ARES/RACES VHF Station Recommendation

Congratulations on being a member of your local ARES/RACES emergency communications group. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service is a great component of amateur radio and allows ham radio operators the opportunity to provide a valuable public service to their community.

KB9VBR 2 meter slim jim antenna

KB9VBR 2 meter slim jim antenna

A common question when setting up a station for ARES/RACES communication, is what type of equipment should I use? At the bare minimum an emergency communications station either based in your home or at a served agency should consist of the following equipment:

  • VHF mobile or base radio capable of 20 watts or more power
  • 6 DB antenna mounted at 20 feet or more
  • Low loss cable such at LMR-400, Belden 9913 or similar
  • 13.8v power supply with a battery backup

This type of station will allow you to make a wide range of repeater and simplex contacts in your community.

2 Meter J-Pole Emcomm portable operation

Are you considering mobile or portable operations as part of your emergency communications plan? Maybe you will need to deploy to a served agency, hospital, school, or shelter. A portable ARES/RACES communication kit should include

  • VHF mobile or base radio, or a VHF handheld radio capable of attaching an external antenna so.
  • 3 DB portable antenna with mast and mounting kit
  • Enough coax cable to get the antenna outside the building (~50 feet)
  • 13.8v power supply with a rechargeable gel cell or sealed lead-acid battery.

Remember in portable operations, reliable power may be unavailable. Batteries with a charging system may be your only choice for operation.

Both the 2 meter Slim Jim and the 2 Meter J-Pole antennas make great emergency communications antennas. The Slim Jim has enough gain to make an excellent  base station antenna, while the standard or break-away J-Pole will work beautifully in the field as a portable antenna.

Do you have a preferred communications setup for ARES/RACES? I’d love to hear more about your station in the comments section.