Prior to 2019 the only requirement to be a member of ARES was holding an amateur radio license and the desire to help in an emergency. Based on the feedback from partner agencies such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc., each of which had implemented training programs for their volunteers, the ARRL incorporated that agency feedback into the ARES program. This revision in the ARES program was documented in the ARES Strategic Plan which was published in 2019 and included the ARES Task Book. The strategic plan can be found at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/wa9m84j8  and I would encourage you to review it for further context.

The following is taken from the strategic plan and clarifies the reasons for the program revisions.

“Previously, participation in ARES was open to all interested Amateur Radio operators.  The only requirements were a valid FCC license and an interest in serving. There were no requirements for ARES participants to be trained and no skill sets were specified. In contrast, many of the partner agencies that ARES serves have mandated and structured training programs where all participants receive the same training and, when deployed, would be qualified to assume any position they were assigned to.

 Therefore, changes have been made to resolve this issue identified by our partners about the inconsistent training required of ARES participants. Under this policy, a national standard for qualification in ARES is instituted to address the needs of our partners Training is expected to be phased in over time and will be required for all ARES participants. Such training will be measurable and recognized across a broad spectrum of the country by served partners.  

Three levels of training will allow ARES participants to enter the program and migrate to higher levels of qualification and service.

  • Level 1 — This is the entry-level for those new to Amateur Radio or emergency communications. This introductory training is conducted by the local ARES group to meet their needs and those of their served agency or partners. This training could be formal or informal and would introduce the ARES participant to the fundamentals of emergency communications and provide instruction on how participants are to conduct themselves while deployed.
  • Level 2 — To qualify for this level, participants shall have completed the following courses: ARRL’s EC-001 Introduction to Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (or current equivalent) and FEMA IS-100, IS-200, IS 700, and IS-800. Participants are also encouraged to take advantage of training opportunities available through partners to enhance their knowledge and skill set.
  • Level 3 — This level of training prepares ARES participants to take on leadership positions such as EC, ADEC, DEC, ASEC, SEC, and other designated positions in the ARES program. Participants are required to complete ARRL’s EC-016, Emergency Communications for Management, along with FEMA courses IS-300, and IS-400. Participants are strongly encouraged to complete the FEMA Leadership Development series of courses IS-120, IS-230, IS-240, IS-241, IS-242, IS-244, and IS-288.

Completion of all training programs will be verified by the participant’s Emergency Coordinator (EC) before the participant advances to the higher level. Those individuals holding leadership positions as the new program is introduced will be allowed one (1) year to complete the necessary training to meet qualifications for Level 3. Training requirements for ECs, DEC, and their assistants will be verified by their SEC or the SEC’s designated individual. In the case where the local community may have limited classroom study programs for IS-300 and IS-400, the SM may grant additional completion time to accommodate a community’s extended training schedule or authorize the seven FEMA Leadership Developments Courses as an alternate study program.”

The above excerpt from the strategic plan summarizes the objectives of the updated ARES program as well as the levels of training that have been identified. Unfortunately, right after being published, the Covid Pandemic occurred which had a significant impact on ARES group’s ability to implement the changes and establish training programs. It is a worthwhile journey for those who are interested in emergency communications.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the levels. The tables showing requirements art taken directly from the task book. Each item is marked with an “R” for required, an “O” for optional, and an “E” for encouraged.

ARES® TRAINING LEVEL
Level 1

This is the primary level for those who choose a non-leadership role as well as those new to Amateur Radio or emergency communications.  This introductory training is conducted by the local ARES group to meet its needs and those of its served agency or partners.  This training could be formal or informal and would introduce the ARES participant to the fundamentals of emergency communications and provide instructions on how participants are to conduct themselves while serving in the field or otherwise activated.  Participants are encouraged to complete Level 1 and advance to level 2 as soon as practical.

R = Required, O = Optional, E = Encouraged

TASK R-O-E COMPLETION DATE ECSIGN OFF
Education      
ICS‐100.c‐Introto Incident Command System* O    
ICS‐700.b Introduction to National Incident Mgt. System* O    
SKYWARN – Spotter Basic Training (Biennially) O    
ARRL EC-001 Introduction to Emergency Communications O    
Comment: *Sets initial base liner requirements. Will likely be insufficient for deployment at an incident.      
Participation      
Obtain Task Book R    
Join an ARES® group R    
Comment:      
Proficiency/Skill      
Obtain Technician class or higher Amateur Radio License R    
Comment:      

Level 1 only requires getting a license, getting the task book, and joining an ARES group. This first level is the beginning of the journey and gives each ham something with which they can track their progress.

ARES® TRAINING LEVEL
Level
2

This training level builds upon what has been learned in Level 1, and participants in Level 2 may elect to remain at this level based on the extent of their desired ARES involvement.  Much of this training is conducted by the local ARES group to meet its needs and those of their served agency or partners and provides a better understanding of emergency communications. Participants in Level 2 may wish to continue with Level 3 and the potential for leadership roles.

