Basic Certification

On March 30, 2010 feedback was integrated into this outline from Oregon ARES ECs, Oregon Emergency Managers, and amateur operators from across the country.
During 2020, the material was updated to synchronize it with the Federal AUXCOMM course and make it possible to deliver in a weekend.

This training and certification will involve sixteen (16) hours of classroom and/or online training including practical evaluation where the operator must demonstrate the specific learning competencies outlined for the course. This course will cover basic emergency communications topics and procedures for operating VHF/UHF voice only.
Students attending this course are expected to bring a hand held amateur radio with instruction book as well as proof of completion of IS-100, IS-200 and IS-700 FEMA courses.  Students should have a working knowledge of their radio and be able to do basic programming of frequencies and other parameters covered in the course.
The following outline is representative of the material to be presented in the classroom.

  1. Introduction to Emergency Communications
    1. Why we need standardized training
    2. Scope of this course
    3. Why is this course different from others - based on performance skills
    4. The differences between emergency communications and regular communications
    5. The differences between amateur radio and public safety radio
    6. Your role as an Auxiliary Communicator (AUXC)
  2. Programming and Operating VHF/UHF Equipment
    1. Frequency Selection
    2. Simplex, Duplex
    3. Selective call technologies, Tones
      1. Purpose and benefit
      2. Tone squelch types
      3. When to use carrier or tone squelch
    4. Typical simplex programming and operation
    5. Typical repeater programming and operation
    6. Frequency selection and memory channels
    7. Organizing and pre-programming memory channels
    8. Reading and using ICS-217 and ICS-205 forms
  3. Emergency Communications Groups and Served Agencies
    1. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
    2. Served Agencies - Supporting their mission
      1. County/City - Generally Emergency Management, may be Sheriff's Office
      2. State - Generally State Office of Emergency Management
      3. Federal
        1. FEMA/DHS
        2. Military
      4. Private
        1. Red Cross
        2. SATERN
        3. Hospitals and medical facilities
    3. RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
      1. Description of RACES program per FCC
      2. Example of implementation
      3. Flat management structure, discrete control by local EM
    4. ARES - Amateur Radio Emergency Service
      1. Description of ARRL program
      2. National Multi-layer Management Structure
        1. Elected State Section Manager
        2. Appointed State, District and County Emergency Coordinator
      3. Managed service provided to the served agency
      4. No national training or certification requirements
    5. ACS - Auxiliary Communications Service
    6. MARS - Military Affiliate Radio System
    7. CAP - Civil Air Patrol
      1. Private aircraft facilities and communications services
    8. CERT - Community Emergency Response Team
    9. REACT - Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams
      1. Citizen Band, FRS, GMRS, MURS
  4. Basic Communications Skills for Emergency Communications
    1. Responsibilities of staffing a position
    2. Listening skills
    3. Proper station identification
    4. Tactical callsign use - should reflect physical location or action, still require legal callsign identification
    5. Protocols and procedures - how to call other stations, signing off
    6. Basic mic and radio operation - pause, 2" from face, talk across microphone
    7. Prowords and phonetics - "Q" signals not for voice
      1. ITU phonetic list
      2. APCO phonetic list
    8. Plain language - NIMS compliance means no codes
    9. HIPAA and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) procedures
  5. Basic Equipment Selection for Emergency Communications
    1. Portable/Handheld - limitations and advantages
      1. Limited battery life
      2. Limited power output and range
      3. Non-standard charging and external power connectors
      4. Limited external antenna possibilities
      5. Extremely portable
      6. Very low power output option for short-range extended life operation
      7. Very low idle receive power consumption
    2. Mobile - limitations and advantages
      1. Requires more standby power
      2. Requires vehicle
      3. Very good range and power output capability
      4. Better external antenna possibilities and placement
      5. Ability to relocate the entire station to cover a desired area
    3. Base station - limitations and advantages
      1. Non-portable
      2. More range: higher gain and antenna elevation
      3. Commercial power source
      4. Fixed installation ready to operate in the agency
      5. Better for message passing, logging, and net control
    4. Band selection
      1. VHF/UHF ideal for local communications
        1. VHF can be up to 9dB better than UHF for the same path
        2. VHF will work better in mixed terrain
        3. 70 cm is less crowded
        4. If net control is on one band, can operate very close without interference on a different band
      2. Typically use 2-meters (VHF) and 70-centimeters (UHF)
      3. Other options include 6-meters (50MHz VHF), 1.25-meters (220MHz VHF)
    5. Headsets
    6. DC power and batteries
      1. Power requirements
      2. Power supply types and characteristics
      3. Battery types, charging and floating
      4. Connectors
        1. Andersons (current ARES recommendation)
        2. Ring terminals
        3. Cigarette power plugs
        4. Molex plugs
        5. Perfect interoperability in a pinch: stripped wire
      5. Wire size and voltage drop
      6. Fusing - safety aspects, spares
    7. Antenna types and selection
      1. Handheld
        1. OEM rubber duck
        2. Aftermarket high-gain whip
        3. Roll-up wire antennas
      2. Mobile
        1. Magnetic mount (needs a ground plane)
        2. Fixed mount
      3. Portable
        1. Mast, Tripod, Coax
        2. Antenna with a ground plane
        3. Guying supplies
      4. Types of antennas and selection criteria
        1. Omni - radiates in all directions
