This page provides links to external sites highlighting the utilization of amateur radio communications as a public service. For a list of documents originating from or about KAROECHO specifically, please see our Documents Page

Loma Prieta Earthquake Lessons: 1989

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

Definition of terms and services

The terms RACES, ARES, ACS, and CommU will be clarified.

Radio Amateur Emergency Services (RACES): Amateur radio operating privileges  were reinstated after WW2. RACES was created under the then civil defense act and enacted via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow amateur radio organizations to establish relationships with vital governmental organizations, granting them operating privileges (under government supervision)  durng a national state of emergency where routine amateur radio operations were suspended. A unique aspect of RACES is that it is not self-activating. Rather it is solely activated by the governmental authority having jurisdiction. 

As the Department of Homeland Securty (DHS)  took over disaster planning in 2001, RACES as an FCC agency, stepped back from the picture because FEMA, DHS, NIMMS, CISA and other federal agencies stepped in establishing what is called the ACS (Auxiliary Communications System). It is not only a name change, but also an attempt to transfer authority/power over to the DHS/FEMA under the Incident Command System (ICS). So now instead of California State RACES, we have California State ACS.  ACS is not limited exclusively to amateur radio. It includes utilizing volunteers in any radio communication service. Many agencies are slow to change.  At this date, Co Co County still calls its program Co Co County RACES, administered through the Co Co County Sheriff's office. 

A more recent federal designator is CommU (Communications Unit). It is defined in NIMMS and AUXCOMM (see below) under federal programs. CommU is the new kid on the block and we will see more of its use in the future.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is an American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsored program. The ARRL has MOUs with most every disaster services organizations including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the National Weather Service, etc. Most often ARES works in tandem with RACES/ACS, having one cogent feature, that it can self-activate according to the local ARES Emergency Coordinator (EC).  See the links further down this page for more information about ARES.

Today, international as well as local comunications are dependent upon satellite links. A failure of sats would cause major problems, which ham radio could help ameliorate. Space debris/pollution must be realistically dealt with according to a recent study: "Rapid Development of Satellite Mega-Constellations Risks Tragedies of the Commons."

National/Federal Programs: This is an ever expanding field with a plethora of new government agencies

Here are some links to ACS, Auxcomm, CISA, and CommU (Communications Units). These federal agencies  are not oriented toward provding local communications for  community disaster victims directly, but are more focused on collecting data and establishing situational awareness for government disaster relief entities, law enforcement, agency interoperability, and general ICS processes.

CommU Training Documents

SHARES is a national digital communications system that parallels amateur radio

Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guides (AUXFOG)  (This a DHS/CISA Publications Page)

AuxComm is an all-inclusive term used to describe the many organizations and personnel that provide various types of communications 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. 

Get the AUXCOM smart phone app (very useful)

Also useful is NIFOG  (National Interoperability Field Operations Guide)

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

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

An ACS descriptor podcast by Seattle ACS

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)

ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Fillable PDF]

ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Word]


ARES Group Registration

Emergency Communications Training

The ARRL ARES Strategic Plan

Further ARRL ARES Training Modules 

State, County, Municipal, and non-government public service oriented organizations

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

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

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 better just drop your callsign suffix in order to signal NCS that you have traffic for the net. Traditionally hams have used "BREAK BREAK" for emergency traffic, but it is more direct to voice, "EMERGENCY" to get the undivided attention of the net.  Say RELAY followed by your callsign suffix to relay for another station that does not hear NCS.  Use CORRECTION followed by your callsign suffix to correct an error. Use  INFO followed by your callsign suffix 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)

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  

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."

QSO TODAY VIRTUAL HAM EXPO,  presents excellent state of the Art on-line webinars on every topic of Amateur Radio  each year. Past presentations are archved. 

August 2020

March 2021 

Showcased on VIMEO

August 14th and 15th, 2021 presentations with VIMEO Links 

The KD8TTE  public service Youtube video series 

Emergency Communications Presentations at the 2022 ARRL National Convention, Jamuary 2022

Amateur Radio & Disasters -- M. Curtin

Basic Voice Traffic -- Curtin & Straughn

Hands On ICS-213 Traffic -- Curtin & Gallup & Straughn

Data Comms -- Gibby

Emergency Antennas -- Gibby & Curtin

Emergency Power -- McDow & Capehart   

The ARRL PACIFIC DIVISION  Zoom Meeting, January 2022  presented by k6WX, Kristen, the Pacific Division Director, can be found here.

