Loma Prieta Earthquake Lessons

  • Loma Prieta Earthquake Palo Alto Net N6IIU recordings (scroll down for the 4 audio files) These voice recordings were taken off the Southern Peninsula Emergency Communications System (SPECS) repeater, W6ASH, in Palo Alto a few minutes after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It is an excellent example of how to run a net during an emergency. Ted, then N6IIU (now N6KP) was Disaster Director for the Palo Alto Chapter of the American Red Cross (ARC), and the Communications Director for ARC Western Regional HQ. Ted was also an early pioneer in packet radio and the sysop with N6FRQ of N6IIU-1 BBS. Ted also developed and implemented voice satellite and HF communications for National Red Cross among many other feats.

  • Ham Radio utilization in Santa Cruz County and beyond during the Loma Prieta Disaster: "This was the third largest quake to hit the U.S. in this century. It was one hundred times stronger than the Armenian quake last year. Damages were greater than those sustained in Hurricane Hugo. This may well have been the greatest disaster to ever rely so heavily upon Ham radio. In the very beginning we did not know where the quake was centered. We had no idea of the situation in surrounding counties. In other words, the counties were isolated from each other. As it turned out there was serious damage as far away as San Francisco and Oakland. All of the counties in the area were in a disaster mode, instantly and simultaneously. This was not an isolated predictable situation involving a definable area---unlike a forest fire, flood, hurricane, or plane crash." See:

  • A Brief description of Ham radio and the Loma Prieta Earthquake from the QST archives HERE

  • The Loma Prieta Earthquake in regard to Packet (digital ax-25) Radio narrated by Lew, N6VV: a narrative and critique

  • Loma Prieta Earthquake Amateur Radio Operations and the Statement of Understanding Between the East Bay Amateur Radio Club and the East Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross

  • Similarly, Packet and Health and Welfare Traffic during the Loma Preita Earthquake

  • Loma Prieta Earthquake American Red Cross East Bay Chapter, NALCO ARES, and West Contra Costa County RACES Report (NI6A reporting)

  • More Red Cross General Communications Problems and the role of Amateur Radio: What we Learned

General Overview Pertaining to Public Service Operations and Training Resources (External Links)

How Hams Fit In to the California Office of Emergency Services Overall Plan-- When all Else Fails (Short Youtube video)

FEMA Presentation PDF on How to Utilize Ham Radio During Disasters: Rich Content (March 30, 2021)

Public Service via Amateur Radio East Bay Style (Berkeley Patch June 24, 2019)

Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG) (This a DHS PDF Publication)

AuxComm is an all-inclusive term used to describe the many organizations and personnel that provide various types ofcommunications support to emergency management, public safety, and other government agencies. Auxiliary Communicators have been assisting the public safety community for over 100 years. These uniquely qualified communicators give their time and resources freely, without hesitation, providing auxiliary communications to NIMS/ICS personnel and public safety partners. Additionally, Auxiliary Communicators frequently provide communications support during planned events, community functions, and training exercises.

This is one aspect of what we do and why it is crucial and when conventional comms are down-- a short video

A basic overview of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)

A simple and straightforward video on the use of protocols, tactical callsigns, and gear at public service events except perhaps the excessive use of break tags. Break tags can be simplified such as using BREAK or just drop your suffix in order to signal NCS that you have traffic for the net. Use BREAK BREAK for emergency traffic. Say RELAY to relay for another station that does not hear NCS. Use CORRECTION to correct an error. Use INFO to interject useful additions or time valued data. Those Break Tags are similar to operating signals such as using AFFIRM for yes. NEGATIVE for no. Use CONFIRMED to indicate "that is correct". Use ROGER to indicate that the message has been received. All his becomes second nature after repeated practice.

An Extensive Ham Radio GO-KIT by Steve, KM4CJ (PDF)

The VERY BEST EMcomm Guide, by the IARU (thanks to Rod, W6ROD). THE authority to rely upon!!!***!!! This is BEST PRACTICES clearly described. A work of love! Presented in plain language, it was developed to provide materials suitable for training Radio Amateurs to participate in emergency events and guidance to the individual amateur radio operator who wants to improve their ability to participate in such events, or to simply have a better understanding of the process. The Holy Grail!!!