R = Required, O = Optional, E = Encouraged

TASK R-O-E COMPLETION DATE ECSIGN OFF
Education      
ICS‐100.c ‐ Intro to Incident Command System* R    
ICS‐200.c – ICS for Single Resource* R    
ICS‐700.b – Introduction to National Incident Mgt. System* R    
ICS‐800.c – National Response Framework* R    
ARRL EC‐001 Intro to Emergency Communications R    
SKYWARN Spotter Basic Training (Biennially) O    
Comment: *These should be considered as meeting the minimum requirements for deployment at an Incident.  Local EMA authorities may require additional training..      
Participation      
Net Participation (Once per Quarter) R    
Public Service Event Participation O    
Simulated Emergency Test or Exercise Participation (Annually) O    
Serve as Net Control O    
Comment:      
Proficiency/Skill      
Program tone into HT R    
Program frequency & offset into radio R    
Write and send an ICS‐213 message R    
Operate VHF Digital messaging station O    
Operate unit specific Digital VHF or HF station O    
Build a simple dipole antenna E    
Build Powerpole® adapter cable** E    
Solder PL259 connector to coax** E    
Assemble a 24-hour Deployment Kit* E    
Comment: * The contents of a 24-hour Kit will be specified in either a separate document or as an Annex to this document.
             ** Skills that are very useful to know and everyone is encouraged to learn.
     
Other /Unit Specific      
       
       
Comment:      

Level 2 requires the completion of ICS courses that present the Incident Command Structure (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Skywarn training is optional. It also includes completion of the EC-001 Introduction to Emergency Communications offered by the ARRL. This course may be found on the ARRL website as an online course.Within the Participation section is participating in a net at least once per quarter. The Proficiency/Skill section focuses on demonstrating operation of your HT and using the ICS-213 message form. This level also includes encouraged activities addressing skills that will be useful in the field and thinking about what should be included in a 24 hour deployment kit. As the deployment kit is used in both test exercises and actual events it is not unusual to discover other items that you wish had been included. Keeping a notebook handy with your deployment kit is invaluable to make notes of other items that should be included.

ARES® TRAINING LEVEL
Level
3

Level 3 prepares the participant to take on ARES Team leadership roles in his/her ARES group or section.   R = Required, O = Optional, E = Encouraged

TASK R-O-E COMPLETION DATE ECSIGN OFF
Education      
IS-120.c – An Introduction to Exercises* R    
IS-230.d   – Fundamentals of Emergency Management* R    
IS-235.c   – Emergency Planning* R    
IS‐240.b ‐ Leadership & Influence* R    
IS-241.b – Decision Making & Problem Solving* R    
IS-242.b – Effective Communications* O    
IS-244.b – Developing & Managing Volunteers      
IS-288.a – Role of Voluntary organizations in Emergency Mgt*.      
IS-2200 – Basic Emergency Operations Center Functions*      
ARRL EC-016 Public Service & Emergency Communications Mgt*      
SKYWARN Advanced Training Class (Biennially)      
PR‐101 – Public Information Officer Training (EC‐015)      
       
AUXCOM Course      
ICS-300 – Incident Command System for Expanding Incidents**      
ICS -400 – Advanced Incident Command System**      
       
       
Comment:* Required for those seeking/holding leadership positions.  These individuals should also hold a General Class (or higher) Amateur license.
           ** Participants are encouraged to complete the FEMA courses ICS-300 and ICS-400 when they become available locally.
     
Participation      
Net Participation (Once per Quarter) R    
Public Service Event Participation(Annually) O    
Simulated Emergency Test or Exercise Participation (Bi-Annually) O    
Serve as Net Control O    
       
Comment:      
Leadership      
Present a training session R    
Hold/held a leadership position in a group R    
Hold a General Class License or higher O    
Participate in PIO activities (PR‐101 Qualifies) R    
EC-001 Course Instructor/Mentor O    
       
Proficiency/Skill      
Proficient in using ICS forms R    
Operate VHF Digital messaging station in Peer‐to‐peer mode R    
Operate HF Digital Mode Messaging Station R    
Program Tone into HT R    
Program frequency & offset into radio R    
Demonstrate cross band repeat on Mobile Radio (UHF->VHF) O    
       
       
       
Comment:      

While it is possible to complete the EC-016 course modules without taking the IS courses listed as requirements, to receive the certificate of completion, the IS courses must be completed and certificates of completion forwarded to the ARRL. Once confirmed and with the approval of the section manager, the final exam will be made available. The only IS course listed not required to receive the certificate of completion for EC-016 is IS-2200. The optional AUXCOM, IS-300, and IS-400 are courses that are not offered online but ARES members are encouraged to watch for them when offered locally and attend if possible. Participation now includes acting as net control, participating in the Simulated Emergency Test (SET) or other exercises bi-annually, and participating in a public service event annually. Level 3 introduces a section on leadership. The Proficiency/Skill section introduces operating digital messaging nodes on both VHF and HF.

A careful review of the task book will show that the local ARES group can add items within each level based on the specific needs of the group. You will need to check with your ARES group to see if they have added any items specific to the partners they are serving.

Speaking from personal experience, I found the training and the activities to complete Level 3 excellent. As stated in the strategic plan, every ham that is in a leadership position whether AEC, EC, or DEC should be at Level 3.I encourage everyone in ARES to commit to completing the task book for their ARES group.

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