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The Atascocita Fire Department and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Implement Joint Formal Procedures That Could Spread Nationwide
Tuesday, October 15, 2019


 

Humble, TX. (October 14, 2019) – As a large suburban fire department Northeast of Houston, TX, with three stations providing fire protection and emergency medical services to over 24,000 households, the Atascocita Fire Department has seen its share of disasters over the years. While there has never been a complete failure of all communications capabilities during any of these disasters, the systems have at times, become overwhelmed.  So, it’s not hard to conceive of how nearly impossible it would be for an EOC to operate in the event of a massive disruption of communications equipment.  Imagine the failure of multiple communications satellites, large scale power-grid failures, or even just the overwhelming call volumes experienced during recent hurricanes.

 

For decades, extraordinary volunteers, with a particular set of skills, have always stepped up to overcome the challenges associated with mass-disaster communications.  These volunteers (often referred to as HAMS) are members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  They are a corps of trained and licensed amateur radio operators who come together when called upon to provide communications services in environments where most other communications systems have failed or become too overwhelmed to be effective.  ARES members have contributed communications assistance in virtually all of this nation’s major disasters including the attacks of 9/11, and Hurricanes Katrina, Michael, Harvey and Maria. ARES members were there to help during the 2003 North American Blackout and are regularly called upon to help with countless more localized disasters such as tornadoes and floods.

 

While the practice of calling upon ARES and its network of Ham operators scattered throughout the local communities of the United States (the US has an estimated 675,000 of the world’s 2.5 million amateur radio operators) in times of need is not new, the proactive plan and procedures developed by the Atascocita Fire Department and ARES at the local level are new. What this plan does is proactively align the resources of Atascocita Fire Department’s emergency operations center, which includes emergency power generation, radio and computer equipment and a safe and secure building in which to operate, with the ARES local network of Hams who have developed a streamlined, simplified and decentralized communication procedure between local ARES members and the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS).  Historically, ARES communication operations at the EOC have covered localized emergencies, but these new procedures ensure the EOC is also prepared for coordinated communications with the Federal government in the event of a nationwide communications network interruption.

 

While local radio and television stations rely on grid provided electricity and transmitting “line of sight” signals (limited in range to about 40-50 miles) or via the internet, amateur radio operators use equipment that transmits short-wave radio bands that are “bounced” off of the ionosphere from the transmitter to the receiver’s antenna.  The partnership with the local EOC ensures an uninterrupted power supply and access to radio equipment and antennae capable of reaching extended local, regional and even national providers of aid.

 

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® “ARES” and “Amateur Radio Emergency Service” are registered trademarks of the American Radio Relay League, Incorporated and are used with permission.


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