(Including ARES/RACES, Amateur Radio Emergency Services / Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services)
The Office of Emergency Services administers the auxiliary communications services for the City of Palo Alto. Auxiliary Communications includes ARES and RACES. If you live or work in Palo Alto and you are a communications professional, amateur radio operator, or simply interested in radio communications we would welcome your involvement. For more information contact the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services at 650-617-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auxiliary Communications Services (ACS)
The Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) is a program of the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services to supplement its emergency communications with volunteer staff. Skilled and dedicated people, licensed and unlicensed, can serve in one or more of four categories: administrative, management, technical, and operations. In California, ACS was expanded from the original RACES program, incorporating civilians who were not amateur radio operators in emergency communications response. California State ACS serves as an educational and training forum to assist all those interested in emergency communications, to serve State government in time of need. The ACS provides tactical, logistical and administrative support and communications for directed government communications systems. This includes operations on equipment and frequencies of any authorized equipment or frequencies in support of any need by government that might be in any way connected with an eventual emergency.
Amateur Radio Emergency Services
Amateur Radio Emergency Services, or ARES, is an arm of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). The League deals with all aspects of amateur radio (also known as ham radio), including legislation, licensing, and contests; the ARES branch specifically handles communications, particularly during emergencies. When you hear in the news that amateur radio operators were part of a search and rescue operation, assisted in getting aid to a ship in trouble at sea, or provided communications for a Red Cross shelter, you're hearing about an ARES function.
ARES volunteers also offer a splendid community service by providing free administrative and support communications at planned events, such as festivals, parades, and bike rides. In addition to helping the community through such service, experienced and inexperienced operators alike can use such events to refresh and polish their emergency-response skills. ARES operators provide their own insurance.
You become an ARES amateur radio operator by joining ARRL, but a "ham" does not need to be a member of ARRL to participate in ARES.
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES)
RACES is the communications branch of the Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA). When a governmental entity (that is, a representative of the City, County, State, or Federal government) requests amateur radio assistance, the response is through RACES. This is because governmental activation alters several aspects of disaster-response funding, including insurance coverage. Governmental requests usually involve a disaster or other wide-reaching emergency. When you hear in the news that amateur radio operator are assisting officials within an officially declared disaster zone, such as in the aftermath of a hurricane, earthquake, flood, you're hearing about a RACES function. RACES operators are covered in California by Disaster Service Worker (DSW) insurance. This is a form of Worker's Compensation. You become a RACES amateur radio operator by signing up as a DSW (Disaster Services Worker) and registering with your local ARES/RACES organization.
Practice and Learning Opportunities
Palo Alto CERT Net – The PA CERT Net “meets” every Monday night at 1915 hours by radio on one of several VHF frequencies (see table below) to practice communicating within and between neighborhoods. For convenience this net is organized into six groups or districts. The first portion of the net runs from 7:15 to 7:30 with separate net control operators and frequencies for each CERT district. The district numbers match the Palo Alto Fire Dept. station numbers. Join the net for the fire station closest to you. If you have trouble getting started here, contact the OES staff at email@example.com or at 650-617-3197. From 7:30 to 8:00, there is a single net for Palo Alto on the primary tactical frequency.
SPECS Net – The Southern Peninsula Emergency Communications System (SPECS) Net meets by radio every Monday night at 1900 hours on 145.270 MHz, negative offset, 100 Hz PL tone (W6ASH repeater), to provide a forum for announcements and to collect data from local city nets. The purpose of the net is to train and maintain a crew of Amateur Radio Operators who are ready to furnish communication services in a time of need. This is done by providing announcements pertaining to amateur radio and emergency preparedness. The Palo Alto and North section of the SPECS net meets at 1930 on the Palo Alto simplex frequency (see below) for early check-ins prior to the main net at 2000 hours and following the main net for additional check-ins. There is also time for brief training sessions and announcements of special interest to Palo Alto hams. Visitors are always welcome to check into the nets. See specsnet.org for details.
Palo Alto Amateur Radio Association (PAARA) - runs a weekly Net and Swap session at 8:30 pm every Monday evening on the N6NFI repeater (145.230, – offset, 100Hz PL)
How to become an Amateur Radio Operator
Operation of an amateur station requires an amateur operator license grant from the FCC. Before receiving a license grant, you must pass an examination administered by a team of volunteer examiners (VEs) to determine your operator class. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US there are three license classes—Technician, General and Extra. The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new ham radio operators. To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices (and Morse code is no longer required). The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz, allowing these licensees the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America. It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called "short wave") bands used for international communications. (http://www.arrl.org/getting-your-technician-license).
The Bay Area Emergency Amateur Radio Society offers a one day Ham Cram, usually quarterly, somewhere in the Bay Area. Future classes are announced here.
How to Get Started To join our ranks, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 650-617-3197. We’ll ask you to enroll in the Palo Alto Emergency Services Volunteer (ESV) program by filling out our application form. We’ll also get you in touch with our local organizational volunteer leaders who will assist you in finding resources that will improve your communication skills. The Santa Clara County ARES/RACES site is a great place to find such resources; we’ll explain where and how to start this process.