Emergency Communications

There are any number of ways to participate in public service: Skywarn, MARS, ARES, RACES, Red Cross, Marathon, SATERN, Hurricane Watch Net. Let's take a look at what they are and what is involved.

SKYWARN: Very important in the Mid-West (tornadoes) and the South (Hurricanes), not so much in the rest of the country. You go to a class and learn how to identify dangerous weather conditions, and how to report it to the National Weather Service on 2 meter FM. You take a test, pass it, and receive a Skywarn ID and your number. Then you wait until the Skywarn Net is activated. This is weather SPOTTING, not CHASING.

MARS: Military Auxiliary Radio System. There are two branches extant, that being Army and Air Force MARS. Among the most important functions of MARS is to provide Department of Defense-sponsored contingency communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to existing [Army] communications; auxiliary communications for the Department of Defense, Federal, National Guard, civil authorities, and local agencies as directed or requested; assist in effecting normal communications under emergency conditions as directed or requested; improve high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) radio operating techniques and technology through training, experimentation, and testing; and have volunteer personnel trained in military radio communications, techniques, and procedures.

ARES: Amateur Radio Emergency Service. Amateur radio licensees who have registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in public service in disaster situations. This is a private, voluntary registry. Then again, the mere possession of an Amateur radio license automatically enrolls you in that cadre of radio operators who can operate ad-hoc.  ARES, IMHO, is an entity that only duplicates what exists in fact save for the equipment list to the ARRL.

RACES: Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. When the President of the United States (or his successor) issues Emergency War Orders, RACES stations and operators are the only civilian Amateur operators (outside of MARS stations) that will be able to transmit. If that ever happens and the bombs start to fall, I don't think there will be anyone left to enforce 47 CFR 97.407 anyway.

RED CROSS: They've gotten rid of their communication trucks and apparently centralized their HF licenses. The Minneapolis Red Cross has K0ARC though it is dormant. I was considering volunteering for the Red Cross - too much bureaucracy. I canned the idea.

MARATHONS: Volunteers with HTs. Anyone can be trained to do that, and I'm skeptical about volunteering to transmit medical information by voice or data. Vicarious liability and all that. And I'm not about to buy $2000 worth of D-STAR or C4FM. No thanks.

SATERN: Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network. I can best describe this as a Christian Red Cross, only with a better reputation than the original. SATERN is "dedicated to assisting the Salvation Army during times of Emergency...[to] provide all possible forms of communication when normal communications are impossible...". Believers in the Rabbi and carpenter from Samaria, have at it.

HURRICANE WATCH NET: Skywarn for the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Like Tornadoes, except...bigger in diameter. And very destructive. Not very applicable to Minnesota.