FULTON – I’ve been asked, what is RACES and what do you do?
So here is a bit of history and the scope of what RACES and amateur radio can bring to the local community they belong to and from which they operate.
The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is an emergency radio service authorized under Part 97.407 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations governing amateur radio in the United States. The concept of “Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service” to replace the conventional “Amateur Radio Service” used in wartime. RACES was developed in 1952 as a result of input from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the Department of the Army’s Office of Civil Defense. During World War II, the amateur radio service was silenced and a new War Emergency Radio Service (WERS) had to be created from scratch in a process that took six months.
The resulting RACES service was designed to provide a faster and smoother transition should the President need to silence the regular amateur radio service again by invoking the War Powers Act of 1941. RACES stations are only activated by state, county or local emergency. managing authority to act on their behalf. Only amateur radio stations that have previously registered with state and local governments to provide them with emergency radio communications in the event of an emergency may be activated. In addition to wartime communications, operations under the RACES rules may provide or supplement communications in the event of an emergency where normal communications systems have suffered damage. It can be used in a wide variety of situations, including natural disasters, technological disasters, nuclear accidents, nuclear attacks, terrorist incidents, and bomb threats.
The next question I get asked is how does an amateur radio operator communicate?
Well, the simplest answer is voice and digital, but it’s not really that simple. Voice communication is done by two methods, simplex or direct voice, and repeaters. Simplex and digital is done on all operating bands of HF (High Frequency ranging from 3 to 30 MHz), VHF (Very High Frequency ranging from 30 to 300 MHz) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency ranging from 300 MHz to 3 GHz) . Now voice communication has various methods, FM (Frequency Modulation), AM (Amplitude Modulation), SSB (Single Side Band), plus a few others including bouncing radio waves off the Moon, and there are many digital formats like Fusion, D-Star, and APCO P25.
Repeater communication is performed by a radio attached to a tower picking up a radio transmission and then repeating that transmission sometimes with more power, thus increasing the overall distance. This is mostly done by amateur radio operators with a handheld radio pushing only 5 watts of power and some mobile radios ranging from 10 to 50 watts. Then connect to the repeater on one frequency and the repeater sends it on another frequency.
As in Oswego County, one of the repeaters we use is 147.150 MHz, which is located on County Road 51A in Scriba. Many operators in and out of the county can tune in using their radio from where they are and can be heard in Oswego, Onondaga, Jefferson and Madison counties.
Another form of repeaters are amateur radio satellites. Many amateur radio satellites are in different orbits, so the communication distance is distributed by the possibility of contacting satellites from different parts of the earth. This can be done directly or what is called store and forward.
Digital amateur radio communication is becoming very popular which has many advancements for the general amateur radio operator and RACES. Digital is done using your radio, an interface device or sound card and a computer. There are many types of digital communication such as Amateur Television Fast & Slow, Packet, FlDigi, JT65, FT8, Radio Teletype and many other software. Using these programs, an operator can send almost any type of digital media from videos, photographs, text documents, forms, emails, keyboard to keyboard, and many other applications. The advantages of digital communication are the speed of sending information and the error correction of the information sent. In addition, many programs use compression functions making the transmission as short as possible.
Oswego County Emergency/RACES Operators are trained in many of these forms of communication to ensure when called by the Oswego County Emergency Management Office that we can operate locally, at the county-wide, state-wide, and even to reach national agencies, including, if necessary, the U.S. military as well as other local, state, and national RACES groups or agencies with whom we are allowed to communicate. If necessary, we are able to contact support groups such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other groups that have amateur radio operators supporting them with emergency communications.
Thus, amateur radio has many types of voice and digital communications that can provide multiple forms of supplemental communications in an emergency to protect life and property. The amateur radio does not need to run on the normal household power supply alone. We may use batteries, generators and renewable forms of energy like solar and wind power. Amateur radio offers communities a functional form of backup communication to current forms of communication, ie: radio, television, Internet and cell phones.
On June 25-26 in Fort Ontario, Fulton Amateur Radio Club Operators and Oswego County Emergency Communications/RACES Operators were granted use of the RACES Communication Trailer at the ARRL National Event Field Day. Audiences are welcome to stop by, take a tour, ask questions, and if you like, we can even put you on the air to talk with another radio band or someone somewhere in the United States.
Once again, the FARC and Oswego County Emergency Communicators/RACES would like to thank the management staff and Fort Ontario Park Superintendent for their annual support of this event. This event is in cooperation with New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Central Region.