Emergency Communications

Aiken County Emergency Management

The Aiken County Emergency Management Division coordinates the county’s integrated emergency management system through partnerships with all emergency response organizations, voluntary agencies, private non –profit organizations and other support services, to ensure efficient preparation for, effective response to, and timely recovery from emergencies and disasters to reduce human suffering and property loss.

The Aiken County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) provides a central location from which government at any level (local, state, Federal) can provide interagency coordination and executive decision-making in support of the incident response.
The EOC is the central command and control facility charged with carrying out the mission of the Aiken County Emergency Management Division.

The EOC is located in a secure hardened facility to ensure protection from severe weather and other natural and manmade threats. The EOC has emergency backup power and interoperable emergency communications.

South Carolina AUXCOMM

The primary purpose of SC AUXCOMM is to provide state emergency officials a comprehensive and up to date listing of volunteer operators with keen interest in providing emergency communications support. Individuals in SC AUXCOMM have demonstrated a commitment to developing knowledge, interpersonal skills and operating expertise, as required by state emergency managers, in order to work in the State Emergency Operations Center or deploy with state communications assets. These assets include but are not limited to the State Emergency Communications Vehicle, the SCHEART Trailer, the SC State Guard Trailer, the Aiken County Trailer, and other State Deploy-able assets.

Important Information for ARES Members holding SC Agency Mars Operator Permits

After January 1, 2016, South Carolina will be leaving the MARS program and returning state issued Agency MARS licenses to the DOD program office. Under the new DHS OEC program, SCEMD will issue SHARES Operator Permit Cards to individuals who previously held a SC Agency MARS Operator Permit and are members of SC AUXCOMM. Individuals who held a SC Agency MARS Operator Permit, but never registered and completed the mandatory training for SC AUXCOMM ,will be given another chance to join. If they register and complete training within 90 days, they will be issued a SHARES Operator Permit for state owned equipment.

If the individuals do not complete their training and register in SC AUXCOMM, they will not be allowed to operate Agency Owned SHARES equipment.

Like the Agency MARS program, the permit only authorizes an individual to operate Agency Owned and Licensed SHARES station. They can not operate their own equipment and use the Agency Issued SHARES License/ Call Sign.

South Carolina Healthcare Emergency Amateur Radio Team (SCHEART)

The seeds for the South Carolina Healthcare Amateur Radio Team (SCHEART) project were first planted when hams and engineers in the Charleston area decided to place amateur radio equipment within local hospitals and support them with a network of “repeaters” that amplify communications signals. The Charleston-area initiative, known as the Hospital Emergency Amateur Radio Team (HEART), was envisioned and developed to support patient evacuation out of this hurricane-prone region.

The success of the HEART system led to the crafting of a similar system that placed strategically-linked repeaters around the state and linked them to form a statewide emergency communications network, known as SCHEART. These repeaters reach the majority of the sixty-plus hospitals that receive funding and support from the Hospital Preparedness Program under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. This redundant communications network is located at broadcast and microwave towers owned and operated by the South Carolina Educational Television Network (ETV). The repeaters are linked together using the ETV microwave network for the benefit of the SCHEART initiative.

The SCHEART licensing classes, Radio Response Teams, facility assessments, and exercise participation are intended to achieve the ETV / USC-CPHP’s vision of each hospital and healthcare entity in South Carolina having a dedicated cadre of ham operators trained, credentialed and ready to support the facility in an emergency or whenever communications are crippled and lives are in jeopardy.


The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. To obtain critical weather information, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established SKYWARN® with partner organizations. SKYWARN® is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters. Many of these trained spotters are ham radio operators. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.

Although SKYWARN® spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a SKYWARN® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. Ham radio operators will often activate a SKYWARN net at times of potential severe weather in order to collect reports in a timely manner.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)

The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a standby radio service provided for in Part 97.407 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations governing amateur radio in the United States. When so activated, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service will consist of only those amateur radio operators who have previously registered with State and local governments to provide emergency radio communications for them in times of emergency. Other amateur radio operations might be suspended and operations under the RACES rules might be restricted to certain frequencies within the amateur radio bands.

Operations under the RACES rules can provide or supplement communications during emergencies where normal communication systems have sustained damage. It may be used in a wide variety of situations, including natural disasters, technological disasters, nuclear accidents, nuclear attack, terrorist incidents, and bomb threats.