ETH047 – Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services(RACES)

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Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to be talking about the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service(RACES), we talk about the Cleveland Amateur Radio Club from Cleveland, TN in our amateur radio club spotlight, we talk about some upcoming events/contests and Hamfests for the next two weeks and wrap it up with some news from around the hobby!

Tech Corner – Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services(RACES)

RACES Logo

What is RACES?

Founded in 1952, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a public service provided by a reserve (volunteer) communications group within government agencies in times of extraordinary need. During periods of RACES activation, certified unpaid personnel are called upon to perform many tasks for the government agencies they serve. Although the exact nature of each activation will be different, the common thread is communications.

ACS, in its RACES and other reserve emergency communications functions, provides a pool of emergency communications personnel that can be called upon in time of need. ACS/RACES units across the country prepare themselves for the inevitable day when they will be called upon. When a local, county, or state government agency activates its ACS unit, that unit will use its communications resources (RACES, if necessary) to meet whatever need that agency has.

Traditional RACES operations involve emergency message handling on Amateur Radio Service frequencies. These operations typically involve messages between critical locations such as hospitals, emergency services, emergency shelters, and any other locations where communication is needed. These communications are handled in any mode available, with 2 meters FM being the most prevalent. During time of war, when the President exercises his War Emergency Powers, RACES might become the only communications allowed via amateur radio. Activating under the FCC’s restrictive RACES Rules is not always necessary when using Amateur Radio Service frequencies for emergency communications. For example, ACS communicators may need to communicate with ARES or other radio amateurs who are not government-certified to operate in a RACES net. ACS personnel also might become involved in non-amateur public-safety or other government communications, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staffing, and emergency equipment repair.

Who Does RACES Operate Under?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides planning guidance and technical assistance for establishing a RACES organization at the state and local government level.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for the regulation of RACES operations. RACES is administrated by a local, county, or state civil defense agency responsible for disaster services. This civil defense agency is typically an emergency services or emergency management organization, sometimes within another agency such as police or fire. RACES is a function of the agency’s Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), sometimes known as DCS (Disaster Communications Service), ECS (Emergency Communications Service), ARPSC (Amateur Radio Public Service Corps), etc. Many ACS units identify themselves solely as RACES organizations, even though their communications functions and activities typically go beyond the restrictions of RACES operations. Other ACS units combine government RACES and non-government ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) activities and identify themselves as ARES/RACES organizations. Yet other ACS units who use amateur radio for emergency government communications identify themselves solely as ARES organizations, whether or not they activate under FCC RACES Rules.

The Amateur Radio Regulations, Part 97, Subpart E, §97.407, were created by the FCC to describe RACES operations in detail. Although no longer issued or renewable, RACES station licenses were issued in the past by the FCC to government agencies for RACES operations. The agencies may continue to conduct RACES operations without these licenses, using primary or club call signs.

Training

While each RACES organization may not require the same thing, there are a few “classes” that are required by the NIMS for all entry-level first responders. These are the NIMS courses, IS-100b and IS-700b.While these two are the only ones that are required by the NIMS system for first responders, several RACES groups that I have looked at also require the IS-200 and/or IS-800.b.

Even though RACES and Skywarn are two separate entities on paper, because of the way that both of them work, sometimes Skywarn is run under the RACES flag so to speak. Since they are pushed together so often, some RACES groups require Skywarn training as well.

Other types of training should also be done within the RACES organization. Things like Net training, search and rescue operations, how to send a radiogram, and so much more. While most training is done in person there also should be on the air training. With RACES however, you are limited to one hour of on the air training a week. You can extend the one hour per week to up to 72 in length with the permission but you can only do this twice a year. This type of training is typically a large-scale training event involving multiple agencies.

Standardization

One of the things that we have learned over the years, since 9/11/2001 especially, is that things should be more standardized across different organizations or agencies. One of the things that a lot of RACES organizations have done all across the US is to standardize their power connections. When I first got my license 20+ years ago, there were several different types of power connections and each manufacture had a different style.

Things have gotten better over the years and now most radios have the same type of connections. I have not personally see any new radios in a while so I’m not sure if they are the same type of connects as they use to be, however, many RACES organizations have adopted a standardized power connection called the Anderson Powerpole Connectors.

One of the many reasons that I can think of to goto this type of power plug is because of the awesome power distribution system that West Mountain Radio has developed called the Rig Runner.These power distribution systems are an awesome piece of equipment and are very versatile!

Liability Issues?

