New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service

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Leadership  |  Training  |  Frequently Asked Questions | Relevance & Ability | FEMA Compliance

Introduction to the NYC-ARECS

New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service (NYC-ARECS) is a NYC based auxiliary communications service. The organization is a State of New York non-profit corporation, made up of New York City based licensees of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that specialize in Amateur Radio emergency communications. Team members are trained and dedicated to providing radio communications (voice and digital messages) for governments, as well as civil-preparedness and relief agencies, during periods of local, regional, or national civil emergencies. This may include situations such as power failures, explosions, fires, floods, earthquakes or terrorist activities.

NYC-ARECS is a participant in the New York City Partners in Preparedness program
and a member of the DHS FEMA National Preparedness Coalition.

Development of the Organization

While our member-run organization was formally established to chart its own course in training, special event public service and readiness in 2003, and the organization's constitution was ratified by its members in March 2004, the volunteer members of NYC-ARECS have roots which are deep in amateur radio public service and emergency communications dating back to the 1980s. Past activations of our team members include weather related shelter openings with the American Red Cross; 1992 Coastal Storm; 1996 Blizzard; Hurricane Floyd; Y2K; 9/11 - WTC Attack; the 2002 Con Edison Fire & Blackout; the Staten Island Oil Barge Explosion; the Blackout of 2003; the December 2004 Tsunami; Hurricanes Irene (2011), Sandy (2012) and others.

In 2013 the organization developed an EMS Division as its newest component. There was a need for EMTs and First Responders to be available at many Public Service events that the organization assists with. Their mission is to supplement local jurisdictional EMS at events. Learn more here.

The Post-9/11 Evolution of NYC-ARECS

After the attacks of September 11, 2001 and with the subsequent development of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), emergency management in the United States was reexamined. With this, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA - now an organization within DHS), developed a new set of core concepts which included principles that were strongly recommended to be implemented by those that had a role in emergency and disaster response--both government and non-governmental organizations. Among these newly suggested changes were several that were inclusive to emergency communication response organizations, these included: [1]

  • Refinement of the various Incident Command Systems used throughout the USA (ICS);
  • The use of plain language (i.e. instead of 10-codes) in emergency response;
  • Development of a universal set of standard administration forms (ICS Forms);
  • Eventual development of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) [2]
  • The use of a standardized identity card for emergency responders utilizing the Federal Information Processing Standard which outlines Personal Identity Verification (PIV) (FIPS 201) [3]
  • The completion of FEMA courses such as IS-100, IS-200, IS-700, IS-800, etc. These are educational courses that according to FEMA are:

Intended for all personnel who are directly involved in emergency management and response. This includes all emergency services related disciplines such as EMS, hospitals, public health, fire service, law enforcement, public works/utilities, skilled support personnel, and other emergency management response, support and volunteer personnel. This training is intended to aid people who don't usually work together or even know each other to seamlessly respond to and recover from a disaster either natural or man-made.[4]

NIMS is applicable to all incidents and all levels of stakeholders, including levels of government, private sector organizations, critical infrastructure owners and operators, nongovernmental organizations and all other organizations who assume a role in emergency management.[5]

With these new implementations, NYC-ARECS initiated an internal operation to retool and meet the expectations of DHS/FEMA, this included making NYC-ARECS compliant with FEMAs new concepts and principals, something NYC-ARECS has successfully done over the last few years.

Why is NYC-ARECS Unique

NYC-ARECS is an amateur radio emergency communications team that is best optimized for New York City. This is because New York City is unique, as well as is the most populous city in the United States and one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world.

The City of New York is different than most municipalities that exist in the United States, because while most cities are based inside a county, in New York City there are actually five counties in one city: New York County (Manhattan), Kings County (Brooklyn), Bronx County (The Bronx), Richmond County (Staten Island), and Queens County (Queens). The city's population is 8.1 million people. Manhattan, New York's largest borough (and America's number one terrorist target) has a population of 1.5 million. However with commuters the actual daily population balloons by an additional 1.3 million each day to 2.8 million--a whopping 87% daily increase. On any given day, some 4.8 million people ride the subway, with another 2 million on city buses.

