History and Current Organization of South County ARES
In 1972, Dick Collins was approached by the Redwood City Police Department with the request that he organize the local amateur radio operators (amateurs) for the purpose of providing emergency communications. Redwood City police recognized the value and capabilities of experienced people with communication capabilities to assist during the flood-watches, power outages, mudslides, earthquakes and, in general, major incidents affecting the community. San Carlos and Belmont PDs also approached Dick with the same request. Support has been received from these communities by having work space, antennas, and radios provided for SCARES use in the police departments. Liaison police officers have also been assigned to work with SCARES members to establish equipment sites and procedures.
The organization is incorporated as a non-profit organization and is known as the South County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (S.C.A.R.E.S. or SCARES). A board of directors guides the organization of over 130 members. SCARES interacts with other local ARES/RACES groups and is affiliated nationally through the Public Service branch of the ARRL. The group owns and operates an amateur radio UHF repeater which until August 2021 was located on Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City. As of November 13, 2021, the K6MPN Repeater is located on top of the Hall of Justice building in Redwood City.. Members provide communication services to the local communities within the SCARES area. Members are available to be deployed within the area from San Mateo to Menlo Park and out to the coast (Pescadero) on a "mutual aid" basis. In a "declared" disaster, the group can 'change hats' and become a Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) group. [The change here is that county OES/FEMA takes on responsibility and SCARES members are then registered Disaster Service Workers who are eligible for workmen's compensation. As an ARES group, members are just local volunteers helping out.] There is also a mutual aid reciprocity with amateur radio organizations in the surrounding counties. During the Oakland Fire Storm, amateurs from Santa Clara, San Franciso, San Mateo, and Alameda Counties volunteered to help in the Alameda county problem.
In San Mateo County, amateurs have often been called upon to provide communications to remote areas of the county during floods and search & rescue operations. The amateurs' personal portable equipment and ability to inter-connect existing amateur repeaters have made amateur radio operators a valuable, reliable resource for the county.
Training is accomplished by handling communications for many Bay area special events including the Redwood City 4th of July Parade, Special Olympics, the Human Race, The Providian Relay, Tour de Cure (Am. Diabetes Assoc.), San Carlos Home Town Days, Redwood City PD's Halloween Watch and Silent Night (New Year's Eve). The annual Office of Emergency Service county-wide drill utilizes amateurs in all of San Mateo County to provide communications from their local EOC to County OES at the Hall of Justice in Redwood City. There is also a weekly radio check-in every Monday with a member assigned as the Net Control station operating from one of the Police Departments in the south county area.