EMCOM 101 – the Amateur Radio Resource

During a public service event, or an emergency response, a variety of Amateur Radio operator roles will be required, each with a different equipment and experience need. How does an event organizer or an Emergency Manager (EM) specify what equipment and what skills are required?

The Amateur Radio Resource (ARR) Guide was created in accordance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). It defines a series of expectations for different Amateur Radio operator roles.

The forms used – and a wealth of other information – can be found on John Galvin’s excellent website found at http://www.n5tim.info – I encourage you to bookmark that page.

Common to all resource types is the concept of showing up with tested, working, and complete equipment for the role assigned. Also, proper clothing, water, snack bars, sleeping gear, personal hygiene items, battery charges, solar equipment, medications and so forth. Of course, for a four-hour cruise you won’t need as much stuff as Ginger and the Howell’s took on Gilligan’s Island but if you require, for example, insulin before a meal you might want to carry that in case you get held over for some reason.

Just make sure you show up ready to engage and not to become a casualty or resource drain or failure to complete your assignment.

ARR-S – Type S for “Shadow” is a foot-mobile VHF and/or UHF role that usually involves a handheld radio with at least 3.5 watts output, a headset or earpiece, VOX turned off, and at least one spare battery. It’s not a bad idea to carry a spare radio, if you have it! ARR-S communicators are sometimes placed in vehicles – ambulances, golf carts, etc. – so recommended equipment includes an external antenna and mount (remember, some vehicles don’t have steel roofs so a clamp is nice) and adapter for your radio.

ARR-M – Type M for “Mobile” is vehicle-mobile role requiring a transportable mobile radio of at least 25W, VHF but dual band and dual receive is preferred, an external gain antenna and mount/clamp, some power adapters (accessory/cigarette adapter, alligator clips, etc.)

ARR-B – Type B for “Base is a location that can function as a net control or base. Examples include shelters, field hospitals, EOC’s, and similar. Typically, if you respond to this need you will have a mobile unit – because they are easier to transport – but your antenna will have a mast and guys or ability to be attached to something, more coax (25′ minimum but 100′ wouldn’t be outrageous), perhaps a barrel connector, and maybe some PL or SO to N adapters. The coax will probably be RG-8X or similar, not RG-58.

The above functions, ARR-S, ARR-M, ARR-B, are typically found during public service events such as bike, motorcycle, walks, and fixed events such as concerts and festivals.

All radios should have PL/CT tone capability – all modern amateur radios have that but old radios may not. Ambient noise for foot-mobile people will be very high so a headset or earphone is very important.

In addition to the equipment, make sure you bring:

  • a copy of your amateur radio license. Yes, I know that the copy isn’t “official” but if challenged by an event official or law enforcement who will not have time to mess about with the ULS, you should have it with you.
  • a small notebook and writing instrument. I recommend “Rite in the Rain” notebooks with a pencil or one of their pens. If you are working ARR-B bring ICS 213 and ARRL Radiogram forms.
  • the user manual for your radios. I recommend you put those into whatever cloud service you use – Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. – and mark it as a favorite or local copy so that you can access it even if you don’t have internet.
  • Power for up to 12 hours of heavy radio use (could be two extra battery packs for most modern handhelds.)
  • Spare fuses for mobiles if operating as ARR-M or ARR-B.
  • Duct – or better yet, gaff – tape, adapters, comfort items (camp chair, food, snacks, folding table, etc.) depending on the situation. Bungees are also good.
  • Mission-suitable personal gear.

There are also a number of specialty functions – for example, an ARRO is an operator with no equipment which might be important to an EOC or point-of-dispensing (POD) that already has equipment. Perhaps we’ll discuss those in a future segment.


Kevin N5KRG (n5krg@arrl.net)