Surry County A.R.E.S.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service

What is ARES?

"ARES" is the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

ARES (pronounced air'-ees) is a registered program of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).


We are a Public Service Organization with 1 Mission:
To Provide Emergency Communications in the event that regular communication systems either 
FAIL and/or become OVERLOADED.

The ARRL has 15 Divisions covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  Each Division is further broken down into Sections.  Larger states may be divided into multiple Sections.

ARES works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] and provides emergency communications services for agencies such as The American Red Cross, Salvation Army as well as the State Offices of Emergency Management.  Many of our volunteers work in their local communities to help with emergency planning and communications assistance in time of need.



In a crisis, our first priority is to provide needed communications to the State Office of Emergency Management.  This is usually done through their main HQ in Raleigh and the 3 Regional Emergency Operations Centers [EOC].   We go where they need us.  

The next priority is providing communications for the Red Cross chapters within North Carolina.

North Carolina has been divided into 3 branches by the State Dept. of Emergency Management & Homeland Security [NC DEMHS], and NC ARES parallels the same divisions. Each of these 3 branches has an ARES Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator [ASEC] appointed to oversee operations there.  Each of the 15 areas has an ARES District Emergency Coordinator [DEC] that oversees their areas county Emergency Coordinator [EC]. Other Special DEC’s have been appointed for working specifically with the Red Cross, National Traffic System, Special Operations, and National Weather Service's SKYWARN program.

District Emergency Coordinators recommend individuals for appointment to the position of Emergency Coordinators to work in specific towns or localities.  All recommendations for EC are subject to the approval of the NC ARES Section Emergency Coordinator [SEC] and the NC ARES Section Manager [SM]. The Section Manager is the elected head of the Field Organization of the American Radio Relay League.


How do I Join?

Open the ARES Application and fill it out. Save it to your computer, then go to the contact us page and attach the saved file to your contact request. Or, if you'd rather, fill out the application, print it and bring it to our next meeting to give to our EC (Emergency Coordinator).

If you have problems, just ask for help.


How Much Time Do I Need To Commit?

After completing the initial core training (see: Training), you can figure on an average of 1.2 hrs (+/-) per week. This takes into account typical absences (vacation, sickness, etc.).

There is no specific amount of required time one must put into ARES, but the old saying that of "how much hard work and / or time you put into something generally relates as to what one gets out of it and the quality that it provides", and in this case it holds true.
The days of just having a named group and no preparation and just plans to slap or put something together quickly when called upon are long gone. In today's world, there is a true and realistic possibility of our group being called out to provide "real" communications assistance and we have to be trained in all areas of amateur radio and what communication services we can and will provide and have plans in place to fulfill those request. Therefore it would behoove anyone wanting to be a true and real part of the Surry County ARES to:
  • Attend our monthly meetings
  • Join our Sunday night nets
  • Take part in our activities and drills as one can
We have our monthly meetings on the fourth (4th) Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm in the County EOC room in Dobson, have weekly Sunday night nets at 7:00 pm and a Saturday morning social on the 3rd Saturday each month at 8:00 am at the Prime Sirloin Restaurant in Mt Airy.
If one was to make all of these monthly events and nets you are looking a small amount of time given to the organization.

What Equipment Do I Need?

The bare minimum is a 5 watt dual band (144/440 MHz) HT. (Single band VHF HT's are also acceptable.) However, you will find that to be frustrating in many situations. We recommend also having a dual band (144/440 MHz) mobile radio with appropriate antenna for both mobile and portable use.

What Training Do I Need?

To be realistic, we live in an era when, in order to interface effectively with Emergency Personnel, you NEED to KNOW how things work in the FEMA National Incident Management System [NIMS] and the Incident Command System [ICS].


If you want their respect, you have to talk their language.


There are no required courses needed to become an ARES member, just a valid amateur radio license and a desire to serve your community. Only the County EC is required to have and completed any of the NIMS courses, but if the event, disaster, or emergency was large and serious enough that FEMA were to come in, then only those licensed amateur radio operators who have completed the basic 4 NIMS courses of IS-100, 200, 700, and 800 would be allowed to continue to serve in the field and in the communications centers. So please consider taking these free on-line courses:


Minimum Core Programs

4 On-line FEMA Independent Study [IS] courses:

Each should take you ~2 hrs (+/-) to accomplish, plus you'll get a nice certficate of completion to hang in your shack!


Recommeded Additional Programs

FEMA: IS 22, IS 317

ARRL:  EmComm Level 1 (EC-001), EmComm Level 2 (EC-002)

How is Surry County ARES Organized?

Surry County comprises 15 townships.


The ARES organization model works on the premise that each county will have its own Emergency Coordinator [EC] and its own resident ARES TEAM.  The District Emergency Coordinator [DEC] recommends individuals for appointment to the position of Emergency Coordinator [EC] to work in specific counties.  All recommendations for EC are subject to the approval of the NC ARES Section Emergency Coordinator [SEC] and the NC Section Manager [SM]. The Section Manager is the elected head of the Field Organization of the American Radio Relay League.


How Often Is Surry County ARES officially "Activated"?

Answer: Infrequently.


Reason: ARES is the LAST LINE OF DEFENSE with regards to COMMUNICATIONS.



Good News & Bad News.

There are only 2 reasons for ARES to be Activated:

- When regular communication systems FAIL.

- When regular communication systems are OVERLOADED.


Fortunately, Surry County does not normally experience events which would cause this to happen.

- This means that your ARES time commitment is quite small (~ 1.2 hrs/week), leaving plenty of time for the other things in your life.


Bottom Line:

No matter what the "frequency" of our activation...

We need to be ready to answer THE CALL.


What Happens when Surry County is "Activated"?

During any emergency, the state's Division Coordinator for the Central Region will generally call the NC ARES Section Emergency Coordinator [SEC] for assistance.

- The SEC alerts the ASEC for the Central Region.

- The ASEC alerts the Region 9 DEC.

- The DEC then calls his ECs for assistance

- The ECs alert their local ARES TEAM members.


During major events, an alert is sent out over the state repeaters and various websites alerting ARES members to prepare for deployment.

NC ARES works closely with the NC Red Cross to provide communications from operational shelters; communications are also provided for various Health Districts around the State.


We can also be called out by or at the request of the Emergency Services Manager / Director for Surry County (or his Designee) due to a local event, disaster, or emergency. We can also be activated by a request from a neighbouring ARES group for assistance. Once the request has been made for our assistance, announcements will be made on the Surry County ARES repeaters and directions and information will be relayed and given as to our response(s).

Similarly, NC ARES additionally runs various drills to verify that our own Emergency Operating Plan [EOP] and procedures are instrumental in completing any given task during an emergency.

NC ARES often drills hand-in-hand with town and State officials during their exercises. Both sides are, therefore, better coordinated to operate more efficiently should an actual emergency occur.

end faq

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