The ARRL East Bay Section Emergency Coordinator's excellent presentation on EmComm in the Bay Area given at ORCA on Sept. 10, 2022 "EmComm Mutual Aid in a Digital World


The ARRL has started a new website for its Learning Center. You can find it at . It has several learning paths (Electronics & Technology, EmComm, etc.), a bunch of courses to take and a pot load of webinars. It also has links to help you find radio clubs; hamfests & conventions; license classes, and exam sessions. You can access the site from your computer, tablet or phone. See Dave Casler’s “Intro to the ARRL's new ‘’ Site” video at  (YouTube; 11:58). Subscribe to the ARRL YouTube Learning Center at


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

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

Comm Academy 2022 took place on April 9, 2022 with the proceedings of the full Academy posted to YouTube. Comm Academy is a free, virtual training conference for anyone interested in learning more about emergency communications technologies and practices. Comm Academy 2022 featured a lineup of experienced emergency preparedness and emergency communications personnel with great information, stories, and ideas to share. More than just a collection of online presentations, Comm Academy 2022 was an interactive event, with participants able to converse with presenters and other attendees via YouTube chat. The first Communications Academy (as it was formerly known) took place in 1998. Based in the Pacific Northwest, the Academy was primarily a regional event organized by the Western Washington Medical Services Emergency Communications team. Over the years, it gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the West Coast's premier emergency communications training events.

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo is held twice a year. They’ve put out a call for speakers and are looking for them worldwide. Information on becoming a presenter, or attending the expo, is at


Ham Radio University offers excellent presentations over a wide range of topics, including EmComm; HF Operating; Contesting & DXing; Satellites; Software Defined Radios; Digital Communications and more. For more information and to register, go to to view their past videos on youtube  

Attendance is free, but registration is required. There will be a total of 19 presentations over a wide range of topics, including EmComm; HF Operating; Contesting & DXing; Satellites; Software Defined Radios; Digital Communications and more. For more information, go to

For a plethora of their excellent past videos on Youtube please see: 



"Radio Amateur Training Planning and Activities Committee (RATPAC) comprises Amateur Radio Operators of a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Together, we host nationwide Amateur Radio Zoom presentations twice-a-week, Wednesdays on general radio topics and Thursdays on amateur radio emergency communications. The topics are selected from audience recommendations that the planning committee then seeks topic experts or discussion panel members. The presentation audience consists of thousands of amateur radio operators worldwide who participate directly in the Zoom sessions or with video links of the presentation and related documentation sent out after each session."


A group in Southern California called the WaveTalkers has a mission “to help you learn to become a more effective communicator in any medium.” On their website at they have a number of resources, including video courses for all three license classes and courses to help you get started in APRS and Winlink. They also have reference materials for some ham basics, such as Phonetics and Q-Codes. Their home page announces their next presentation. Definitely worth a look as part of your efforts to improve your skills.”

A webinar will be held to discuss the role of amateur radio and AUXCOMM in an upcoming Department of Defense communications exercise. Paul English, WD8DBY, Program Manager for the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) reports that the webinar will take place with representatives from the US Army Network Enterprise Technology Command at 19:01 Central time on Thursday (tomorrow), April 21, 2022 (0001 UTC on April 22). The unclassified presentation, which will be held via Zoom (Meeting ID: 863 9859 3554 and Passcode: 195695), will review the concept for the upcoming Department of Defense communications exercise 22-2, which will take place May 2 - 7. Army representatives will describe the exercise and how amateur radio operators and Auxiliary Communications (AUXCOMM) personnel can participate in this training event. Presenters will answer questions throughout the session. "The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is a valued partner of ARRL's ARES® and our wider emergency communications community," said ARRL Director of Emergency Management, Josh Johnston, KE5MHV. "I encourage participation in this presentation and training, and the ongoing cooperation between ARES volunteers, MARS, and our other served agency relationships."

The 2022 National Hurricane Conference Virtual Amateur Radio Workshop was held on Monday, April 11, 2022. The proceedings can be found on a new YouTube video posting.

Tours offered at the Historic KPH/K6KPH Radio Station at Point Reyes National Seashore

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

The KARO-ECHO HYBRID ICS-213/ARES/RACES MESSAGE FORM as fillable PDF or in MS Word format 

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

Radio Relay International Traffic Operations Manual 

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) or This Similar Form 

Radio Relay International and SOS (video)

Radio Relay International (more excellent forms, manuals, and aids)

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

Miscellaneous Public Service Reference Links Including Message Handling, Digital Comms, etc.

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 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 interesting 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), request DTCS from Genoak.  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 Website

Albany CERT Radio Group at Groups IO

Albany CERT Facebook Page 

Albany CERT Groups IO General  Forum

Albany CERT Google Group  old

Albany CERT Training Classes

Ready Albany 

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  Contra Costa County is in the East Bay Section within the Pacific Division  of the ARRL. All ARRL members can sign up for the East Bay Section Newsletter. For a quick overview of the East Bay Section see