Posts Tagged ‘ARES’

ARES® & Incorporation: ARRL’s Policy

Just Google “County ARES, Inc.” (click here) and you’ll see that there are lots of ARES® groups out there who have incorporated. It sure seems like a great idea because it allows you to file for 501(c)3 status, opening doors for donations of cash and equipment, free website hosting for non-profits, and grants that require 501(c)3 status.

But to do this correctly we must ensure compliance with ARRL policy — ARES® is ARRL’s program, not ours! We’re not free to just do whatever we feel like. Here are the two challenges we’re facing:

  1. The ARRL insists that local ARES® groups not incorporate
  2. “ARES®” is a registered trademark of the ARRL that cannot legally be used in the name of another corporation without the ARRL’s permission

According to this document (click here) on the ARRL website:

ARES® and Amateur Radio Emergency Service® are registered trademarks of the ARRL. Any use of these trademarks must have the registered trademark notation (circle R®)

ARES® is a program of the ARRL. Local ARES® groups under the direction of the ARRL field organization or its appointees (SEC, DEC, EC) cannot be organized as a club or incorporated as this will conflict with the ARES® program. [emphasis added]

I emailed the ARRL asking how we should go about incorporating an entity for 501(c)3 status to support the ARES® group here. ARRL Membership and Volunteer Programs Assistant Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, kindly replied. Here is an excerpt from his helpful response:

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service – ARES is a program of the ARRL. ARES is not an entity. The ARES brand is trademarked by the ARRL and may be used with permission from the ARRL.

The job of Emergency Coordinator is a political position in which the EC promotes the ARES program and supports training among the local Radio Amateurs in the community. This is done mostly through the local clubs.

The Emergency Coordinator’s job does not involve fund raising or corporate management. Equipment such as repeaters, generators, etc are supplied by the local Amateur Radio community and clubs. ARES supplies training and coordination. Note the job title Emergency coordinator not manager.

Forming a club or corporation is not only beyond the duties of the EC but also conflicts with the basic ARES requirement.

  • The only requirement to belong to ARES is an Amateur Radio License and a desire to serve.
  • There is no requirement to join any club or organization.
  • There are no dues to participate in ARES.

So I’m not out in left field for wanting some kind of entity to support the local ARES® group — the ARRL clearly depends on local clubs to supply equipment for ARES® work. As far as the EC not getting involved in fund raising, well, I obviously need to wear more than one hat at this stage of the game. There are only a dozen or so hams in the whole county at this point.

The nearest club is pretty far away, so it makes sense to form a new “club” to serve this purpose. The ARRL wants the club to be distinct from the local ARES® group; okay, we can do that. We’ll just clearly state the purpose of our “club” is to support the local ARES® group. You can find a good example of this wording over at the Wisconsin ARES/RACES “501(c)3 Links and Information” Page (click here).

As Mr. Fusaro pointed out, membership in this “club” must never be a prerequisite to participation in the local ARES® group.

I think the name of this “club” should clearly reflect it’s purpose. If the local hardware store has a generator to donate, surely the idea of donating it to the “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Emergency Service®” would be more appealing than donating it to the “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Club.” But my brother, an attorney, has explained to me that since “ARES®” and “Amateur Radio Emergency Service®” are registered trademarks of the ARRL, they cannot legally be used in an entity’s name without permission from the ARRL.

I’m assuming we don’t have permission to use “ARES®” in our “club” name, but I’ve asked for clarification on this. If not, we could always name it something similar, e.g. “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Emergency Corps/Support/Operators Association, Inc.” or something like that.

I don’t want this post to turn into an ARRL-bashing session, but if some of you readers have some helpful insight and/or experience with ARES®-related incorporation, I’d love to hear it.

