RACES is a service created by the Federal Communications Commission in Part 97, Subpart E of its rules. The RACES service is part of the Amateur Radio service and all RACES operators are licensed Amateur Radio operators. RACES was originally designed to be part of Civil Defense. In the event of a national emergency or war, properly enrolled and trained RACES operators would be allowed to continue operations in support of the government when all other Amateur operations would be shut down. This aspect of RACES rules is still part of the regulation and restricts, to some degree, RACES activities.

As times changed, the RACES mission and regulations have changed, and RACES has evolved into a volunteer service dedicated to the support of local and state government in times of emergency and natural disaster. The RACES program is most often, but not always, administered in the local or state government's emergency management organization (the successor to Civil Defense). In some places, RACES is administered by the police, sheriff's office or a fire service officer.

RACES provides for Amateur Radio operation for emergency purposes only, during periods of local, regional or national emergencies. The RACES organization of Amateur Radio operators is vital during such events as snow emergencies, hazardous materials accidents, major fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and incidents involving evacuations or mass casualties.

Frequently, normal communication systems sustain damage or are overloaded during these types of emergencies. Often communications must be set up between organizations or locations for which there is no normal communications path. It is then that RACES operators are invaluable to emergency managers.

During national emergencies, RACES operators are the only Amateur Radio operators permitted on the air. In an emergency, RACES operators are assigned specific frequencies within authorized frequency bands as directed by emergency management officials.

"All communications in the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service must be specifically authorized by the civil defense organization for the area served." - Federal Communications Commission

Every RACES station is part of one or more emergency communications networks. These networks provide vital communication for:

*          Local government emergency operating centers 
State government emergency operating centers 
Remote locations. 

The head of the local RACES organization is the Radio Officer who is appointed by the appropriate person within the local government. The Radio Officer is almost always a volunteer from within the RACES organization. When activated, the Radio Officer and all RACES volunteers become part (unpaid employees) of the government agency which has activated the group.

Reliable communication is essential to emergency response. RACES can make the difference between life and death. Amateur Radio operators (FCC licensed) can help save lives.


Courtesy of

Montgomery County, MD RACES/ARES