Auxiliary Communications Services

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The Auxiliary Communication Services (ACS) for the City of Palo Alto supplements emergency communications with volunteer staff. Both licensed and unlicensed can serve in one or more functions across administrative, management, technical, or operational areas in the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES). If you live or work in Palo Alto and are a communications professional, amateur radio operator, or are interested in learning about radio communications, we welcome your involvement.

As volunteers, hams can: 

  • Supplement communications at their local neighborhood command post.
  • Support communications efforts in the City's emergency operations center or our ESV operations center.
  • Assist the operations of our logistic trailers located at our fire stations.  
  • Serve as mobile communications resources or at fixed locations depending on the needs of the city.  

Contact us if you would like to join or to learn more about this program -  

Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES)

ARES is a part of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). The ARRL deals with all aspects of amateur radio, also known as ham radio, including legislation, licensing, and contests. The ARES branch handles communications during emergencies such as search-and-rescue operations, aiding a ship in distress, providing communications services to a Red Cross shelter, and similar incidents.

ARES volunteers in Palo Alto participate in planned events such as festivals, parades, bike rides, fire watch operations, and more.

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES)

RACES is the communications branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When a government entity requests amateur radio assistance, the response is processed through RACES and usually involves a disaster or other wide-reaching emergency. RACES operators are covered with the California Disaster Services Workers insurance.

How To Become An Amateur Radio Operator

Operation of an amateur station requires an amateur operator license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Before receiving a license, you must determine your operator class and pass an examination administered by a team of volunteer examiners. 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. The Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations, and operating practices. The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz allowing communication locally and often also within North America. It allows for some limited privileges, too, on the HF (also called "short wave") bands used for international communications.

Learn about hams and how to become a licensed ham operator. You can also get your ham license in one day when you attend a local ham cram.

Practice & Learning Opportunities

Palo Alto CERT Net

The purpose of this net is to practice communicating within and between neighborhoods in Palo Alto. This net is organized into six districts, D1 through D6. Every Monday night from 7:15 pm to 7:30 pm, the net runs with separate net control operators and frequencies for each CERT district. The CERT district numbers match the Palo Alto Fire Department station numbers. Join the net closest to you. From 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm, there is a single net for Palo Alto on the main tactical frequency. See the below Palo Alto Frequencies chart for all frequencies.


The Southern Peninsula Emergency Communications System (SPECS) Net meets by radio every Monday night at 7:00 pm 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 7:30 pm on the Palo Alto simplex frequency for early check-ins prior to the main net at 8:00 pm, 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 in to the nets. Visit SPECS for details.

PAARA: 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. Visit for details.

Palo Alto Frequencies

TX and RX on each frequency is the same.

147.540 MHz Main simplex freq for tactical and resource nets Use 100 Hz PL
147.480 MHz Alternate to main freq
446.000 MHz CERT D1 for intra-city communications Can use as alt to 2m freqs
445.250 MHz CERT D2 for intra-city communications
Can use as alt to 2m freqs
445.350 MHz CERT D3 for intra-city communications Can use as alt to 2m freqs
446.400 MHz CERT D4 for intra-city communications Can use as alt to 2m freqs
445.550 MHz CERT D5 for intra-city communications
Can use as alt to 2m freqs
445.650 MHz CERT D6 for intra-city communications Can use as alt to 2m freqs
446.200 MHz Alternate for D2 Can use as alt to 2m freqs
446.300 MHz Alternate for D3 Can use as alt to 2m freqs
446.500 MHz Alternate for D5 Can use as alt to 2m freqs
446.600 MHz Alternate for D6 Can use as alt to 2m freqs

Printer-Friendly Frequencies List(PDF, 9KB)

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