|The Comm Room
At critiques hams occasionally contend they are "communication experts" and shouldn't provide other work. That viewpoint has its merit, and points to some possibilities worth considering. Certainly, being asked to be a "go-fer" is below our ability and is taken advantage of in on occasion.
Justifiably, agency officials react with strident alarm if RACES people are called out without jurisdictional authority, or if non-RACES operators (for example, ARES-only members not co- registered in a RACES unit) are called out in a RACES situation.
Of even deeper concern by agency officials is the Radio Officer who can't discern one from the other, and confuses the call-up, causing embarrassment to an official or the jurisdiction; exceeding authority or creating liability problems for administrators. Once 'burned', such officials can become reluctant or refuse to utilize the unit again.
The RACES mission varies form one jurisdiction to another across the nation. In general, it tends to be predominantly tactical voice modes at the city and county levels. However, from county to state it tends to be less tactical, but more administrative and logistical.
In California, recent emphasis on RACES procurement was on packet radio communications. The growth in packet from 1985 to 1990 was phenomenal. It can be said today that a packet terminal is virtually as important in an EOC as a telephone. By 1991 the majority of counties in California participating in the RACES acquired the first generation of packet radio terminals; and some were moving into their second. Thus, at the county to region level, digital communications (packet, AMTOR, etc.) tends to be more utilized. However, long haul packet communications are neither efficient or emergency proof, so the State shifted its RACES matching funds program emphasis to high frequency single side-band radios for county-to-state communications. New developments in Automatic Link Establishment (see RB.192 in 1991) and NVIS Antennas (RB.152-156) offer exciting possibilities for HF communications.[If the referenced bulletins are not available Bulletins-By-Topic in book format is available at cost; $10 including postage.]
---Stan Harter, KH6GBX
CA State OES began the Bulletins in the early 1950's to assist agencies and radio operators to become more familiar with RACES. They were issued periodically until 1985, at which time they began to be issued weekly over voice and digital radio systems of Amateur Radio and in print. Originally intended for California, increased demand, and a 1988 request by the ARRL for national distribution, led to their eventual worldwide distribution.
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