RACES and ARES Background Information

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What is ARES?

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) (pronounced "air-rees") was developed as a part of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Organization. ARES functions as a communications 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.

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What is RACES?

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, Mission Viejo RACES-ARES is part of the City of Mission Viejo Emergency Plan.

As defined in the rules, Mission Viejo RACES-ARES is a radio communications service, conducted by volunteer licensed amateurs, designed to provide emergency communications to local (City Of Mission Viejo) or state civil-preparedness agencies . It is important to note that RACES operation is authorized by emergency management officials only, and this operation is strictly limited to official civil-preparedness activity in the event of an emergency-communications situation.

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RACES Operating Procedure

Amateurs operating in a local RACES organization must be officially enrolled in the local civil-preparedness agency having jurisdiction. RACES operation is conducted by amateurs using their own primary station licenses, and by existing RACES stations. The FCC no longer issues new RACES (WC prefix) station call signs. Operator privileges in RACES are dependent upon, and identical to, those for the class of license held in the Amateur Radio Service. All of the authorized frequencies and emissions allocated to the Amateur Radio Service are also available to RACES on a shared basis. But in the event that the President invokes his War Emergency Powers, amateurs involved with RACES might be limited to certain specific frequencies (while all other amateur operation could be silenced). See Table 1.

Table 1
Dedicated RACES Operating Frequencies
1800-1825 kHz
1975-2000 kHz
3.50-3.55 MHz
3.93-3.98 MHz
3.984-4.000 MHz
7.079-7.125 MHz
7.245-7.255 MHz
10.10-10.15 MHz
14.047-14.053 MHz
14.22-14.23 MHz
14.331-14.350 MHz
21.047-21.053 MHz
21.228-21.267 MHz
28.55-28.75 MHz
29.237-29.273 MHz
29.45-29.65 MHz
50.35-50.75 MHz
52-54 MHz
144.50-145.71 MHz
146-148 MHz
222-225 MHz

420-450 MHz
1240-1300 MHz
2390-2450 MHz

While RACES was originally based on potential use for wartime, it has evolved over the years, as has the meaning of civil defense (which is also called civil preparedness), to encompass all types of emergencies. While operating in a RACES capacity, RACES stations and amateurs registered in the local RACES organization may not communicate with amateurs not operating in a RACES capacity. (Of course, such restrictions do not apply when such stations are operating in a non-RACES--such as ARES--amateur capacity.) Only civil-preparedness communications can be transmitted. Test and drills are permitted only for a maximum of one hour per week. All test and drill messages must be clearly so identified.


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RACES and ARES

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 the 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. For example, during a "non-declared emergency," a group can operate as ARES, but when an emergency or disaster is officially declared by a local, state or federal authority, the operation can become RACES with no change in personnel or frequencies. Having both organizations established and operating as a unified group provides the best opportunity to ensure a viable solution in an emergency.


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Mission Viejo RACES-ARES Email address is mvraces@mvraces.org



Revised 2017-03.31 . . Webmaster