One of the things that I hear a lot when it comes to people volunteering is that they don’t want to put themselves in a position where they can be sued. While this question doesn’t come up a lot in the amateur radio community because a lot of people who are hams got into it to help people, this is still a valid concern. Thankfully, those that volunteer to be a RACES, ARES and Skywarn volunteer are protected under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997.

While this act is not a get out of jail free card or total protection from a lawsuit, it does protect you from prosecution if you if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. By that I’m saying that if you:

  • Work within the scope of your responsibilities,   
  • The harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer
  • If appropriate or required, the volunteer was properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities for the activities or practice in the State in which the harm occurred, where the activities were or practice was undertaken within the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities in the nonprofit organization or governmental entity
  • The harm was not caused by the volunteer operating a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle for which the State requires the operator or the owner of the vehicle, craft, or vessel to–
    • possess an operator’s license; or
    • maintain insurance.

Links Mentioned in the episode

Further Reading:

Flashback:


Amateur Radio Club Spotlight

CARC Logo - RACESCleveland Amateur Radio Club

Website: https://www.carc.cc/

Twitter: @carc_tn

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carcradioclub/

Club Callsign: W4GZX

The CARC is one of the few amateur radio clubs that owns its own building which is a huge blessing.  This allows for club member to congregate anytime they want.  Every Saturday our clubhouse is open from 8 AM to noon for members to come and work on radio projects, get on the air, or have a cup of coffee with fellow hams.  The CARC clubhouse is located centrally in Cleveland, TN on a high ridge and serves Cleveland and Bradley Co as an emergency communications staging area.  Testing has proved that this location is ideal allowing for VHF simplex coverage throughout the county and beyond.

History

Larry G. Ledford KA4J prepared “The Beginning of the Cleveland Amateur Radio Club” for the club’s 50th anniversary in 2012. It is an excellent insight into the people who pioneered amateur radio in Bradley County and were able to share their interest in wireless communications with the founders of the club.

The article can be viewed by clicking here.

Meetings

  • General Club Meeting – 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month except December at 7pm
  • Tutoring Meeting – Most Saturdays 8a-11a
  • CW Classes – Tuesday Evenings 6:30p – 7:30p

Repeaters

  • 146.925 – PL 114.8 System Fusion (Listen Live)
  • 444.275 + System Fusion

Nets

  • Southeast Tennessee Amateur Radio(STAR) net – 1st, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at 8:30pm on the 147.180 Repeater (Listen Live)
  • The Bradley County Emergency Services Net is held every Monday night at 8:00 PM on the 146.925 repeater.
  • Cleveland Amateur Radio Club Slow Speed CW Net (CARC SSCW). – 1st, 2nd and 4th Thursday nights of every month at 7PM EST/EDT (2300 / 0000 UTC), on a frequency of 7.070 MHz +/- QRM.

Activities

  • Field Day
  • ARRL Sweepstakes
  • CQ World Wide
  • TN QSO Party
  • ARRL VHF Contests
  • Community Service

Upcoming Events

NCCC RTTY Sprint 0145Z-0215Z, Dec 9
QRP Fox Hunt 0200Z-0330Z, Dec 9
NCCC Sprint 0230Z-0300Z, Dec 9
ARRL 10-Meter Contest 0000Z, Dec 10 to 2400Z, Dec 11
SKCC Weekend Sprintathon 1200Z, Dec 10 to 2400Z, Dec 11
International Naval Contest 1600Z, Dec 10 to 1559Z, Dec 11
AWA Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party 2300Z, Dec 10 to 2300Z, Dec 11 and

 2300Z, Dec 17 to 2300Z, Dec 18

CQC Great Colorado Snowshoe Run 2100Z-2259Z, Dec 11
NAQCC CW Sprint 0130Z-0330Z, Dec 14
QRP Fox Hunt 0200Z-0330Z, Dec 14
Phone Fray 0230Z-0300Z, Dec 14
CWops Mini-CWT Test 1300Z-1400Z, Dec 14 and

