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Island County > Emergency Management > Races Explanation


Island County RACES

Island County RACES is a group of amateur radio operators in Island County WA who
volunteer to provide radio communications for the Island County Department of 
Emergency Management (DEM). Island County RACES may be activated by the manager of 
DEM or his designee during emergencies declared by the DEM. RACES is authorized by CFR 
Title 47, Part 97, E of the FCC Regulations. 
Island County RACES trains to provide the following radio communications services:
  • Voice and digital messaging between the Island County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Washington State EOC.
  • Supplemental communications for E-9-1-1 centers, fire and/or police departments
  • Supplemental communications for Island County Departments such as Island County Public Works
  • Voice and digital messaging between the Island County EOC and Island County Neighborhood Emergency Communication and CERT teams. 
  • Voice and digital messaging between the Island County EOC and evacuation centers and shelters that may be established during emergencies.
  • Transmitting to the EOC Situational Awareness Information obtained from amateur radio operators and neighborhood communication teams to supplement situational awareness information provided by county first responders.
  • Training CERT and Medical Reserve Corp volunteers in communication practices and providing communications for those organizations during training and activation
  • Providing voice and digital communications for Disaster Air Response Teams
  • Other communications activities as requested by the Island County Director of Emergency Management
Island County RACES members also operate as part of the Island County Amateur Radio 
Emergency Services group (ICARES) which provides public service communications for 
events such as marathons, parades, bike rides, etc. to sharpen radio communication skills. 
Members of ICARES are de facto members of Island County RACES. Island County RACES is 
under the direction of the Island County RACES manager who is designated by the manager 
of the Island County DEM.
Island County RACES uses a combination of county owned equipment and personal 
equipment to perform their duties.

RACES Explained

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for the regulation of RACES operations. The Amateur Radio Regulations, Part 97, Subpart E, were created by the FCC to describe RACES operations in detail.

Each RACES group is administrated by a state, county, or city emergency services or emergency management organization which is responsible for disaster services. These organizations may sometimes be within another agency such as police or fire. In some areas, RACES may be part of an agency's Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS).

RACES is further sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through FEMA Civil Preparedness Guidance, CPG 1-15, March 1991, which provides guidance on developing a RACES group and planning for their use.

RACES in Washington

Within the State of Washington, RACES was established under FEMA guidelines and implemented through the State Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) Plan promulgated in November 1995.

The employment of amateur radio through RACES is paramount during emergencies or disasters where normal governmental communications systems have sustained damaged or are overwhelmed.

Based on the State RACES Plan and as implemented through each city or county plan, amateur radio can be used to support the following needs:

  • Back-up communications between state and city/county emergency operations centers
  • Back-up communications for E-9-1-1 centers, fire and/or police departments
  • Emergency communications for shelters
  • Other emergency support as needed

What is the difference between RACES and ARES?

RACES is primarily focused to support government emergency management/services agencies during times of an emergency and/or disaster.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) public service arm for providing support primarily to non-government agencies during an emergency/disaster. A primary user of the ARES is the American Red Cross.