The agreement emphasizes the importance of skilled Amateur Radio Operators in times of crisis and the role of ARES leadership within the emergency communications space.
ARES (see the ARES fact sheet at www.arrl.org/ares) is a network of trained Amateur Radio Service licensees organized across the country to provide communications and other support to served agencies, such as local governments, hospitals, and disaster response charities. More than 20,000 ARES volunteers actively participate in the ARRL program. In 2022, they provided more than 420,000 labor hours of service saving local officials $13.4 million in personnel costs.
Each member of ARES has specialized training in emergency communications. Many have also completed training in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) in order to integrate with local officials during an emergency response.
In March 2023, FEMA released the final version of the NIMS Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Functional Guidance, which includes radio amateurs in the response ecosystem and national emergency preparedness.
“The agreement is representative of the continued commitment and cooperation between FEMA and ARRL,” said ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV. “Serving our country during emergencies is an important service provided by ARES volunteers and a principal purpose of our Amateur Radio Service. Our well-equipped volunteers bring their training, use of innovative technologies, and community partnerships together to serve before and during disasters.”
FEMA announced the new agreement on Twitter stating, “We recently signed a new MOA with @arrl — establishing our partnership with licensed, voluntary amateur radio operators to support response [and] recovery efforts. We’re honored to work side-by-side to meet the needs of millions in the wake of disasters.”
Former FEMA Administrator and ARRL member Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, led the agency when the previous MOA with ARRL was signed in 2014. Fugate said the agreement underscores the importance of ham radio. “By incorporating amateur radio into their emergency plans, FEMA ensures that they have access to a network of trained operators who can establish and maintain communication links when traditional infrastructure fails. This collaboration between FEMA and Amateur Radio Operators allows for more robust and resilient emergency communication capabilities, ultimately contributing to effective disaster response and recovery,” said Fugate.
“The ARRL Board and the Emergency Communications and Field Services Committee are committed to strengthening our resourcefulness to the EmComm (emergency communications) community,” said ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR. “Our partnership with FEMA helps further ARRL’s work to better serve our volunteers, partner agencies, and the country.”
ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio® was founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, and is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active radio amateurs (or “hams”) in the US and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting amateur radio. For more information about ARRL and amateur radio, visit www.arrl.org.
Amateur Radio Operators, or “hams,” have a long history of serving their communities when storms or other disasters damage critical communication infrastructure, such as cell phone towers and fiber optic networks. Amateur radio functions completely independently of the internet and phone systems, and a ham radio station can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Amateurs can quickly raise a wire antenna in a tree or on a mast, connect it to a radio and power source, and communicate effectively with others.
The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES® www.arrl.org/ares) consists of hams who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment with their local ARES leadership for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. They use their training, skills, and equipment to prepare for and provide communications during emergencies When All Else Fails®.