This is the Baltimore City fire department radio traffic of Key bridge collapse



This is the first time I have heard first responder traffic during a significant event. This group always remained calm and professional. It would be awesome if the SC amateur volunteer community (ARES and AUXC ) could train to this level of communications.
This is also the first time I have heard ICS in action. You can follow command being transferred up then out to a unified command . Then break out groups under the unified command off onto their own groups and the groups get assigned talk groups. The only negative was that it appears some of the mutual aid counties/agencies were not setup to talk to Baltimore Fire but they solved that with liaisons.
From my point of view as a radio operator, the communications ( not the ICS aspect, we would not be asked do that) is something I would like to emulate.
Steve Nixon

SC ARES/RACES Tactical Plan V4.7D February 15 2024

Just posted the latest version…. CLICK here

Summary of changes
Section 1. ARRL ARES URL link updated to reflect current information
Section 6. State Warning Point (SWP) added for SEOC operations
Appendix A. Caesars Head VHF repeater added
Appendix B. Landrum DMR repeater added
Appendix C. SC AUXCOMM program update added
Appendix G. Acronyms updated

Significant Weather Event, SCHEART Linked Repeater Network

When a big weather event is expected the SCEMD might requested the SCHEART VHF repeaters be linked statewide during the event. When that happens the state EOC ( K4EMD ) will be monitoring the SCHEART network for damage reports or other significant information that needs to be relayed to the State Warning Point..
So what  “significant information” is the state EOC wanting to hear about?
The County/State EOC is looking for infrastructure damage or situations impeding emergency response.
Here are few examples:
1) Infrastructure issues like a vehicle bridge is underwater or washed out.
2) A tornado or funnel cloud has touched down on the ground.
3) The dam has broken  and the roads downstream are flooding.
4) A train has derailed.
5) The river is so high that the bridge supports might not be safe.
All other weather related information should be reported to the Skywarn net. Ask your local Skywarn leadership were that net is located and what training you should have to make an accurate report.
The state EOC operator is not able to pass on your Skywarn spotters report to the NWS. You are expected to join a Skywarn net local to you and deliver that report yourself.
IF the county EOC is activated and running a net on their tactical repeater/frequency,  it is expected that you will report all significant information ONLY to the county EOC. The county EOC will handle the report and forward whatever they need to K4EMD.  In many weather related situations the county EOC is not activated and in those situations you would make your report to K4EMD, the state EOC directly.
The state EOC, K4EMD usually does not run a NET for weather related events. Usually K4EMD is monitoring and will reply to you if asked. You can call for K4EMD or net control either way and if the state EOC is activated an operator should reply. If not just wait a few minutes and try again.

IMPORTANT—> Equipment Audit

The State is conducting an audit of its facilities to ensure license agreements are in place for all radio communication equipment.   Clubs and individuals who have amateur radio equipment on state towers or buildings can expect to be contacted about setting up a license if one is not already in place.

Can I do ARES & AUXC Both ?

What is required to join ARES ?

The Amateur Radio Emergency Services team is always looking for new members. People excited about providing communications in an emergency situation.  So how do you join ARES and what is the difference between level 1 and level 2?

ARES level 1 is the entry level, join the team come on in and look around. Talk to others that have been on the team for years and get the feel of what is expected as an ARES volunteer. You do not need to take any FEMA ICS or ARRL course to join ARES.

ARES level 2  So now you know what it is and you want to continue. You want to build your own go box and you want to deploy to a local emergency operations center (EOC). At this level you will increase your skill level by completing several FEMA ICS courses and the ARRL course.

ARES Level 3 You like everything ARES stands for and you want to contribute more.  To be appointed into a leadership position you need to step up to level 3. At this level you will learn about more advanced subjects.   Only the Section Emergency Coordinator can make ARES leadership appointments.

ARES level 1 you are required to do the following:

1) Get a copy of the ARES Task Book.  Click on the menu item above and download the latest copy.

2) Fill out and send in the ARES membership application. Again this is a menu item above.

3) Study for and pass the Technicians license test. Many local clubs have study groups and they provide the testing. If you need a contact then click on CONTACT above and let us know, we will find a local club for you to study and test with. You must have a Technician license, or higher to join ARES.

That is all you need to do to join the ARES team. After you join you might consider advancing your skill level by working on ARES Level 2, which you can read about in the Task Book.

