What Are ACS and RACES?
Founded in 1952, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a
public service provided by an auxiliary (volunteer) communications unit within government agencies in
times of extraordinary need. That government unit is often referred to as its
Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) or RACES unit. During periods of ACS or RACES activation, certified unpaid personnel are
called upon to perform many tasks for the government agencies they serve. Although the exact nature
of each activation will be different, the common thread is communications.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for the
regulation of RACES operations. RACES is administrated by a local, county, or state civil defense
agency responsible for disaster services. This civil defense agency is typically an emergency
management agency or bureau, sometimes within another agency such as sheriff, police, or
fire. RACES is within an agency's auxiliary communications function, sometimes known as
ACS (Auxiliary Communications Service), DCS (Disaster Communications Service), ECS (Emergency Communications Service),
The Amateur Radio Regulations, Part 97, Subpart E, §97.407, were
created by the FCC to describe RACES operations in detail. Although no longer issued or renewable,
RACES station licenses were issued in the past by the FCC to government agencies for RACES
operations. The agencies may continue to conduct RACES operations without these licenses, using
primary or club call signs.
provides a pool of emergency communications personnel that can be called upon in time of
need. ACS/RACES units across the country prepare themselves for the inevitable day when they will
be called upon. When a local, county, or state government agency activates its
ACS or RACES unit, that unit
will use its communications resources to meet whatever need that agency has.
ACS/RACES operations involve emergency message handling on
Amateur Radio Service frequencies. These operations typically involve messages between critical
locations such as hospitals, emergency services, emergency shelters, and any other locations where
communication is needed. These communications are handled in any mode available, with 2 meters FM
being the most prevalent. During time of war, when the President exercises his War Emergency Powers,
RACES might become the only communications allowed via amateur radio. ACS/RACES personnel also might become involved in
non-amateur public-safety or other government communications, Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
staffing, and emergency equipment repair.
in a RACES net may communicate only with stations registered with a civil
defense (emergency management) organization--in other words, only with RACES
members or with members of an organization having a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) with the civil defense (emergency management) agency for RACES
communications. Stations in an ACS net may communicate with any amateur radio
station permitted by the ACS net control.
Whatever need arises, trained
ACS/RACES personnel are ready and prepared
to help. ACS/RACES units develop and maintain their communications
ability by training throughout the year with special exercises and public-service events. When that
fateful day occurs, ACS/RACES will be there to meet the challenge.
you want to become an ACS or RACES member and be able to participate in ACS/RACES and
other government emergency communications activities, contact your county or
city ACS/RACES Radio Officer or Coordinator.