireland 1.5
    • The Netherlands 1.6
    • New Zealand 1.7
    • Trinidad and Tobago 1.8
    • United Kingdom 1.9
    • United States of America 1.10
    • Spain 1.11
    • Russia 1.12
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


While all hams have some emergency communications capability, those who are particularly interested in the public service aspects of the hobby usually affiliate with an organized group for disaster specific training, quick mobilization and to practice emergency skills. These major organizations include:


The Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference (GAREC) is held in a new location yearly by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), hosting discussion and coordination of large-scale and cross-border amateur radio emergency response.


In Australia, WICEN operates in each state & territory as an autonomous body under the relevant disaster plan.


In Canada, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is sponsored by the Radio Amateurs of Canada. Often other less formal networks of volunteer radio operators are also used and organized by the local emergency response agencies in conjunction with local ham radio operators. As in the United States, Radio Amateurs of Canada has memoranda of understanding with numerous agencies expected to receive services[2], including the Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army.


In Chile, Servicio de Emergencia de Radioaficionados (CE3SER) is sponsored by Radio Club de Chile (CE3AA, and associated Clubs along the country and maintain active Agreements of Cooperation with the National Emergency Office (ONEMI), Air Force, Army and the Navy branch in charge of the maritime territory. It operates daily the national emergency network (Red Chilena NorAustral de Servicios, RECNA) in HF, and locally in VHF-UHF. These exercises are performed on 80, 40, 20, 15 meters, as also locally in the main cities on VHF and UHF. The Nets are open to all Chilean amateurs, members or not of RCCH, as also to international amateurs. Raioamateurs involvement and cooperation in earthquakes and other national emergencies has been acknowledged and thanked by the President of the Republic publicly several times during the last years. RadioClub de Chile has cooperated with Nicaragua and other countries amateurs in the organization and operation of Hamradio Emergency Communications.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland (26 counties), the Amateur Radio Emergency Network (AREN), co-ordinates emergency communications activities on behalf of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS). AREN membership is, however, open to all amateur radio operators whether members of IRTS or not.

The Netherlands

The Dutch Amateur Radio Emergency Service (DARES) was founded in 2003 as a result of the World Radio Conference 2003, where it was decided that licensed Dutch radio amateurs were allowed to offer their services to third parties when there is an emergency. DARES is recognized by the State Department of The Netherlands and supported by the two largest national radio amateur organisations: VERON and VRZA.

DARES consists of a group of radio amateurs and shortwave listeners who offer their knowledge and radio equipment during a disaster or major incident. The organisation is built upon the 25 safety regions defined by Dutch authorities.

DARES has been represented at the Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference (GAREC) since 2005.

New Zealand

In New Zealand the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters provides the AREC - Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (formerly Amateur Radio Emergency Corps) in the role. They won the New Zealand National Search and Rescue award in 2001 for their long commitment to Search and Rescue in NZ.

Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobago, The Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio Society (T.T.A.R.S), the officially recognized body for amateur radio in Trinidad and Tobago, manages the emergency communications arm of the group often referred to as EmComms. EmComms have, in the past, not only been active in Trinidad and Tobago, but throughout the Caribbean. The Office of Disaster Preparedness Management (ODPM) is actively involved in amateur radio and maintains an active amateur radio station and five repeaters.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom North Sea flood of 1953.

United States of America

In the Emergency Operations Centers, Red Cross Chapters and National Weather Service facilities have permanent Amateur Radio stations installed for such operations.

Radio clubs independent of the ARRL and ARES also participate in emergency communications activities in some areas, and some non-radio organizations have their own amateur arm. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network program.

Emergency communications and disaster assistance is usually done in conjunction with volunteer disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local government emergency management agencies, as well as volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps.


  • ARRL Backgrounder: Amateur Radio Emergency Communication
  • Navy-Marine Corp MARS with links to Air Force and Army programs
  • IARU-R1 Emcom [2]

External links

  1. ^ "ARRL COO Testifies on Capitol Hill to Amateur Radio's Value in Disasters". ARRLWeb. American Radio Relay League, Inc. 3 Oct 2005. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  2. ^ §97.407 Radio amateur civil emergency service
  3. ^ ARRL: Understanding our Memoranda of Understanding
  4. ^ ARRL: Continuing Education Course Catalog


See also

The volunteer organization called RAS formed in 1988, and at the end of 2012, the Union of Russian Radio amateurs established a committee dedicated to emergency communications and even entered into an agreement with MChS, Emergency Situations Ministry.


In Spain, REMER (Red Radio de Emergencia, Emergency Radio Network) is a national HF/VHF network formed by volunteer ham radio operators, and it is co-ordinated by the local Civil defense groups, which are dependent from the local government authority. It was founded on 1982.



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