Having five separate counties within a single city, one that has a tremendous population in a very dense urban environment, makes New York City unique, and places it in a category that requires a custom structured organization. As a result of this, the common radio emergency communications team structure used around the United States was not best suited for America's largest population center.

For this reason, the experienced emergency communication leaders of New York City developed their amateur radio organization in a way that was most conducive for effective operation in America's largest city.

Technical Capability

Our federally licensed members are divided across all five boroughs of NYC. They own, operate and train with their own equipment, including computers, radios, antennas, and portable battery back-up power. Our members have radio communication capability at home, portable with handheld radios, and many in their vehicles.

Daily operations are conducted over 10 established UHF/VHF repeaters. These repeaters are located on tops of buildings (i.e. the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, etc.) as well as multi-story residential structures. These repeaters, many with back-up power sources, provide robust redundancy and cover not only the NYC metropolitan area but all of the surrounding areas (i.e. Rockland, Westchester, Nassau, etc.), including Eastern New Jersey. Our tactical radio channels consist of 34 UHF/VHF channels to cover all of NYC with 18 HF channels that provide us with the ability to talk or send digital messages to outside NYC and across the world--all of this can be conducted with no commercial electricity, cell phones or Internet service.

R.A.C.E.S. Program Qualification

Team members of the NYC-ARECS are licensed by the FCC and may participate in the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), a protocol created by the FCC and is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security / Federal Emergency Management Agency. The RACES program was established by the United States government in 1952, to provide emergency communications to government agencies. RACES provides a pool of registered emergency communications personnel that can be called upon in time of need by a local, county, or state government agency to meet whatever need that agency has.[6]

Amateur Radio as a Mission Extender in Emergency Preparedness Strategy

On many occasions the US Congress has commended teams such as NYC-ARECS for their contributions to technical progress in electronics and for their emergency radio communications in times of disaster. A section of a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act formally included Amateur Radio operators as a part of the emergency communications community.[6] Congress approved this measure and the President signed the bill into law. NYC-ARECS remains eager to see the adoption of new Congressional Resolutions which may formally enhance the use of and broaden inclusion of, federally licensed Amateur Radio communicators as part of any municipality's comprehensive disaster and emergency plans.

Affiliations and Liaison

NYC-ARECS leaders were the initiators of the development of both the US East Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (USeast-NBEMS) and the New York Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (NY-NBEMS) nets which are made up of many different individuals of various Amateur Radio emergency communication groups from a wide-geographic area (from across the USA, Canada and down to the Caribbean). (Link)

Prior to hurricane season 2012, these groups entered into liaison with the Eastern Caribbean Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (EC-NBEMS) to be able to exchange emergency information in the event that all normal modes of communications fail. The geographic locations, including both cities and countries, which are included in EC-NBEMS coverage area include: Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Barthélemy, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and Grenada.

NYC-ARECS also maintains cordial acquaintance with a list of colleagues from other emergency radio communications groups such as the San Bernardino County RACES, a division of the California Office of Emergency Services (OES); the Salt Lake County Amateur Radio Emergency Service; the Calhoun County, AL ARES/RACES, the Pennsylvania Auxiliary Communications Service and others.

Individual members of NYC-ARECS are active in their respective communities and affiliated with other organizations in New York City, this includes being members of the ServNY State Medical Emergency Response Team; CERT; American Red Cross; Citizens Corp; NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Emergency Response Team; and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.


NYC-ARECS is comprised of many of the people that make up the melting pot that is New York City. Not only English, but team members speak Spanish, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, German, Arabic and Yiddish. Our members are from various backgrounds including Irish, Scottish, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Venezuelan, Greek, Ukrainian, Russian, German, Egyptian, Israeli and Italian.

[1] Perspective on Preparedness: Taking Stock Since 9/11 Report to Congress Of the Local, State, Tribal, and Federal Preparedness Task Force - September 2012.
[3] "National Credentialing Definition And Criteria Guide of 2007" FEMA NG0002 March 27, 2007
[5] "National Incident Management System (NIMS) Fact Sheet" DHS / FEMA
[6] [47 Code of Federal Regulations 97.407(c), (d)]
[7] Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2007 Appropriations Act, HR 5441


NYC Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service, Inc.
Email: | Phone: 917-991-0356

NY State Non-Profit #4273028
IRS 501(c)3 #45-4055545

Membership in NYC-ARECS