The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), is a special phase of amateur operation sponsored by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that provides radio communications for civil-preparedness purposes only, during periods of local, regional or national civil emergencies. These emergencies are not limited to war-related activities, but can include natural disasters such as fires, floods and earthquakes. As defined in the rules, RACES is a radio communication service conducted by volunteer licensed amateurs, and is designed to provide emergency communications to local or state civil-preparedness agencies. Races operation is authorized by the FCC upon request of a state or federal official and is strictly limited to official civil- preparedness activity, in the event of an emergency-communications situation.
Amateurs operating in a local RACES organization must be officially enrolled in that local civil-preparedness group. RACES operation is conducted by amateurs using there own primary station licenses, and by existing RACES stations. RACES is part of the amateur service and it operates in the amateur bands. The segments of the amateur bands it uses are shared with the rest of the amateur service in peace-time; in the event of war, its frequency segments would be exclusive.
Although RACES and ARES are separate entities it is common for participating amateurs to maintain dual membership in both organizations. The RACES regulations make it simple and possible for an ARES group whose members are all enrolled in and certified by RACES to operate in an emergency with great flexibility. Using the same operators and the same frequencies, an ARES group also enrolled as RACES can "switch hats" from ARES to RACES and RACES to ARES to meet the requirements of the situation as it develops.
Certified RACES operators carry State Emergency Worker cards with them while participating in RACES functions. These cards are issued and controlled by local Emergency Management Departments. Quite often, other special qualifications are also required such as First Aid and CPR training, basic SAR techniques and map reading along with special training in operation of amateur radio equipment and message handling.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is a volunteer radio communications service available to federal, state, county and local government, as well as not-profit organizations. ARES consists of more than 600,000 U.S. amateurs nationwide who have voluntarily registered their services and formed an organized pool of operators to provide reliable primary or secondary communications links for governmental agencies and/or not-profit organizations when needed.
Every licensed amateur regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization, is eligible for membership in ARES. The only qualification, other than possession of an Amateur Radio license, is a sincere desire to serve. Because ARES is an amateur radio service, only FCC licensed amateurs are eligible for membership. At the local level our primary task has been to provide emergency communications. Our training is focused on disaster preparedness and public service. ARES members were used during the Inaugural Day Storm, January 1992, during the Eastern Washington wild fires, Summer 1994 and the winter ice storms of 1997. They have also been used, for communications support, in selected Search and Rescue (SAR) missions.
Although it is desirable to that each amateur have emergency powered equipment at their disposal, this is not a requirement for membership. In fact, some new amateurs have joined before they have acquired any radio equipment. These individuals can provide valuable services as a primary or backup operator at a already equipped station during drills, training, and emergencies.
If you would like to serve your community as an ARES/RACES member, contact us about membership. We train and practice to sharpen our communications skills in a fun and meaningful way, helping our neighborhoods to be prepared in event of emergency or disaster.
(text from Washington State ARES/RACES web page)