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
- 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
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.
c) The ARRL Public
Service Communications Manual is another reference manual covering ARES
- Q - What does ARES expect of an ARES Emergency
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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