Difference between ARES, RACES and Auxcomm, in South Carolina

FCC Licensed Amateur Radio Operators who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with the local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. ARRL/ARES provides basic training curriculum and exercise opportunities. The list of agencies a volunteer might end up serving is long but could include a County EOC/CERT, Hospital radio room, Red Cross ERV/Shelter, Nursing Home radio room, NWS office.  Once you register with an agency your training & credentialing will be completed with them.

Who decides when ARES will be activated?

That would be the agency ARES volunteers are serving.  ARES is a registered trade mark for the ARRL.  The roles in emergency communication is really defined by the agencies, state, county, local government or NGO they serve as volunteer communicator.  Without these served organization ARES has no role to support.

Leadership is provided by the county EC and the state SM
Click on the LEADERSHIP DIRECTORY tab above for contacts.


Amateur Radio Operators that  have registered with their EOC for volunteer communications service should the President of the United States order the shutdown of all amateur radio transmissions per FCC rule 97.407 ***
RACES operators are allowed to transmit only by order of the EOC they volunteer for.
Each RACES volunteer must be endorsed by the respective county or state EOC.

Leadership is provided by each EOC / RACES Officer, county or state.


AUXCOMM:  is not an organization, it is a training standard.

An all inclusive term used to describe the many organizations that provide various types of communication support to emergency management, public safety and other government agencies as described in themselves. This includes but is not limited to Amateur Radio, Military Radio, Citizens Band Radio, DMR, DMRS, FRS, SatCom, Skywarn and many others.
Members of Auxcomm all have the title of Auxiliary Communicator.
Auxcomm is a position specific specialist certification.

Leadership is provided by the State EOC/DEC and the state EMD
Send an email to if interested


The above information is specific to South Carolina, a home rule state, some states have organized these three groups differently. An example is some states may not organize RACES with the county EOC.  Check with your local EOC for direction.


Some common terms we use often….

EC = Emergency Coordinator (for a county)

SEC = Section Emergency Coordinator (State EC in South Carolina)

SM = Section Manager (State Manager in South Carolina )

EM = Emergency Manager

REM = Region Emergency Manager

EOC = Emergency Operations Center

DEC = District Emergency Coordinator

EMD = Emergency Management Division

ARES = Amateur Radio Emergency Service

RACES = Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service

NGO= Non-Government Organization

VOAD = Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters

one or coalition of (usually not-for-profit) Second Responder organizations in the United States. These groups voluntarily help survivors after a disaster. One example is the American Red Cross.


*** It has been reported that FCC part 97.407 was removed from law at some point in the past. This was investigated and found to be an opinion. FCC 97.407 is still in effect as of Sept 2021 here is the link if you would like to check for yourself.

Get Ready Volunteer Checklist

If you don’t have a checklist to help you when it comes time to deploy then this is a good stating point.  Download it, print it and add whatever you need.

Get Ready Volunteer Checklist


On the 6/8 SCHEART training net Kent Hufford, KQ4KK presented this topic, which was originally written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk). It is a long read but it answers so many questions.

Modified from a Waller County, TX ARES training article
written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk)

Meeting the communications needs of “served” agencies is quite a challenge in today’s complex
disaster/emergency relief arena. The number of emergency relief organizations and their increasingly
sophisticated needs all competing for that scarce resource–the volunteer. The activity of other non-
amateur volunteers makes the picture even more complicated. As more of the population moves to
disaster-prone areas and less government funding is available, more pressure is placed on agencies
to use and sometimes abuse the volunteer sector for support of their missions in disasters. Toes are
sometimes stepped on and a volunteer’s morale can be undermined.
On the other hand, the ARRL, SCHEART and SC EMD formal relationships with served agencies are
vitally important and valuable to radio amateurs. They provide us with the opportunity to contribute in
a meaningful way. Another substantial benefit not to be overlooked is that these relationships lend
legitimacy and credibility for Amateur Radio’s public service capability.
What to Do?

Continue reading

Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs) in South Carolina

In a typical disaster situation a county EOC might ask you to deploy to a VOAD site and establish emergency comms to the county EOC and state EOC. Your go box, portable antenna’s and your knowledge of all the possible methods to establish those comms links are essential. Here is a list of every VOAD in South Carolina. Many VOADs on this list would not deploy until after the comms infrastructure was back online. But others would deploy right away and they may ask for a comms link back to the county or state EOC. This is where ARES can engage and make a difference.