Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network (CAREN)

The Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net (CAREN) is the oldest of several amateur radio clubs in the central Arkansas area. CAREN’s focus is on providing public service event support and emergency communications. To facilitate these services, CAREN operates VHF/UHF radio repeater sites throughout the central region of the state.

Ham radio operators are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 97 (Amateur Radio Service), after passing an examination for one of several classes of license. The Amateur Radio Service has five main purposes: 1) providing emergency communications as a noncommercial service, 2) advancing the radio art, 3) advancing communications and technical skills, 4) expanding a pool of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts, and 5) enhancing international goodwill.

Founded in the 1950s by a group of amateur radio operators, informally called hams, CAREN maintains its flagship site on Shinall Mountain in western Little Rock (Pulaski County), where four voice repeaters and two digital systems are maintained. CAREN also has voice repeater sites that can be linked to Shinall near Clarksville (Johnson County), Russell (White County), Bismarck (Hot Spring County), Clinton (Van Buren County), and Star City (Lincoln County). The CAREN linked repeater system is also the host for the Arkansas Skywarn severe storm spotter network serving the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock (Pulaski County).

Each year, CAREN coordinates ham radio communication support for about a dozen public service events such as races, bike tours, and ultra-runs. These are mostly fundraising events for nonprofits and certain government departments. Some of the larger activities such as the Little Rock Marathon and the Big Dam Bridge 100 involve working closely with numerous public safety agencies to provide a safe, smoothly run event. Some of the bike tours require coverage over as many as four counties where ham radio is the only means of communication throughout the course. Other events, like the Arkansas Traveler 100 Miler ultra-run, take place along trails and roads and can cover parts of three counties within the national forest, requiring operations to be self-contained, including power for radios.

Two of CAREN’s main objectives are met by the public service events. First is the ability to practice tactical communications skills of the type that might be required should emergency managers in the area request ham radio assistance during an emergency situation when their regular systems are overloaded or out of service. And, the events are an opportunity for hams to give to the community by volunteering their time, skills, and equipment.

CAREN works closely with the emergency management agencies of Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County. Other emergency and disaster relief entities served include the Red Cross, Salvation Army, MEMS ambulance service, and various medical facilities. Ham radio operators, using radios already in place or bringing radios with them, may staff emergency operations centers, shelters, dispatch centers, and other locations as needed. The hams take part in exercises with these agencies so that all involved can learn to work together.

CAREN also hosts the All-Arkansas Hamfest each year. A hamfest is a combination of a ham radio–related flea market, radio dealers, convention, and meetings, offering an opportunity for operators to meet and visit with other operators who usually only talk to each other over the air.

For additional information:
Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net. http://www.carenclub.com (accessed February 1, 2022).

Jensen, Van. “Ham Radio Operators Listen to, Aid Hurricane Rescue Efforts.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. September 1, 2005, p. 10A.

Wolfe, Ron. “Hams Stay Tuned.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 19, 2006, pp. 1E, 6E.

Mark Barnhard
Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net


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