FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT RAC ARES AND NTS
Q - I would like to form an ARES emergency radio group. What do I need to get started?
A - Contact the Section Manager for your RAC Section information. You could start the ball rolling by completing the Proposed New ARES Unit form and sending it to the SM. The SMs are shown in The Canadian Amateur Magazine listing, and elsewhere on this web site. Once he/she is satisfied that you have the ability to properly recruit, organize and manage the group, he/she, or the Section Emergency Coordinator, will appoint you as an Emergency Coordinator (EC). You will then have access to the ARES training and reference material to get the job done right.
Q - Must all the radio amateurs in my emergency radio group be members of RAC?
A - We encourage all to join RAC so they can benefit from the monthly Public Service and Section News columns, as well as the other TCA features. However there is no requirement that they be RAC members and TCA is now available for subscription without membership, although the cost is the same. ARES ECs are leadership appointees in the RAC Field Organization and it is reasonable that they must be RAC members.
Q - What training and reference material will ARES provide?
A - When you are appointed you will be directed to three major publications for download:
a) The RAC ARES Instructor's Training Manual can be downloaded from this web site whenever you are ready for it. It is available in Adobe acrobat (pdf) format and may be read and printed with Adobe Acrobat Reader
b) The RAC Emergency Coordinator's Manual is a comprehensive reference guide covering all aspects of setting up and managing an emergency communications group. If you are already set up, it makes a good checklist.
Q - What does ARES expect of an ARES Emergency Coordinator?
A - You are expected to properly recruit, organize and manage your group. The only other requirement is to submit a brief monthly report on a form which is provided when you are appointed. The information you provide on your progress in getting your group going, the courses you run, the meetings you conduct and the exercises and public service events you help on, is used to prepare the monthly Section News in TCA. That's it. ARES is here to help you, not to burden you.
Q - Do I need to wait until my organization is complete, before I ask for an EC appointment?
A - No, that is doing things backwards. Contact your RAC Section Manager, (addresses and numbers on this web site) when you are ready to start so that you can take advantage of the ARES publications and other resources while you are getting underway. Or ask your amateur radio club to "sponsor" your ARES group. That has two benefits - it assures some backing for you, and you will have a ready source of volunteer help.
Q - We already have an amateur radio emergency group. What advantage would we gain from joining ARES?
A - Your group doesn't "join ARES". The group leader is appointed as an Emergency Coordinator (EC) in the ARES organization by the RAC Section Manager or SEC. This appointment does not directly affect the others in the group. It does provide the EC with reference material and assistance on how to set up and manage the group. You can also download the RAC ARES Instructor's Manual , which will help you to do your ongoing training.
Q - What resources can ARES provide that our non-ARES emergency radio group doesn't already have?
A - Most amateur radio emergency groups are organized around the use of VHF FM mobile and battery-powered handheld radios for maximum flexibility in providing local communications. Some even have portable repeaters. What ARES adds, is the National Traffic System (NTS) resources to get your traffic out of the local area. Also, if the emergency becomes one of longer duration, you will be able to draw support from neighbouring ARES groups which have similar training and procedures.
Q - Why do we need NTS ? Can't we feed our emergency-related traffic over any amateur radio net?
A - Yes you can. But the NTS net structure ensures a high level of quality and reliability in message handling. NTS operators are very experienced and proficient as they get daily practice in the formal handling of message traffic. This includes simulated emergency traffic. Furthermore, the NTS is active across Canada and the USA. You can expect your traffic to get through to the destination across the province or across the continent. You can also expect answers back by the same route and with the same reliability. You don't have that assurance when you simply feed your traffic to any well-meaning radio amateur. Even if your immediate contact is proficient, there are plenty of opportunities for Murphy's Law to strike. With NTS you can expect high skill and dedication from the NTS operator, at each step along the way to destination and back.
Q - Who do I contact within the NTS structure to take our outgoing traffic in our next exercise?
A - Setting you up for outgoing traffic is part of the appointment process. Those procedures are established up front, before they are needed. That way, you will not have to improvise when disaster strikes. If you are already set up as an ARES EC, don't forget to advise your Section Manager of your up-coming exercises. During your exercises, generate some simulated emergency messages through your own local ARES group operators and request a reply to each message, so that the ARES and NTS systems gets "exercised" end-to-end.
Q - Will RAC ARES take over if we have a real emergency?
A - No. You will be expected to carry on your responsibilities as Emergency Coordinator. However, if you need assistance, the RAC Field Organization is there to draw on. You decide what help you need. If you have Assistant ECs, make sure that they have the names and numbers of RAC ARES people to call upon, in the event you should be unable to fulfill your duties due to injury or illness.
Q - My local municipality insists that their military-style message forms be used for their message traffic. The ARES message form is the Radiogram. What can I do?
A - Many Canadian ARES groups use the local message form for all local traffic. When they are sending a message outside the local area they use the Radiogram form. There are perhaps dozens of variations on the military-style message form. It is probable that the addressee is using a different message form variant from the sender. The radiogram is a neutral document which contains all the same information - just a different layout. However it does support the standard message sequence that is used throughout North America by the National Traffic System.
Q - I've heard that I must have Basic, Advanced and 5 WPM to become an ARES Emergency Coordinator.
A - You must have an amateur radio certificate with Basic qualification for your EC appointment. If your group confines itself to VHF that is all you will need. Of course, RAC expects that you will always operate within your certificate qualifications, so if you are using HF equipment, then you must have the additional qualifications. One of the major benefits of ARES affiliation is that the National Traffic System operators will take your traffic out of your local area, relieving you of the complication of elaborate and expensive HF equipment and antenna systems, and the obligation of having to recruit only radio amateurs with HF qualifications.
Q - I am interested in volunteering as an amateur radio operator with my local emergency radio group. Who should I contact?
A - Your local Emergency Coordinator is probably looking for volunteers. Check the listings on this web site for the telephone number of your local EC. Or contact your Section Manager. If there isn't a local group, and you think you have the "right stuff" to set up and manage a group, consider talking to your Section Manager about setting one up.
Q - In addition to my amateur radio certificate, I also have a Radiotelephone Restricted Certificate. Is that useful?
A - Make sure that your Emergency Coordinator knows that you have that credential. It doesn't help in amateur radio operation, but you might serve as a backup operator on non-amateur frequencies to support the other radio systems, if they are short of staff in a real emergency. Whether your services might be used depends on what equipment they are using, and if an extra operator is ever needed.
Q - I don't have any emergency radio equipment. Can I still volunteer?
A - Contact your local Emergency Coordinator. There are a number of jobs to do, including operating amateur radio sets that are already in place at your Emergency Operations Centre.
Q - I am still studying for my amateur radio certificate with Basic Qualification . Can I help?
A - Contact your Emergency Coordinator. There are many support jobs. Also you may have the opportunity to operate under the supervision of a properly qualified radio amateur. This is a fine chance for operating practice.
Q - How can my ARES group and/or amateur radio club gain protection from liability while we are doing emergency exercises or supporting public service events?
A - Your Emergency Coordinator should ascertain exactly what coverage you receive from the municipality you are working with. You may receive coverage under Worker's Compensation as though you were part time employees. Even if that is the case, it is prudent to investigate supplementing that coverage with a RAC affiliated club insurance policy. Contact RAC headquarters for an affiliation number and an information package, and then contact:
Mr Peter or John Vogelzang
c/o The Insurance Centre, Inc
295 Queen St
Kingston, ON K7K 1B7