Please Consider Donating to Get YMC ARES® Started

Would you please help launch the Yellow Medicine County, MN Amateur Radio Emergency Services® Group? Even just a few bucks from each of my readers over at (where this blog is syndicated) would be a tremendous help. I just accepted the position of Emergency Coordinator here, and I’m really starting from scratch. There are only a few active hams in our county right now (I’ll be trying to recruit more, believe me), and we’re strapped for cash. Even with sacrificial spending on our part we’re going to have trouble scraping together the approximately $500 needed to get incorporated and apply for 501(c)3 status. This status will:

  • make future donations tax-deductible (helpful when trying to raise money)
  • allow ARES® volunteers to deduct mileage and other expenses (helpful when trying to recruit and retain new members)
  • make us eligible for grants that are otherwise unattainable

If you would like to donate, just click the button below. I’m using my wife’s PayPal account for now (once we’re incorporated, YMC ARES® will have its own account), but your donation will be tracked and every penny will go toward the YMC ARES® Group. If we reach $500, I’ll post an update right away and take down the appeal for donations in the sidebar of my blog.

Donate to YMC ARES®!

Thank you so much for considering this!

Olivia — the Magic Mode

I have to give credit to Gary L. Robinson, WB8ROL, for the title of this post. I met him on the air tonight using Olivia 500/16, and pretty soon I was reading his article about this mode . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Olivia 500/16. Image obtained from

My introduction to Olivia took place yesterday afternoon at a meeting in a little coffee-shop in Marshall between the MN ARES® ASEC, Section 5 DEC, Lyon Co. EC, and myself (at which I accepted the position of Yellow Medicine Co. EC, but that’s another story). They explained that FLDIGI is the software they are training people on, that every Thursday evening at 8:00 P.M. there is a MN ARES® digital net on 80 meters, and that they are using Olivia 500/16 for this net.

Well, my power of recall being what it is, I’d forgotten all about it till I heard the clock chime 8:00 while I was doing the dishes (after dining on my wife’s fabulous slow-cooked chicken). “Honey,” I asked, “would you mind if I left the rest of the dishes to you? I’d like to go check out a net on the radio.” I sure am blessed with a sweet wife — she took over without batting an eye while I dashed downstairs and started hooking up my laptop to the interface while firing up FLDIGI.

Sure enough, there was the net. I “listened” (How do you say it? Read?) for nearly an hour, and finally checked in right as the net was closing.

Well, tonight before going to bed I decided to try it again. This time I went up to 20 meters where I had a nice ragchew with Gary, WB8ROL (my first “real” QSO). We hit it off right away — his career path took him from law enforcement to programming just like mine did, we both have bad backs, and we both like cats and penny-whistles — but what really got my attention was his website: This fellow is a veritable evangelist for this mode! If you haven’t read his QST article about Olivia, click here and enjoy “Ghost QSOs — Olivia Returns from the Noise.”

I can attest to what Gary writes about in that article. As the band began to fade, his signal dropped until I couldn’t hear it at all. All I could hear was static; I assumed I’d lost him. Not only couldn’t I hear him, I couldn’t see anything on the waterfall display. But incredibly, letter after letter appeared on the screen as Gary typed his last message!

Olivia really is “the Magic Mode!”

Neat Find in the QST Archives

When I was a boy my father paid for my membership in the ARRL, but when I got out on my own I let my membership lapse because of the cost. When I finally joined again last year, I mainly did it so I could use the outgoing QSL bureau. Since then, however, I have come to appreciate other benefits of membership. One of those benefits is full access to the QST Archives. They are a treasure-trove!

The other day while doing a little research for some blog posts that are in the hopper, on a whim I searched for “Granite Falls,” the small town where I live. Sure enough, I got a hit — from September, 1969. It’s just one photo and a caption, but it’s an eye-opener. It shows that once upon a time Amateur Radio was used in an emergency here. For sure I’ll be showing this to the Emergency Manager in our county:

September, 1969 issue of QST, p. 66. Copyright © 2012 American Radio Relay League, Inc. – All rights reserved.

