The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, or RACES, administered by local, county and state emergency management agencies, and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States government, is a part of the Amateur Radio Service 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. 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.
As defined in the rules, RACES is a radio communication service, conducted by volunteer licensed amateurs, designed to provide emergency communications to local 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. With the approval of the chief officer for emergency planning and applicable state, Commonwealth, district or territory, however, such tests and drills may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours no more than twice in any calendar year.
TEXAS STATE RACES
Texas state RACES anticipates two distinct but integrated levels of emergency management organizations within Texas; state level government and local level (city or county) government. Thus, combining the FCC’S definition of RACES and the organizational structures of emergency management within the state dictate that there be two distinct but integrated levels of RACES organization within Texas; one RACES organization supporting the State Emergency Management Program and separate but integrated with state RACES, local government RACES programs supporting local emergency management organizations.
State RACES and local government RACES programs operate under their respective jurisdictional RACES plans and procedures, as applicable. The State RACES plans are written as a non-conflicting supplement to applicable FCC, FEMA and DHS rules and regulations. Local government RACES plans are be written as non-conflicting supplements to both the FCC, FEMA & DHS rules and regulations and the State RACES plans. State RACES Radio Regions and Districts shall correspond to the State Department of Public Safety (DPS) Regions and Disaster Districts.
A Disaster District is the smallest unit of the state’s emergency management function and typically consists of a few counties (DDC 6 consists of 13 counties). Each district is served by a Disaster District Committee (DDC) consisting of representatives of the state agencies, boards, commissions, and organized volunteer groups with membership on the Texas governor’s Emergency Management Council. The Highway Patrol commanding officer of each district serves as chair of the Disaster District Committee. The Disaster District Committee chair serves as the district’s authoritative liason to the state during large scale disasters or emergencies.
SMITH COUNTY RACES
As previously described, Smith County RACES activates only upon formal request from a served governmental agency. While this request could originate from the emergency management of Smith County or any incorporated township within the county, activation usually originates from the District 6 DDC headquartered in Tyler.