Cherokee County, Georgia
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Recent Monday Evening ARES NET Reference Information

3/31/2014 - ARES Participation Requirements
To be an ARES member, there is no formal training required. All you need is an Amateur Operators License, a willingness to serve your community in times of need as a radio communicator, and the ability to execute the responsibilities of ARES membership in a calm and professional manner. We are not storm chasers, and we never self-deploy to an emergency and begin asking, "How can I help?" We sit tight and we do only what we are called upon to do by the Emergency Manager of Cherokee County. Most importantly, we only do what we feel safe doing. In an extreme emergency, your family comes first - see to their needs before volunteering to do anything ARES related.

Once you've signed up for ARES there are a multitude ways you can serve. We tend to divide ARES service into three categories: "in place", deployable, and leadership.

Many of our members prefer to remain in place in their homes, and report local severe weather and damage to the Emergency Operations Center via the weather nets. It's a very important part of what we do, and it requires no formal training. However, your observations will be more helpful if you've completed the Cherokee County ARES course located on our web page, and have completed the basic Skywarn class offered by the National Weather Service.

The next level of ARES participation involves deployment to shelters or other key sites in the county during an emergency. This often requires that you be able to pack up your gear and use it at a remote site, often without the benefit of commercial power sources. For this level of ARES participation, it is important that you complete the basic NIMS courses offered online by FEMA (ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800) as well as the Cherokee ARES course on our website. The training is essential for those who will be deployed so you understand how various agencies will be interacting with one another and how the Incident Command System works. It is especially important that we present ourselves in a professional and knowledgeable manner when working with our served agencies, and to know what to expect during a disaster response event.

Finally, you can participate at a leadership level. ARES leaders serve as the EC, the AECs, and as the rapid response team to the EOC. For this level of service, all of the above training is required along with any supplemental training required in order to have access to the Emergency Operations Center. As an operator or leader invited to staff one the ARES positions at the EOC, you must also be proficient in all modes we use to communicate in times of emergency. That includes HF SSB, FlDigi, Winlink, Winmor, and VHF/UHF Phone.

To summarize:
New operators to ARES are encouraged to learn and gain experience by shadowing and supporting deployable operators and observing how they work in various assignments to support the mission.

A DEPLOYABLE operator is experienced, trained in the essentials of serving our agencies, competent, and fully prepared to deploy to a location requiring communications support.

LEADERS are fully trained, equipped, and experienced to serve at the EOC or as Net Control Operators to help manage the various aspects of our response to planned or emergency communications missions.

3/31/2014 - ARES Recommended Equipment
What equipment do you need in order to participate in ARES? These days we are all quite lucky in that we have easy access to inexpensive hand-held radios. These are great for a ham that is just getting started. If you add an inexpensive magnetic mount and a decent mobile antenna, these radios can function well as both mobile stations and home stations.

However, because they have very limited power, these radios really can't be relied on as your sole source of communication. As we saw with the tornado outbreak in Alabama a couple of years ago, one of the first things to go are the towers that support repeater operation. Power outages are also a real possibility, and while our repeaters all have battery backups, this power source is very limited. If you rely on an HT, once the repeaters fall silent, so will you. A 5-watt hand-held radio just doesn't have the "oomph" to serve you during simplex operations.

Now at the other end of the spectrum is the big-buck "GO box". Most of you have seen these awesome boxes that several of our members have built. They cram equipment for every usable mode into one compact, easy-to-grab container. Do you want one of these boxes? Certainly - the operator with the most toys wins! But is an expensive GOBOX with all the gear essential to serve our county agencies? Nice to have, but not essential - especially if you're a relatively new ham.

For all levels of ARES, whether you're participating from home on a weather net or out in the field, we recommend you obtain the following. Obviously the better equipped you are, the more options you have to serve in more locations and on more modes. However, to start with, consider acquiring the following equipment:

1. A VHF/UHF mobile rig that can put out 35-50 watts
2. An adequate length of low-loss coax cable, such as LMR-400
3. A good quality, high gain dual band antenna
4. An emergency power source, such as a battery (which you already have in your car) or a generator
5. If you volunteer to be deployed, some container to safely transport and protect your equipment

All total, you can expect this to come to about $400 for a basic set up. That ain't cheap, but with a little judicious saving, visits to a few Hamfest Boneyards, and some on line bargain shopping on QRZ, it can be done by most folks.

So, that's the minimum that we recommend. But back to the main question: what equipment is actually required? The answer, stunningly, is "none". You don't even need to own a radio in order to become a member of our ARES group. You can join us and start learning right away and we'll find something for you to do, even if it's in a supporting position.

However, to be deployed and able to support the needs of our served agencies, you will need to have a minimum level of equipment, training, and experience to effectively communicate. To work in more advanced positions such as a Net Control Operator you need experience, practice, and understanding of both net operations and how to operate the equipment. That typically comes from owning and operating your own radio equipment. It also comes from actively participating as a net control operator on our weekly nets. You need to develop a sound understanding of disaster operations, and this comes from completion of the required and recommended training, and with participation in our training meetings, special events, simulated emergency tests, and deployment exercises. The more tools and experience you have in your toolkit, both in training and in equipment, the wider range of options you will have in order to serve.