Saturday, November 29, 2008

Radio Amateur Civil Service, a.k.a. "R.A.C.E.S."

A few weeks ago I posted about A.R.E.S., the "Amateur Radio Emergency Service", and some of the services they provided in Oregon last winter when a large storm caused flooding and broke conventional communication links. Now I want to follow it up a post about another Emergency Radio Group, "R.A.C.E.S." whose membership often overlaps with A.R.E.S.

So what is the difference, you might ask? A.R.E.S. generally provides assistance to emergency aid volunteer groups like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, volunteer ambulance and fire departments, and also the National Weather Service. R.A.C.E.S. was created to assist state and local government agencies, and more. It was actually created after WWII as a response to the need for wartime powers.

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service has an interesting history. During WWI, the US government ordered all HAM radio operators off the air for the duration of the war. By the time WWII occurred, the government, well this Wikipedia page explains it well:
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.[1]

The concept of a standby "Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service" to replace the conventional "Amateur Radio Service" during wartime was developed in 1952 as result of input from the American Radio Relay League and the Department of the Army's Office of Civil Defense. During World War II, the Amateur Radio Service had been silenced and a new War Emergency Radio Service (WERS) had to be created from scratch. The resulting standby RACES service was designed to provide a smoother transition in the event the President ever needed to silence the regular Amateur Radio Service again when invoking the War Powers Act.

[...] When so activated, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service will consist of 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 would be suspended and RACES operations might be restricted to certain frequencies within the amateur radio bands.

In addition to wartime communications, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service operations 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. [...]

So R.A.C.E.S has a civil defense element as well. Follow the link for more info and embedded links in the text.

Our local A.R.E.S. net calls itself the "ARES/RACES Net", which is a pretty common practice in many areas. Over time I may be looking into the possibility of joining one or both organizations. But first things first; I still have to take the exam for the Amateur Radio Technician's license.

You can visit the R.A.C.E.S. official website here:

The ARRL has a FAQ page for A.R.E.S. and R.A.C.E.S. here: ARES® vs RACES FAQ: Two Flavors of Amateur Radio Emergency Operation

Related Links:


"You can have this capability for yourself and your family"

The American Radio Relay League, my missed opportunity, and my fun new hobby

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