ARES Mission in the Santa Barbara South County

Information about the Santa Barbara South County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (A.R.E.S.)

Disaster Preparedness

Emergency Communications

Public Service Communications


Emergency Radio Communications

Amateur Radio has always had a responsibility to perform communications in the public service. In fact, it’s one of the basic purposes of the Amateur Radio Service defined by the FCC. You’ll find many Amateur Radio operators enjoy using their skills and equipment to help their communities by providing communications for public service events like parades and walk-a-thons and in emergency service activities such as searches and disaster relief.

Members of the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club have a long history of emergency service communications. In the 1925 earthquake, amateur radio operators established contact with the outside world to request assistance for the community. In 1938, local hams proved radio contact could be established between city fire stations. Today, amateur radio operators can provide countywide communications between the County Emergency Operation Center (EOC) and the EOC in each city and between the County Emergency Medical Services EOC and every hospital.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is part of the American Radio Relay League’s (ARRL) extensive volunteer field organization dedicated to public service. Whenever regular communications channels are down or are overloaded, these amateur radio operators are ready to provide a temporary and reliable backup system. Fires, floods, earthquakes, major accidents, power outages … virtually any disruption of normal services brings out the amateur radio emergency teams.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service communicators come with their own radios and peripheral equipment and supplies to be completely self-sufficient. If you desire them to use or operate your equipment, they can usually do so with minimum instruction.

Communications Facilities

ARES has available, mostly through its affiliation with the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club, a number of resources, including a fully-equipped radio communications center at the Club’s facility at the American Red Cross in Santa Barbara, one in a mobile communications van, and another at the Santa Barbara County Emergency Operating Center. Mountain top repeater stations are maintained to allow VHF/UHF communications throughout the county and a portable repeater is available to set up in the field.

Served Agencies

Amateur radio emergency communications service agreements are in place with several public agencies and community organizations in the Santa Barbara area. Among the agencies we serve are:

  • Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services
  • Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • American Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Direct Relief International
  • Los Padres Search And Rescue Team
  • Various cities, through fire and police departments, and other community agencies
  • Any agency which requests assistance through the County Office of Emergency Services.

Amateur radio is an integral part of the emergency plans of each of these key community service agencies.

This communications service is absolutely free. In fact, Federal Communications Commission rules strictly prohibit compensation for any kind of services rendered by amateur radio operators.

What ARES Means To You

Communities – If you are an elected or appointed public official who represents a municipality in Santa Barbara County, ARES representatives will be delighted to explain how amateur radio can offer reliable backup for your public safety communications. There are ARES units serving Santa Barbara South Coast, the Santa Ynez Valley, the Lompoc Valley, and the Santa Maria area.

Hospitals – ARES provides an important role in maintaining emergency communications between all hospitals in Santa Barbara County and the County Emergency Medical Services Emergency Operations Center.

Agencies – Nationally and in Santa Barbara County, the American Red Cross and Salvation Army are linked with amateur radio through formal service agreements. In addition, the Santa Barbara ARES has an agreement with Direct Relief International. Hams provide communications assistance for “health and welfare” messages, keeping agencies in touch with each other, and letting anxious relatives far away know about the status of loved ones. ARES also operates fire watch patrols for the U.S. Forest Service, provides communications assistance to the Los Padres Search And Rescue Team and coordinates a Weather Spotter Network.

Organizations – If your church, school, mobile home park, retirement home, or other organization would like to develop an emergency communications plan, ARES can assist you by recommending resources and networking you with other agencies and organizations.

What “Amateur” Radio Means

Amateur Radio takes volunteerism to its highest level. The Federal Communications Commission issues these licenses to qualified people “interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.” So the radio amateur participates in public and emergency service for the personal satisfaction of helping the communities in which they live. They are trained and experienced communicators who make themselves and their equipment available at no cost to the user.

A unique capability of Amateur radio is its ability to provide many different types of communications on many different frequencies, making it one of the most flexible support systems available to you.

What equipment do I need to supply?

ARES communicators come with their own radios and peripheral equipment and supplies to be completely self-sufficient. If you desire them to use or operate your equipment, they can usually do so with minimum instruction.


ARES is a national organization of the American Radio Relay League, sponsored locally by the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club. For more information, call the emergency coordinator at 805-967-4859.

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