        2. Directional - yagi or quad squeezes signal in one direction
        3. Gain antenna patterns - no free lunch, signal re-directed
        4. Polarization and avoiding losses
  6. Public Safety and Other Communications Systems
    1. Amateurs are often assigned to monitor or man non-amateur radios
    2. Public Safety Systems
      1. Traditional Analog VHF/UHF/800
      2. Trunked Systems
      3. Digital P25
      4. ROIP
      5. Telephone, Cellular, Fax, Email, Messaging, Paging
      6. Satellite phone
      7. Email
      8. MURS, FRS and GMRS options
    3. Marine Radio Service
      1. USCG oceans and inland water ways
      2. VHF based system
    4. Interoperability channels
      1. Purpose and bands
      2. NIFOG
    5. Priority communications
      1. GETS, WPS and TSP
      2. FirstNet, others
    6. National Communications System (NCS)
    7. Emergency Warning Systems
      1. NAWAS 'hardened'  wireline network
      2. Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)
        1. EAS broadcast alerting, WEA wireless alerting
      3. NOAA weather alerting
      4. NEIC - earthquake warning center
      5. Tsunami Warning System
  7. Mapping and GPS use
    1. Ways to identify a location
    2. Overview of coordinate system formats
      1. Latitude/Longitude
        1. Decimal Degrees - D.DDD
        2. D M'S"
        3. D M.MM"
      2. UTM, MGRS, USNG
      3. PLSS
    3. Map Datums, which way is north?
    4. GPS receivers
    5. Coordinate conversions
    6. Map types
      1. Street maps, USGS Topo, FAA aircraft and nautical charts
  8. Incident Command System for Communications
    1. Provides a standardized scalable structure for emergency response management
    2. Overview of ICS
      1. Chain of command, unity of command
      2. Requires plain language; affects typical amateur radio "jargon" use
    3. Incident and communications unit staff
    4. NIMS Procedures and forms
      1. ICS-205 Radio Frequency Plan
      2. ICS-213 General Message Form
      3. ICS-214 Activity Log
      4. ICS-217 Communications Resource Availability Worksheet
      5. ICS-309 Communications Log
    5. Resource Typing
      1. AUXCOMM Resource Typing Example
  9. Activation and Response
    1. Safety
      1. Family and personal
    2. Notification
      1. Awareness, "Feeling the earthquake"
      2. Phone tree
      3. Radio Voice nets
      4. Commercial services
      5. Agency policies and procedures
    3. Activation
      1. Assignment, location, time, equipment needs
    4. Response
      1. Go safely, hazardous environments
      2. Arrive ready, be a team player
    5. Go kit
      1. Who am I and where am I?
      2. Radios and Equipment
      3. Hydration, nutrition, sanitation
      4. PPE, clothing, office supplies
    6. Demobilization
  10. Weather and Situational Awareness
    1. Weather
      1. Terminology
      2. What to report
      3. Estimating observed weather parameters
      4. Taking precautions for extreme conditions
      5. SKYWARN weather spotting program
      6. How to report
    2. Situational Awareness
      1. Knowing the situation around you at all times
      2. Sharing your field situation with served agency
  11. Basic Message Handling
    1. Communications Basics
      1. Plain Language
      2. Tactical callsigns
      3. How to call
      4. Message handling
      5. Rhythm, Speed, Volume, Pitch (RSVP)
      6. Operating a net
      7. Keeping a log
    2. Your role as a communicator
    3. Formal vs. Tactical messages
    4. Proper use of prowords and phrases
    5. NIMS-Compliant ICS-213 Message Handling
      1. Methods for handling on voice channels
    6. Prowords and phrases
  12. Message Handling Classroom Exercise
  13. Troubleshooting Field Operations
    1. Troubleshooting Techniques
      1. Eliminate problem components, test everything
    2. Troubleshooting tools
      1. Multimeter, SWR meter, antenna analyzer, dummy load, spares
    3. Common equipment failure modes
      1. Programming, power, antennas and feedlines
    4. Troubleshooting scenarios
  14. Communications Integrity
    1. Situational Awareness
    2. Message integrity and privacy
      1. Do not share content
      2. Do not alter message content
    3. Determine best transport if material is sensitive, advise originator if another method is appropriate
    4. Participation in EOC/ECC/ICP or dispatch environments
      1. Will require background check
      2. Potential to see data not meant for your eyes
      3. Must respect environment and process
    5. Personal performance within the EOC/ECC/ICP or dispatch environments
      1. Adding to the chaos with radio noise or yelling into the microphone
      2. Cleanliness
      3. Be aware of sexual harassment
      4. Proper identification and credentialing
      5. Respect authority
    6. Disaster Psychology

At the end of the course there will be a comprehensive 40 question multiple choice test.  Students must pass with a 75% or higher score. 
At the end of each session, there is an exercise to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Individual
    • Given the details of a simulated repeater (another radio) correctly configure your own handheld for proper frequency, tone, and offset to open the squelch and transmit your callsign
    • Using a hand held radio, exchange a signal report with your instructor using correct phonetics for both callsigns
    • Using a hand held radio, demonstrate techniques for improving communications by:
      • Adjusting squelch level to overcome noise
      • Enabling tone squelch for transmit and receive
      • Set standard and odd repeater shifts
      • Adjusting antenna position
      • Adjusting power level
    • Demonstrate programming a radio according to a completed ICS-205
    • Complete an ICS-214 Activity Log
    • Complete an ICS-213RR Resource Request form
    • Work with NIFOG information
    • Identify geographic features based on coordinates provided
    • Identify multiple causes to a provided toubleshooting scenario
    • Complete an ICS-205 Radio Communications Plan
  • Classroom
    • Participate in a simulated traffic net exercise
      • Demonstrate accurately completing an ICS-213 message form
      • Transmit contents of ICS-213 via net
      • Receive ICS-213 transmitted by another student

ACES Basic Supplemental Materials

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