Public Service Communications Manual Introduction
Throughout our history, we amateurs have established a reputation for public service communications which is of the greatest importance to our continued occupation of frequencies. At first, this service was rendered spontaneously and on an individual basis. As time progressed, the need for and value of organization became evident, resulting in the establishment of organized trunk lines and net systems; later the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS) were formed to complete the organization. The ARRL Field Organization includes the combined facilities of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, as it has developed since 1935, and the National Traffic System, which was begun in 1949.
It is significant that Part 97 of the FCC's Rules and Regulations states, as the first principle under "Basis and Purpose," the following:
"Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary non-commercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications."
ARES and NTS exist as the League's implementation of this basic principle. ARES and NTS have much in common. Every emergency net is bound to be, to some extent, a traffic net, and every traffic net should be prepared to take on various forms of emergency-related communications duties. Emergency-conscious and traffic-conscious operators have this in common: They both derive their chief reward out of activities which are directly beneficial not only to Amateur Radio, but also to their communities and country.
Implementation: The ARRL Field Organization
Basic Organization and Functions
The organization chart in Figure 1 shows how ARES and NTS work together from top to bottom. Most ARES nets exist only at the local level, and are tied into NTS at local or section level for integration into the national system. The overall support for all levels of ARES and NTS is provided by the Field Services Department at ARRL Headquarters.
Leadership in the emergency division (ARES) is exercised by the Section Emergency Coordinator and the District ECs and local ECs, as shown; in the traffic division (NTS) by Section Traffic Manager and by Net/Node Managers at the local and section levels.
Usually, emergency operation is initiated at the local level and is the business of the ARES local Emergency Coordinator. Even if the emergency situation transcends the local level and becomes of statewide, regional, or even national concern, the immediate situation and what to do about it are primarily the concern of local ARES officials. Much of the emergency messages and other communications will be generated by civic and welfare officials, or at their request, with resulting logistical challenges in effecting their conveyance, are handed to the ARES for solution.
While ARES and NTS are two of the ARRL's public service organizations, it should not be concluded that this is all that there is to Amateur Radio public service, or that this is the extent of the League's interest in public service communications. On the contrary, there are many other amateur public service operating groups under different sponsorship which are a vital part of the public service function of the Amateur Radio Service. As such, they merit and receive the League's recognition and assistance to the extent desired and feasible.