Using I looked up the fellow on the right, WAØJRA, and sent him an email inquiring about Amateur Radio here in Granite Falls back in those days. I’m looking forward to his reply.

Have you searched the QST Archives for references to your own city? Try it!

Finished with “Introduction to Emergency Communication!”

Assuming my final assignments are acceptable to my mentor, I’m finally done with my online ARRL course! “Introduction to Emergency Communication (EC-001)” began on February 29, and it officially ends next Friday, April 27. I wrapped it up tonight since next week is going to be pretty full.

When I signed up for this course I had no idea I would learn so much. I highly recommend it to every ham, no matter how long you’ve had your license. The text really is well done, the assignments are far from busy-work (they took me places I’d never gone before, and probably wouldn’t have gone had I just read the book), and if all the mentors are like the mentor I had (Sena Frank, NI1Y), you’ll receive sound advice and have a great time.

Now I’d like to take the next course in the sequence! “Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs (EC-016)” is free, I see. But I’ll probably take a week or two off before taking that on. You can learn more about these online courses at

I’ll end this post with the syllabus of the course I just completed, so you can see what is covered:

Course Syllabus for Introduction to Emergency Communication (EC-001)
Section 1: The Framework: How You Fit In

1. Introduction to Emergency Communications
2. Amateurs as Professionals
3. Network Theory and Design
4. Emergency Communications Organizations and Systems
5. Served Agency Communications Systems

A. Served Agency Communications Systems
B. Working Directly with the Public

Section 2: The Networks for Messages

6. Basic Communications Skills
7. Net Operations:

A. Basic Net Operations
B. Introduction to Emergency Nets
C. Net Operating Guidelines
D. The FCC Ruling on Drills and Employees

8. The Net Control Station
9. Net Control Station Operator Practices
10. The Net Manager
11. Introduction to the National Traffic System
12. Specialized Net Operations
13. Severe Weather Nets

Section 3: Message Handling

14. Basic Message Handling – part 1
15. More Basic Message Handling – Part 2

Section 4: What Happens When Called

16. The Incident Command System
17. Preparing for Deployment
18. Equipment Choices
19. Emergency Activation
20. Setting Up, Initial Operations and Shutdown

Section 5: Considerations

21. Operations & Logistics
22. Safety & Survival
23. ARES® PIO: The Right Stuff
24. Alternative Communication Methods
25. What to Expect in Large Disasters
26. Hazardous Materials Awareness
27. Marine Communications

Section 6: Alternatives and Opportunities

28. Modes, Methods and Applications
29. Other Learning Opportunities

Final Assessment

The 2012 MNVOAD Training Conference: Lake County RACES/ARES®

This post was updated on 4/2/12 after Mr. Angelos kindly corrected me on several points.

Mr. Peter Angelos, KCØKRI

The 2012 MNVOAD Training Conference was well-worth attending! My favorite part, of course, was the presentation by Peter Angelos, KCØKRI, on the Lake County, MN RACES/ARES® response to the Pagami Creek Fire in September, 2011. His “keystone” speech was the first of the many sessions that day, and the only plenary session (the other 15 sessions were breakouts). While he focused upon RACES/ARES®, he also discussed principles that apply to any voluntary organization.

Here are my notes from Mr. Angelos’ presentation, in the order presented:

  • The Pagami Creek Fire
    • RACES/ARES® fills gaps in existing communication-systems, and reduces load on those systems.
    • A lightning strike on 8/18/11 13 miles east of Ely started a fire that ultimately caused $23M in response expenses in Lake County. On 9/12/11 this became the largest fire in Minnesota since 1918, with 92,682 acres and over 800 workers assigned through 10/17/11. Fires are an annual occurrence in Lake County, the home of the famed BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area); what made this fire unusual was its size.
    • Cell phone coverage is the only phone service available in some parts of the area, and in some parts not even that. An 800 MHz public-safety trunked system using portable antennas was also set up to provide coverage.
    • Many hours of training and dedication go into RACES/ARES® in preparing for an event like this.
    • RACES/ARES® personnel stayed far behind the actual fire line.
    • The Lake County RACES/ARES® group is a “spring chicken,” having been organized in mid-2009.
    • On 9/12/11, RACES/ARES® was activated when the fire suddenly grew from 11,000 to 70,000 acres in only 24 hours due to winds gusting up to 35 mph. This drove the fire 16 miles in one day, toward a populated area. As evacuations increased, RACES/ARES® was activated. (In the Q & A that followed, one person asked how many messages were passed. Mr. Angelos said that only a handful of messages were actually passed. The activation of RACES/ARES® was a proactive attempt to prepare for a catastrophe in case this fire reached populated areas. When it became clear that this was not a threat, RACES/ARES® was deactivated.)
    • As the smoke plume blew as far as Milwaukee, WI and Minneapolis, MN, the potential for health & welfare inquiries increased.
    • A RACES/ARES® communicator was attached to the evacuation shelter manager. Hams were also located at the incident command post, staging area, evacuation checkpoints, and the EOC. The goal was to handle non-emergency traffic to take the load off police, fire, and rescue channels.
    • The log of messages kept by RACES/ARES® is helpful for post-event evaluation.
    • Lake co. RACES/ARES® portable tower, AMCV and MCT deployed at a Canadian National RR mock fuel spill exercise in Two Harbors MN on September 14, 2010. Photo by BJ KDØHHW. (

      The Lake County RACES/ARES® group uses two state-of-the-art vehicles, each outfitted with a PSN (Public Switched Network capable of establishing a cellphone network), as well as 2m/75cm FM/Packet and all HF modes including WinLink, WINMORE, Pactor, and other digital modes. One of these vehicles is a trailer of their own (the “MCT”), while the other is an RV (the “AMCV”) purchased by an 11 county consortium in the northeast Minnesota Arrowhead Region (with help from a grant). This vehicle can provide video conferencing and internet connection via satellite.

    • The repeater network available is huge, extending from Ely, MN to Solon Springs, WI.
    • RACES/ARES® deployed for a total of five days, suspending operations on 9/16/11 after contributing 633 man-hours. The Lake County RACES/ARES® group provided 445 of these hours, with the remainder provided by mutual aid from RACES/ARES® groups in four neighboring counties.
  • The Relationships Necessary for Success
    • The Lake County RACES/ARES® group would never have been invited to participate if it weren’t for the well-established relationships that had been built with Lake County Emergency Management and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
    • Professional conduct and standard ICS documentation-procedures are essential for establishing credibility with served agencies.
    • Served agencies expect to see stuff like this duty roster.
    • None of this could have happened without the “four C’s” (communication, coordination, collaboration, and cooperation), the hallmark of VOAD. They couldn’t invite themselves to drills — they had to participate in non-emergency events like local marathons and sled dog races to demonstrate their capability and build relationships. Only then did they get invited to their first drill.
    • Lake County RACES/ARES® volunteers are required to complete FEMA courses IS-100b, IS-200b and IS-700a.
    • These hams are volunteers with the Lake County Emergency Management Department. They are required to have security background checks, they all have photo ID’s issued by Lake County, and they are even insured by the county.
    • As a result of this relationship-building, the Lake County Emergency Manager got her amateur radio license (KDØHHW) and joined this RACES/ARES® group herself.
    • So much credibility has been established with served agencies that this RACES/ARES® group has been entrusted with the housing and maintenance of the AMCV.
    • Building these relationships is “complicated” but worth it. Their relationships are so good now, Mr. Angelos said, “We even have a Christmas pot-luck dinner together.”

Not only was this presentation of RACES/ARES® center-stage at the conference, but the Bloomington, MN Amateur Radio Association had a great display set up out in the vendor’s area, complete with a couple of Buddipoles and HF/VHF radios. Mr. Wayne Snyder, KCØZJB was kind enough to send me some photographs:

Click to view slideshow.

