Yellowknife Amateur Radio Society

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada



Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)

Radio Amateurs of Canada has a fairly sophisticated Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  This service is open to the participation of all amateurs.  It is a nation-wide service and is routinely called upon by emergency measures organizations for the handling of communications - whether it be the transmission of public welfare messages or an augmentation to the emergency measures organization itself. 

Although YARS is not actually part of ARES, it is affiliated with RAC and it has studied ARES.  At some point in the future YARS hopes to become more involved with the ARES organization. 

Northwest Territories Emergency Plan (2018)

YARS is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and this therefore of a class of community resources mentioned at section 3.1.7 of the Northwest Territories Emergency Plan (2018):

3.1.7 Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and the Private Sector
To ensure the most effective response to emergencies all available community resources need to be
considered as part of preparedness and response. There are a number of non-government volunteer
and private sector organizations located in many NWT communities. This includes church or faith-based
groups, service clubs, volunteer organizations, companies with work camps, equipment and supply
resources, and other agencies with resources and services that could be utilized during emergencies.
These organizations can provide a wide range of skills, manpower and equipment and may also have
extensive expertise and connections with vulnerable populations. Community and GNWT planners
should incorporate NGOs and private sector corporations’ capabilities and resources into established
emergency plans through established agreements.
Guidance for including NGOs and the private sector into community and GNWT emergency plans are
included at Appendix 3 – Planning Guidance – Non-Government Organizations and the Private Sector

The top five hazards facing the Northwest Territories are (at article 3.2 of the Emergency Plan):

  • wildfire;
  • flood;
  • severe weather;
  • transportation incidents;
  • critical infrastructure failure.

As YARS is oriented towards telecommunications, its role is evident (article 3.5):

3.5 Emergency Telecommunications
In an emergency, effective telecommunications is critical to establish situational awareness, ensure the
efficient exchange of information, coordinate response activities, exercise command and control, and
provide for responder safety.
The primary communications systems for management of territorial emergency response are telephone
voice and data using government systems. During major emergencies, departments or agencies with
operational mandates may have specialized systems that could be used to augment NWT EMO
operational communications requirements.
During communications outages, the NWT EMO maintains sufficient telecommunications equipment
and modes to communicate between the territorial EOC and regional EOCs and between regional EOCs
and communities. Departments and agencies are required to ensure sufficient back-up communications
capability to communicate with the territorial EOC, regional EOCs and internally to support response
activities during emergencies.

City of Yellowknife Emergency Plan (2019)

The City of Yellowknife has prepared an Emergency Plan in the form of the Emergency Measures Bylaw No. 4996.  That Bylaw is not terribly informative but the Memorandum to the Committee of April 23, 2019 is at page 72. More significant is the City of Yellowknife Emergency Management Plan (starting at page 80).  Chapters 8 (Emergency Response) and 9 (Standard Operating Procedures) are of significant to YARS.  YARS has a role as an outside agency (s. 6.4) in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and also at section 7.3.2 as an "other agency".  Much of the Plan is coordinated with the Emergency Management Act, SNWT 2018,c.17.  

At section 8.4 of the Plan, the following locations are designated:

  • Primary Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) - City Hall 4807 - 52nd Street.  The Corporate Boardroom is the Emergency Operations Centre.
  • Alternate Emergency Operations Centre - 2nd floor boardroom of the Fire Hall, Station #1, 100 Taylor Road.
  • Primary Emergency Shelter or Reception Centre - Fieldhouse or Multiplex (one or both).
  • Secondary Reception Centre for emergencies - École Saint Patrick School facility.

Located in École Saint Patrick is the Physics classroom and located in that is the old computer lab.  It is here that VE8PAT is located, YARS' main operating station.  This station and facility has emergency generators, VHF and HF capability and is used, tested and maintained regularly.  There are antennas on the roof of the building.  

YARS Can Provide Assistance and Support to Civil Authorities During Emergencies

There are various reasons why the amateur radio service is attractive to emergency preparedness organizations: 

  • More frequencies.  The amateur radio service has substantially more frequencies on which to operate.  In fact while emergency services might have specific frequencies allocated to them, the amateur radio service has bands - tens of thousands of frequencies allocated - and these frequencies and bands are more useable at different times of the day or year. 
  • Infrastructure independent.  Radio amateurs' equipment is generally infrastructure independent.  We have our own power sources, solar panels, antennas etc.  If the phone lines or power lines are down (or the Internet), we are still capable of communicating with the world.  Since the equipment is our own, we are already trained on it and have experience using it.  
  • Diversity.  Because our stations are spread out all over the place and not concentrated in one location, should an event occur that renders that one location no longer viable, it does not matter to us.
  • Training.  Radio amateurs are trained and experienced.  They have technical skills and savoir-faire in the operation of radio systems, building of antennas, circuit design and so forth.  This is proven as a licensed amateur radio operator has to have passed standardized examinations by Industry Canada to obtain their licence.  
  • Volunteers.  Radio amateurs are volunteers.  They are motivated.  They do this sort of activity because they want to do it.  "HAM" radio is non-commercial.  Radio amateurs have invested in their own training and equipment, at their own cost and without expectation of reward - a form of community service. 

Everything that we do is oriented to that one day when we are asked to provide assistance.  Whether that call is from a powerboat or from an emergency measures organization, we strive to be ready.  Readiness is achieved and maintained through fox hunts and ARDF, contesting, learning how to solder, learning about low power (QRP) operations or simply maintaining logs for QSL cards. We remain flexible.

Local and Territorial Emergencies and YARS Volunteers

In theory we could serve either the local community (Yellowknife and area) in a local emergency or the Northwest Territories (through the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs) in a territorial emergency.  We could either serve as formation in our own right or attach individual members to the civil authorities to assist. Our ability to meet such a challenge would depend on the circumstances at the time and the availability of our members.  

Naturally provisions of the Emergency Management Act, SNWT 2018,c.17 and in particular provisions about volunteers including provisions regarding compensation (section 23) and liability (section 24).  Section 4 of the Workers Compensation Act, SNWT 2007,c.21 would also apply to volunteers.  YARS had quite a bit of say in the development of these provisions when they were developed.  

HF Emergency Frequencies

  Single Sideband CW Digital
Band Frequency Tactical Frequency Tactical Frequency Tactical
80 M 3.675 MHz LSB Alfa 3.535 MHz Golf 3.596 MHz Mike
40 M 7.135 MHz LSB Bravo 7.035 MHz Hotel 7.096 MHz November
20 M 14.135 MHz USB Charlie 14.035 MHz India 14.096 MHz Oscar
17 M 18.135 MHz USB Delta 18.075 MHz Juliet 18.096 MHz Papa
15 M 21.235 MHz USB Echo 21.035 MHz Kilo 21.096 MHz Quebec
10 M 28.235 MHz USB Foxtrot 28.035 MHz Lima 28.096 MHz Romeo