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Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)

ARES® is a registered trademark of the ARRL and is used with permission.

Dan Anderson, KD0ASX 11 December 2009

Section Emergency Coordinator

Minnesota ARES

I would like to explain the rationale behind restructuring the Minnesota ARES frequency plan. First and foremost in my mind was to designate a pool of frequencies that all ARES members within Minnesota could immediately go to, should a large scale incident or disaster occur. Secondary priorities during this process were to;

  1. Ensure compliance with the Minnesota Repeater Council Band Plans,

  2. Ensure sufficient frequencies are available to meet requirements during a large scale disaster,

  3. Re-label channels to closely follow Minnesota’s interoperability standards,

  4. Establish a statewide standard that can be referred to by any amateur radio operator(s) responding to an incident, and to

  5. Provide a standard that will be embraced by all other amateur radio organizations that may respond to an emergency within the State of Minnesota.

Reliable communications during a disaster is one of the highest priorities that exist. It can easily mean the difference between life and death. For this reason alone, I recommend adopting the attached frequency plan.

The plan is laid out in a three band format; VHF, UHF, and HF. The primary frequency band in-use across Minnesota is VHF.

  1. VHF radios can provide reliable communications anywhere from hundreds of feet to hundreds of miles (with assistance of repeaters). They are considered to be medium range radios.

  2. UHF radios are considered short range radios and can typically provide reliable communications for about a mile in distance.

  3. HF radios are long range radios that can provide world-wide communications.

In order to provide the vast array of communications that may be required during a disaster, a combination of frequency bands are required. Since a disaster may render local repeaters non-useable. Multiple simplex frequencies would be needed to support incident communications such as staging, tactical operations, command nets, and logistics.

Below is the rationale that was used to design the plan;

  1. To reduce the confusion factor of amateur radio operators responding into a disaster region, the nationwide calling frequencies for VHF and UHF were chosen as initial calling frequencies only. They are to be used for initial contact only, and personnel shall be directed to change frequency to a designated staging frequency for incident specific information and directions to staging.

  2. Seven VHF simplex frequencies are set aside for general voice communications. The specific frequencies for each channel were chosen for two primary reasons; 1) maximum frequency spread to reduce front-end overloading (when in close proximity), and 2) full compliance with the Minnesota Band Plan.

  3. The nationwide APRS frequency of 144.390 is set as the primary location tracking frequency.

  4. One UHF frequency is assigned to APRS. This will enable local APRS tracking of personnel or teams during operations such as search and recovery, where nationwide location tracking might be detrimental to the mission.

  5. The Minnesota Emergency Packet Network (MEPN) frequency of 145.670 is set as the primary 9600 baud packet operations channel. Here in Minnesota, the MEPN is a repeater-linked packet network spanning well over half of the state, and is designed to provide emergency message handling.

  6. A second VHF Data operations frequency is reserved for digital operations such as packet, keyboard-to-keyboard, digital voice, or digital data.

  7. A third Data operations channel is assigned in the UHF band. This can be used for short range Data transfer involving any digital mode, but is set aside as the primary D-Star channel.

  8. One VHF frequency is designated for helicopter/aircraft communications. The VHF band was chosen to allow the increased range that may be needed over the capability of a UHF radio.

  9. Two frequencies (1-VHF and 1-UHF) are dedicated for shelter communications. The specific frequency will be determined by distance. The UHF Shelter frequency is located on a linked repeater output channel, so use it only if not currently in use by a nearby repeater.

  10. Two frequencies (1-VHF and 1-UHF) are assigned to the ARES command staff for management use. Again, the specific frequency will be determined by distance. The UHF Command frequency is located on a linked-repeater output channel, so use it only if not currently in use by a nearby repeater.

  11. Very few UHF simplex frequencies for voice communications are available. They are very tightly grouped together. For this reason, when UHF communications are needed, it is highly recommended to use only two UHF voice frequencies when in close proximity to each other. The recommended frequencies to use would be a pairing of Alpha and Bravo, or Charlie and Delta. This will allow sufficient spacing to prevent radio front-end overloading. In addition, use only enough output power to provide a clean reliable signal.

  12. There are three HF frequency bands designated for use, 80m, 40m, and 20m. HH-Charlie is the designator for CW operations, HH-Delta is for Digital/Data, and HH-Hotel is for Phone.

  13. Each HF band has one CW frequency and two phone frequencies. Two digital frequencies are designated, one located on 80m and one on 40m.

  14. If additional frequencies or modes are needed, or if these frequencies are not useable, the on-scene operators retain the right to use any and all frequencies at their disposal to support the protection of life and property.

I hope that this has helped clarify the reasons for the design change.

Daniel L. Shartle, N0JHU

Emergency Coordinator

Sherburne County ARES/RACES



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