Pleasant Hill, Iowa – On June 19th, Governor Kim Reynolds and Acting Lt Governor Adam Gregg presented the Story County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) with the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. Keith Morgan, the Story County Emergency Management Coordinator who nominated the group for the award said, “Communications is the linchpin of disaster response and the Story County Amateur Radio Emergency Service has selflessly and quietly worked to ensure our first responders stay connected no matter what happens. Nominating them for this award was the least I could do for them.”
Coordinated by Volunteer Iowa, the Governor’s Volunteer Award program—now in its 35th year— recognizes the dedicated people who volunteer their time and talent to help fulfill the missions of Iowa nonprofits, charitable organizations, and government entities.
The Story County Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateur radio operators whose primary task is to provide communications to support disaster operations. Members registered their qualifications and equipment and continually hone their skills through training and exercises. At their own expense, they maintain their radio equipment, digital communications equipment, backup power systems, and associated supplies to be ready at a moment’s notice. Morgan said, “What really sets the Story County ARES apart from their other ARES teams is their desire to do more than just operate radios. They aggressively recruit and train more amateur radio operators, they assist my office with designing and building deployable radio systems for use in disasters, and ARES members take their own time and money to obtain some of the highest communications certifications available. They make the Story County program the benchmark for the rest of the state.”
Story County ARES is a small team with a handful of active volunteers, but they combine whatever equipment they can afford to purchase with their skills and knowledge to make communications happen. The team has the capability to communicate across most of the frequencies available to HAM radio operators and they use sophisticated digital based systems down to regular voice transmissions to get the job done. “We needed to recruit new members, so we decided to offer one-day FCC license study and exam sessions targeted to other like-minded people. We have found storm spotters and other disaster response volunteers are very receptive to learning about our mission,” said Clint Miller, Story ARES Emergency Coordinator. “Once these students passed their FCC exam and had their ‘License to Learn’, we followed up with in-depth, introductory workshops to train our potential recruits. We’ve had amazing results and developed some fantastic new ARES members who bring fresh skills to our team.” Story County ARES has directly supported Story County Emergency Management by developing two deployable radio kits that can be used for communications by two separate teams of volunteers during disasters. They also designed the network that provides access to local over-the-air television broadcast to provide situational awareness to potential command centers in three locations within the Story County Administration Building. Specially trained ARES personnel are currently designing the communications network that will support local RAGBRAI operations in July.
“Story County ARES is a great example of what volunteer organizations can do to support their communities while having some fun. This is a great group of folks that seem to have fun solving every challenge and problem that I give them.” commented Morgan, “I encourage anyone interested in HAM radios to check it out at storyares.org to see how to get started.”