 1900Z-2000Z, Dec 14 and

 0300Z-0400Z, Dec 15

NCCC RTTY Sprint 0145Z-0215Z, Dec 16
QRP Fox Hunt 0200Z-0330Z, Dec 16
NCCC Sprint 0230Z-0300Z, Dec 16
Russian 160-Meter Contest 2000Z, Dec 16 to 2400Z, Dec 17
AGB-Party Contest 2100Z-2400Z, Dec 16
OK DX RTTY Contest 0000Z-2400Z, Dec 17
RAC Winter Contest 0000Z-2359Z, Dec 17
Feld Hell Sprint 0000Z-2359Z, Dec 17
Croatian CW Contest 1400Z, Dec 17 to 1400Z, Dec 18
Stew Perry Topband Challenge 1500Z, Dec 17 to 1500Z, Dec 18
ARRL Rookie Roundup, CW 1800Z-2359Z, Dec 18
Run for the Bacon QRP Contest 0200Z-0400Z, Dec 19
QRP Fox Hunt 0200Z-0330Z, Dec 21
Phone Fray 0230Z-0300Z, Dec 21
CWops Mini-CWT Test 1300Z-1400Z, Dec 21 and

 1900Z-2000Z, Dec 21 and

 0300Z-0400Z, Dec 22

*Information taken from the WA7BNM Contest Calendar


Hamfests

12/09/2016

12/10/2016

12/17/2016

*Information taken from the ARRL Hamfest Calendar


News

ARRL Expands Initiative to Fire Up Collegiate Amateur Radio Clubs

11/30/2016

A growing number of campus radio clubs and student radio amateurs have begun to share ideas and suggestions on the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) Facebook page, which is aimed at sparking renewed participation, activity, and idea-sharing among this special sector of the Amateur Radio community. The now-expanded initiative stemmed from two well-attended ARRL New England Division Convention forums for radio amateurs attending college, one hosted by the Amateur Radio clubs at Harvard (W1AF) and Yale (W1YU). As the forum explained, the activity level at campus Amateur Radio club stations can vary wildly from one year to the next, as students graduate and newcomers arrive.

“The most common difficulty stems from uneven interest over time,” said ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, in his “Second Century” editorial, “Cheers for College Amateur Radio: Sis-boom-bah!” in December 2016 QST. “Even the strongest leaders in college Amateur Radio graduate every 4 years, sometimes leaving their clubs without adequate continuity or leadership succession.”

Gallagher pointed out that “recognized” student activities require students in order to maintain that status. However, even officially recognized college club stations may find themselves at the mercy of administrations in terms of space for a station and antennas, and some clubs have had to move more than once to accommodate their schools’ space requirements. Issues involving safety and security can also affect college radio clubs.

In a recent post, Kenny Hite, KE8CTL, a graduate teaching assistant at West Virginia University, said the university’s Amateur Radio club, W8CUL, has been unable to participate in recent on-the-air events “due to lack of working equipment and questionable antenna setups,” as he put it. “We are working to identify working equipment/coax lines.” Another poster, Dennis Silage, K3DS, who’s associated with the Temple University Amateur Radio Club (K3TU), said, “A key to a successful and long-running college club seems to be faculty involvement for stability and recognition.” He invited other CARI participants to check out the club’s website to see what members have been doing.

“It occurred to us that, if college Amateur Radio could galvanize [mutual interests], then colleges might just provide the ideal bridge between youthful interest in the subject and lifelong participation in our community,” Gallagher wrote.

Some ideas are already being suggested, and the Facebook page has spurred communication among an ever-widening network of those involved or interested in Amateur Radio on campus, from students, faculty members, and administrators to college radio club alums. One suggestion has been to harness the competitive nature of colleges to organize operating events — perhaps with “conferences” resembling those for sports — to keep interest alive.

ARRL received permission to rebrand the Collegiate Amateur Radio Operators Facebook group, initially organized by Sam Rose, KC2LRC, as the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative. All collegiate radio amateurs, clubs, and alumni are invited to participate and to get involved in activities that advance the art and enjoyment of Amateur Radio. All suggestions are welcome.

December Youngsters on the Air Event Set

11/29/2016

The annual Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) event takes place during the entire month of December, with YOTA stations attempting to contact many other young radio amateurs around the world. The event offers an excellent opportunity for get radio amateurs in their teens and early 20s to get together on the air.

“The idea of this is to show the Amateur Radio hobby to youth and to encourage youngsters to be active within the hobby,” said International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU-R1) Youth Working Group Chair Lisa Leenders, PA2LS. “Consider giving a demonstration at a school or local club, gather together with your friends, grab a pizza, and make some QSOs, or enjoy a great pile-up. Let’s show this great hobby to the world!”

This is not a formal contest but a way to get young people on the air with their peers. Numerous participating stations, primarily in Region 1, will be sporting YOTA call sign suffixes.


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73 de Curtis, K5CLM


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