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Guidelines for national emergency telecommunication plans, 2019, with an excellent section on the value of Amateur Radio. See pages 80-81.


Radio Relay International: A long Youtube Video of who, how, and why RRI has their act together (worth watching)

The Comm Academy Youtube April 2021 video recordings. These are serious and experienced Washington State EmComm enthusiasts. For previous archives see:

USGS and W6DTW recording of EmComm use of amateur radio on June 16, 2021 based on a Hayward Fault 7.0 earthquake (Haywired) Youtube video

The slides used in the above USGS presentation are here

FEMA/NIMMS Guides for Emergency Managers working with Amateur Radio Operators (An Adobe Connect Webinar)

Seattle ACS (Auxiliary Communications Service) ham Radio at its Best Serving the Seattle Community

Seattle Emergency Communications Hubs Network (Seattle)

West Seattle Emergency Communications Hubs

PDF Seattle Neighborhood Communication Hubs March 17, 2021 (very content rich) FEMA Webinar

Portland Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NET) in conjunction with Amateur Radio

EmComm Training.Org "A group of roughly 1500 Amateur Radio Operators ("Hams") working together (virtually and in-person) to demonstrate, exercise and improve our procedures to pass Emergency Communications message traffic. We also seek to acquire new skills and capabilities. Our operators are members of an array of Ham Radio emergency communications groups, but members with no affiliation to any group are also welcome. We are a group of roughly 1500 Amateur Radio Operators ("Hams") working together (virtually and in-person) to demonstrate, exercise and improve our procedures to pass Emergency Communications message traffic."

ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services)

The ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Program

The ARES Manual (PDF)

The ARES Field Resources Manual (PDF)

The ARRL Emergency Communicator's Manual -- 1997, 3rd edition (PDF)

The ARRL ARES Standardized Training Task Book

The ARRL ARES Strategic Plan

Further ARRL ARES Training Modules

Handling Formal Written Message Traffic

Outgoing Disaster Welfare Form (PDF)

A List of ARRL ARL Numbered Disaster Welfare RADIOGRAMS and Precedences

NTS Messaging Basics by Pinkney Foster, KG6ILA (PPT)

An excellent video on when to handle formal written traffic IC-213 form and when to not -- A MARS presentation.

An in-depth tutorial by the ARRL on sending Messages on Voice Using Standard National Traffic System (NTS) message protocols (PDF)

An in-depth tutorial on the ARRL Message Format relative to the NTS and ARES (Compare with the ICS-213 message format) (PDF)

A Breakdown of the Standard ARRL/ARES Message Form Made Easy-- For Dummies!

Comparing the ICS 213 Message Form with the ARRL Message Form -- Pros and Cons

The ARRL NTS Radiogram Form (fillable) (PDF)

The Standard ARRL Radiogram Message Form Here

A Generic ARES/ARRL and ICS 213 Hybrid Form


Comparing ICS-213 Message Form with the ARRL Message Form (a very short critique)

A Short Example Why We Use the ARES/ICS Modified Message Form

Message Handling Best Practices This is a detailed, advanced, and rigorous Instructional guide. (see Chapt. 8 of KE Field Operations Handbook)

Obtaining Fills efficiently in Message Handling (short easy to understand primer)

A Succinct Presentation of How to Use Prowords, Get Fills, Use Op Notes, and Handling Instructions Based on the 03/25/2021 Net

A Succinct Presentation of How to Use Prowords, Get Fills, Use Op Notes, and Handling Instructions Based on the 03/25/2021 Net

Utilizing the FOUR Time/Date Stamps of the KE Modified form 213, with clarifications on word count (check).

ICS-213 Message Forms: ICS-213 (PDF); ICS-213 Fillable (PDF); ICS-213 Fillable (DOCX); ICS-213 (DOC); ICS-213 (TXT); ICS-213 RACES Form

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Message Form

The All encompassing RRI Message Format (Compatible with the KaroEcho Message form)

As above (the RRI Message form, but fillable (use this if in doubt)

Radio Relay International and SOS (video)

Radio Relay International Website -- Experts in processing and relaying formal written traffic during disasters

Miscellaneous Public Service Reference Links

Low-Cost Digital For EmComm

KARO ECHO is exploring digital modes for emergency communications. Digital has advantages over voice when sending many messages but introduces added complexity and cost. KARO ECHO members have been exploring Raspberry Pi-based solutions which are relatively inexpensive but require some hardware and software hacking. Here are some projects we are exploring.

