RACES stands for “Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service,” a protocol created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC Part 97, Section 407). Many government agencies across the country train their Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) volunteers using the RACES protocol. The volunteers serve their respective jurisdictions pursuant to guidelines and mandates established by local emergency management officials.
RACES volunteer operators are:
Licensed Radio Amateurs
Certified by a civil defense agency
Able to communicate on Amateur Radio frequencies during drills, exercises and emergencies
Activated by local, county and state jurisdictions and are the only Amateur Radio operators authorized to transmit during declared emergencies when the President of the United States specifically invokes the War Powers Act.
National Incident Management System:
Protocols embraced by RACES volunteers across the nation include the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which provides a consistent nationwide template to enable federal, state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together to protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents.
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) almost never starts before an emergency and is active only during the emergency and during the immediate aftermath if government emergency management offices need communications support. RACES is normally shut down shortly after the emergency has cleared.
In daily practice, most amateur radio operators enrolled with their local government for possible operations under the RACES rules are also members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), organized by the American Radio Relay League. ARES provides emergency communications in the conventional Amateur Radio Service without the need for an emergency declaration from the government
RACES volunteers must be licensed Radio Amateurs, certified by a civil defense agency, able to communicate on Amateur Radio frequencies during drills, exercises and emergencies; must be activated by local, county and state jurisdictions, and are the only Amateur Radio operators authorized to transmit during declared emergencies when the President of the United States specifically invokes the War Powers Act.
When RACES is 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.
In addition to wartime communications, 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.
You can volunteer for RACES by enrolling with a civil defense organization locally. In Medina County it is through the Medina County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland security (EMA) Communications Unit.
A station operating under RACES may only communicate with: 1) A RACES station licensed to the local civil defense organization; 2) Other RACES licensees; 3) Certain amateur stations registered with civil defense organizations; 4) Certain US government stations authorized by the responsible agency to communicate with RACES stations and; 5) Stations in a service regulated by the FCC when authorized by the FCC [97.407(d)].
RACES members may transmit only messages related to: 1) Impending danger to the public or affecting national defense during emergencies; 2) The immediate safety of individuals, the immediate protection of property, maintenance of law and order, alleviation of human suffering and need, and combating armed attack and sabotage; 3) The dissemination of information to the public from a local civil defense organization or other government or relief organization and; 4) Communications during RACES drills.