In the emergency communications world, we stress the use of plain language, particularly on the air.

However, during training sessions, meetings, and just general conversation with others, you will no doubt encounter a variety of terms and acronyms with which you may not be familiar.

Though by no means all-inclusive, this list is provided to help in those situations.

Acronyms and Terminology

  • Anderson Powerpole
    A type of power plug that the ARRL recommends as a standard so that different operator's equipment can be quickly interchanged. The most commonly used Anderson Powerpole can handle 30 amps of current.


  • APRS - Automatic Packet Reporting System 
    APRS is a communications protocol that allows stations to send location, weather, and other data real-time.


  • ARECC - Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course(s)
    A series of courses offered by the ARRL. The courses teach basic information about emergency communications, ARES®, and the relationship between amateur operators and the emergency agencies they assist.


  • EAS - Emergency Alert System
    An emergency broadcast system using public communications (TV and radio) to alert the general public to an emergency situation. 


  • EC - Emergency Coordinator
    An appointed ARRL official who directs the emergency efforts within a county.


  • EDC - Every-Day-Carry
    Equipment that you carry on your person or within reach (a handheld radio, flashlight, ID, pocket knife, etc.)


  • EOC - Emergency Operations Center
    A building from which emergency operations are directed.


  • emcom, emcomm - Emergency Communications or Emergency Communicator
    A general term referring to the act of or the person providing communications services during an emergency.


  • FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
    The government agency concerned with disaster preparation and disaster recovery.


  • first responder
    The first person or agency to be sent to the scene of an emergency.


  • FRP - Federal Response Plan
    The U.S. Government's plan to provide for federal assistance to states and communities in any major disaster or emergency.


  • FRS - Family Radio Service
    An unlicensed personal radio service in the UHF band. All radios in this service must be hand-held units transmitting no more than 1/2 watt.


  • GMRS - General Mobile Radio Service
    A licensed personal radio service in the UHF band. For the price of the license fee (there is no exam) you may set up base, mobile, and repeater systems running up to 50 watts.


  • ICS - Incident Command System
    A management tool to bring multiple agencies together under one command structure during an emergency. 


  • Jump-Bag, Jump-Kit
    A bag or pack that has your "call-out" gear (emergency activation gear).
    (Also known as a Bug-Out-Bag, Go-Kit or Go-Bag)


  • MARS - Military Affiliate Radio System
    A military-run radio system that uses frequencies close to the amateur radio bands. MARS sometimes interacts directly with amateur radio, especially for message handling.


  • MOU - Memorandum Of Understanding
    A written agreement between two organizations describing their cooperative efforts. 


  • MURS - Multiple Use Radio System
    A large number of VHF hand-held radios were marketed and sold through catalogs and on the Internet. Most of them were preset to one of five VHF business band frequencies. Although a license was required, few people buying the radios bothered to obtained one. The FCC, realizing the difficulty in policing these five frequencies, simply declared them to be a new "multi-use" band requiring no license.


  • NCS (1) - National Communications System
    An umbrella organization covering the communications needs of 23 federal agencies.


  • NCS (2) - Network Control Station
    A station, or more likely, an operator who is running a radio network. He or she is in charge of the flow of traffic on that net.


  • NTS - National Traffic System
    An ARRL-run network of operators who pass telegram-like messages throughout the United States.


  • NVIS - Near Vertical Incidence Skywave
    An antenna system designed to send HF transmissions almost straight up, where they bounce off of the ionosphere and return to earth to cover a wide area around the sending station.


  • NWR - NOAA Weather Radio
    The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information direct from nearby National Weather Service offices.


  • OES - Official Emergency Station
    An appointed ARRL operator who performs some specific emergency communications-related function(s) and is generally held to a higher standard of operations and behavior.


  • PIO - Public Information Officer
    A person assigned to make public statements and handle queries from the press and public.


  • RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
    Amateur radio groups organized by civil authorities to perform emergency communications. 


  • RRT - Rapid Response Team 
    A small group of emergency communicators who are the first to report during an emergency. They activate strategically placed communications systems. There may be a "level 1" (immediate) RRT, followed later by a "level 2" (heavier support) RRT.


  • SAME - Specific Area Message Encoding
    The NOAA Weather Radio's system for activating the severe weather alert system on many home weather radios on a selective basis.


  • SATERN - Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network
    The Salvation Army's internally managed amateur radio effort.


  • SEC - Section Emergency Coordinator
    An appointed ARRL official who directs the emergency efforts within a section (usually a single state). (The Indiana Section Emergency Coordinator is Tony Langer, W9AL.)


  • served agency
    As an "emergency communicator" you will always be working for someone. You will never be managing an emergency yourself. You will be assisting some civil agency (police, fire, etc.) or other emergency relief organization (hospital, Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc.). The agency or organization to which you provide communications services is the "served agency".


  • SOP - Standard Operating Procedure
    The protocol established by an agency for its operation.


  • SOU - Statement of Understanding
    See MOU, Memorandum of Understanding.


    A program managed by the National Weather Service that utilizes trained volunteer "spotters" to send in real-time on-the-ground reports of severe weather.


  • SM - Section Manager
    An elected ARRL official who directs the League's efforts within a subsection of a region. Most Section Managers take care of a single state. (The Indiana Section Manager is John Poindexter, W3ML.)


  • traffic
    Messages sent over the air. Usually this means formal written messages.


  • VOX
    A microphone/radio system that uses the operator's voice to activate the transmitter instead of a manual button.