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.
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.
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.