Bay Area Amateur Radio Resources

Bay Area Educational Amateur Radio Society (BAEARS) provides listings of Bay Area ham classes and exams. Additional info on how to get started in Amateur Radio is also provided.

The East Bay ARC (EBARC) frequently offers interestig speakers, sponsors an annual field day event, a ham radio license course and exams. EBARC is an excellent venue for extending one's knowledge of ham radio. See

The Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club (MDARC) also offers courses and exams. This is a large ARC which meets in Central CoCo County. See

The following are excellent up-to-date links provided by Mike Patterson, N6JGA, MDARC Digital Media Chair:

The Contra Costa Repeater Association (CCRA) 145.410 (San Ramon) - 107.2, 145.490 (Orinda)- 107.2, 147.7350 - 107.2 Concord Linked, 440.4250 San Ramon + 79.7, 440.6250 Orinda + 79.7, 440.8750 + 79.7 Concord ( WA6HAM Repeater System)

The Contra Costa Communications Club (CCCC) is a local ham radio repeater club that meets at Denny's El Cerrito (Potrero and San Pablo). They support many repeaters in our area and also have an excellent newsletter. Swell set of guys and gals! See:

NALCO ARES/RACES is Berkeley's EmComm group which has over 35 years of experience. They meet at 1930 on the first Thursday of the month at the Berkeley Fire Training Center (9th and Cedar). See:

BeCERTAINN (Berkeley CERT and Inter-Neighborhood Network) GMRS Ch.22 (Old GMRS Ch.8) RX 462.725 MHz TX up 5 MHz PL 88.5 Tues 1930 Forum


Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network (BDPNN): A non-profit NGO volunteer organization, who is dedicated toward disaster preparedness in the City of Berkeley Website


GMRS Emergency Network Oakland (GENOAK) GMRS Repeater at 462.600 MHz Ch. 17 (Tx + 5 MHz (467.600) DTCS 263 Meets monthly on first Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm local time.

Also see the related the Oakland Fire Safe Council here

Albany CERT Radio Group at Groups IO

Albany CERT Facebook Page

Albany CERT Groups.IO General Forum

Albany CERT Google Group

CERT Richmond Emergency Radio Communications

American Red Cross of the Bay Area (ARCBA) WW6BAY repeater 443.975 MHz, TX +5 MHz, PL 100 Hz Wednesday at 2000.

Also ARCBA Mondays on HF: 3891 LSB at 1930; 5375 USB at 1945 or 5357 USB (ch3) 1945; 7181 LSB at 2000 Mondays.

Bay Area Hospital Net, 147.060 MHz TX +600 PL 100 (Monthly on 4th Wednesday of the month at 1200 (noon)

Oakland Radio Communication Association (ORCA) – OCRA meets on the 1st Saturdays 0900 hours at Fire Station 1 16th and MLK in Oakland.

Red Oak Victory Amateur Radio Club (ROVARC) – The ROVARC meets on the first Saturday of the month on board the SS Red Oak Victory. The location of the Museum Ship – SS Red Oak Victory is at the south end of Canal Street, Berth 6A of the graving docks in Richmond, CA. Directions: Take Highway 580 to Point Richmond, exit at Canal St. and head south. In about 1/2 mile Canal Street winds around (follow the signs to the ROV) a large parking area used for off loading newly imported cars from Japan. Just before the very end bear to the right and follow the road around the car lot, out toward the water to Berth 6A.

Amateur Radio Club of Alameda (ARCA)

Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) Net Mondays 2000 local (W6CX) 147.060 + (100PL); Linked to 224.780/441.325 + (100PL)

Marin Amateur Radio Society (MARS) 146.700 Mhz, - pl 203.5 Big Rock Ridge, pl 179.9 Mt. Tam, pl 167.9 Mt. Barnabe Linked Simulcast System. (Net on Tues 1930). Also 147.330 MHz + pl 192.8 147.330 MHz + pl 173.8 ; and 443.525 MHz + pl 82.5Hz

ARRL East Bay Section News