If you get a chance to attend a VOAD conference like this, I heartily encourage you to do so. Not only did I learn from KCØKRI’s presentation, I also learned quite a bit from several other breakout sessions. It is clear that ARES® work is not conducted in a bubble. To be efficient and effective (much less to even be invited to participate) in an emergency we must develop relationships with the agencies we serve, from governmental entities to other voluntary organizations. The time to do that is not at the time of the emergency itself, but long before. Conferences like this one can be a great way to learn from each other.

SKYWARN Training, and a Word of Advice About Amber Lights

Over the last 30 years I’ve attended quite a few SKYWARN Storm Spotter training sessions, and I’ve always found the time well-spent. When I lived in the Twin Cities, Metro SKYWARN was simply part of being an amateur radio operator — there, SKYWARN is primarily a ham radio operation, and I got involved when I was a teenager. Later as a police officer I attended SKYWARN training in that capacity, but it was obvious that cops and firefighters weren’t nearly as effective as the ham radio operators who formed the well-oiled machine of Metro SKYWARN.

It’s a bit different out here in rural Minnesota. While some parts of rural Minnesota are connected via a hub-and-spoke repeater system to KØMPX — located right in the Chanhassen office of the NWS — such is not yet the case here in Granite Falls. Out here the well-oiled machine of storm spotters is the local fire department. Until we get the local repeater EchoLinked to KØMPX, ham radio operators must rely upon their cell phones to call in storm reports (unless of course they’re firefighters, who have their own radio net).

Todd Krause, KBØSGH, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, giving SKYWARN training in 2008. (Photo obtained from

In any case SKYWARN training does come to our small town, thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr. Todd Krause, KBØSGH, a true gentleman and an excellent teacher. He’s on the road quite a bit in the spring of each year, putting on storm spotter classes all over Minnesota. Our class was two days ago, from 7:00-9:00 P.M., and the room was packed!

If you haven’t attended a SKYWARN class, or if it’s been a while since you have, I encourage you to find a training session near you (click here) and attend. This is the time of the year when these classes are offered, but we’re nearing the end of this year’s schedule — you’ll want to act quickly. In my experience you’ll need to attend this training more than once to really get the hang of it. It’s easy to identify the features of a storm by looking at pictures in the classroom, with the instructor right there to help you, but it’s much more difficult to do so out in the field. This class will help you distinguish between what really matters and what merely looks scary as you look up into the sky. More than once I’ve been with untrained people who freak out because of a scary-looking cloud, e.g. a rapidly rotating shelf cloud, and I’ve been able to calm them down by explaining what’s really happening.

One word of advice — if you do get into SKYWARN spotting, don’t go nuts decking out your car with amber lights and cheesy stickers/decals, okay? Even untrained observers know that stuff is for your ego, not for your storm spotting. They’re not impressed; they’re rolling their eyes. I don’t want to embarrass anybody in particular so I won’t provide any links, but a little Googling will show you how silly some storm spotters can be. I just saw one a few weeks ago with a bunch of amber lights on the rear deck of his car along with SKYWARN stickers and other home-made stickers proclaiming to the world that he is a Very Important Person as an Officially Certified Storm Spotter. Truly cringe-worthy! If you have this stuff, would you mind removing it? Maybe one SKYWARN sticker isn’t such a bad idea, but the other stuff is an embarrassment to the rest of us.

When I was a police officer I had all sorts of insignia and lights on my patrol car, but guess how much of it helped me when storm-spotting (with my 2m HT in my hand)? None of it. Ever. Flashing lights (including amber ones) can snarl traffic and even cause accidents if you use them, whether you’re driving or pulled over. Unless they’re absolutely necessary, they shouldn’t be used at all — and when it comes to storm-spotting, they’re almost never necessary. If you’re going to do your storm spotting from your car, drive the speed limit, obey all traffic laws, find a good vantage point where you can park safely, and you won’t even need the four-way flashers that came with your car.

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