RACES / ARES
Civil Emergency Service
Amateur Radio have been involved with Public Service and emergency communications since 1913. One of the purposes included in Part 97 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is:
"Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications."
The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) (pronounced "ray-seas") was founded in 1952 as a public service. Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides planning guidance and technical assistance for establishing a RACES organization at the state and local government level. RACES functions as a reserve (volunteer) communications group within government agencies. RACES can be activated during a variety of emergency/disaster situations where normal governmental communications systems have sustained damage or when additional communications are required or desired. RACES operations are regulated by the FCC, and included in Part 97, Subpart E, §97.407. Locally, RACES is part of Steele County Emergency Management.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) (pronounced "air-rees") has developed as a part of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Organization since 1935. ARES functions as a commuications group to government agencies as well as other non-profit groups, such as the Red Cross. There are four levels of ARES organization--national, section, district and local. Within Steele County, ARES is associated with Owatonna - Steele County Amateur Radio (OSCAR).
At first glance, RACES and ARES appear to be duplicate groups. There are key differences between the groups. A RACES operation may be restricted by FCC rules that do not apply to an ARES operation. In certain circumstances, a RACES operation may be allowed when an ARES operation is not. Having both organizations established and operating as a unified group provides the best opportunity to ensure a viable solution in an emergency. In Steele County, RACES and ARES are joined as a common group.
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