COASTSIDE EMERGENCY CORPS
CONNECTIONS - COMMUNICATION - PROTOCOLS - TRAINING
AMATEUR RADIO EMERGENCY SERVICES (ARES)
We have all become accustomed to easy communication: telephones, cell phones, the internet, iPads and all kinds of wireless contraptions. However, in large-scale disasters, the normal methods of communication are likely to be unavailable, including the internet. San Mateo Coastside residents live in a remote location, which is likely to be cut-off from our urban neighbors over the hill during a disaster. It may be days, or even weeks, before emergency services can get to us or to restore normal communication. So, how do we communicate our needs to the outside world to facilitate rescue efforts? One answer is HAM Radio!
Amateur radio operators INVENTED wireless communications and were a 100 years ahead of the cell phone. HAM Radios are two-way transceivers. Depending on the radio, the antenna and the band being used, HAM Radios have the capability of communicating around the world and even to outer space. To operate a HAM Radio, you must have at least a “Technician” license, which requires the user to pass a written test. FCC regulations relating to the use of Ham Radios are strongly enforced.
Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is a national corps of volunteer amateur ("ham") radio operators dedicated to providing auxiliary communications for disasters and public service events. Within the bay area, there are three levels of ARES organization and leadership. The Section Manager is responsible for the following bay area counties: San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Benito and Monterey. The District Manager is responsible for a specific county. Because of the diversity of San Mateo County, we have two District Managers: one for bayside and one for coastside. In the Coastside District, we have three ARES groups: Half Moon Bay, La Honda and South Skyline, each led by an Emergency Coordinator (EC). The coastside emergency coordinators work together, with a common Emergency Communication Plan. So, when an emergency situation arises, we use the same methodology, protocols and frequencies.
Ham radio works even when all other communication systems fail. In the recent fires up north, phone lines, internet cables, cell towers, and communication equipment used by emergency personnel were destroyed in the fires. Volunteer radio operators were able to provide a critical need that could not be met any other way (Ham Radio Bridging the Gap). Hurricanes and other major storms, major earthquakes and tsunamis -- basically, any major disaster -- results in similar conditions and ARES is always there to help with communications.
But ARES helps out during lesser disasters, too. On the Coastside, we are called out now and then to provide support during emergencies, particularly in the unincorporated areas of the Coastside. In recent years, we have provided communications from the Red Cross shelter in Pescadero during flooding and the 2011 tsunami threat, and from the La Honda Fire Brigade during heavy storms. ARES members work closely with CERT and Large Animal Evac to provide communication between teams in the field and emergency responders, as we did during emergency evacuations due to mudslides in Cuesta La Honda.
More frequently, Coastside ARES members are called on to help with communications at large public events such as Dream Machines and HMB Marathon.
For more information about Ham Radio and ARES, select one of the following:
For information on emergency frequencies to use during an emergency, see Coastside Emergency Communications Plan.
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