Your RACES unit and Amateur Radio newsletters are appreciated. They provide valuable ideas and suggestions. For example, the Orange County RACES not only issues a monthly newsletter but has an extensive year end manual. The manual reviews the year, shows goals for the new year, includes the 12 monthly bulletins, discusses mutual aid, a membership and 3x3 callout list. Their 1991 and 1992 manuals were over 90 pages each!!
From a report by Tim Low, N6ZUC:
The saddest reports from your letters and comments are those that speak of a unit that wants to serve its community but does not get the opportunity to do so. It happens frequently, so lets review some probable causes.
There is often more than just one reason, so it is likely an interplay between several. Anyone of them can be the main problem; yet solving one may solve others as well.
These weekly BULLETINS appear in most full service packet radio BBS in the U.S. They are technically addressed to RACES @ ALLUS in order to be automatically filed in the bulletin board files sections. As to the topics these contain, they apply equal well to most government emergency communications units whatever their name.
Also during an emergency the OES SITREPS (Situation Reports) and situation summaries addressed to RACES @ ALLCA are sent over the same system for information to all who need the current status on such events as an earthquake, flood, or major wildfire, for example. Numerous fire crews advise they rely on the packet (digital) situation reports in order to keep abreast of events as their ONLY source of information.
Question: Is it true, as some publications say, that "....RACES operation is authorized by the FCC at the request of a state or federal official, and this operation is strictly limited to official civil preparedness activity in the event of an emergency communications situation."?
Response. No. Neither state or federal officials request the FCC to authorize the use of the RACES; and the operation is not so limited as implied.
RACES operation is authorized any time activation is requested by the local or state official with that authority as specified in the jurisdiction's RACES plan.
(Extracted from "Landing Site Tips for Lifeflight" in TAC-ONE, official publication of the San Diego County RACES.)
Conditions and circumstances for Lifeflight to be called is determined by the Public Safety organizations of the county. For landing site selection a helicopter requires a minimum area 60 by 60 feet, free of wires and obstructions directly overhead and not more than an eight degree slope. Avoid dusty areas. Hosing down an area helps. Site should be marked; usual markings are an emergency vehicle with flashing lights, smoke bomb, flares or car headlights criss-crossing each other at right angles.
It takes an unusual volunteer to provide dedicated and competent service to emergency management agencies, EMA. Such volunteers must be ready to appear on short notice, stay at their assigned post and duties until relieved, be willing and able to travel where needed. They may even provide the necessary equipment at their own expense. They cannot be "amateurs" in the sense of pursuing a hobby. Instead they must devote a great deal of time and energy to become as proficient as paid staff. The agency they work with must be able to depend upon their availability when needed, their skill at assigned tasks, and their ability to mesh into the overall disaster response exactly as is expected of paid staff. Fortunately there are people, ready, willing and able to serve in such capacity.
Question: Is a "declared emergency" required for the RACES to be activated?
Answer: "No, that is one of the myths about RACES, and it is NOT true.
The "declared emergency concept" is a fifty-year old hold-over of the long-gone idea that the RACES was to be a special service in which Amateurs would operate in wartime, hence a "declaration" by the president. One has only to read Section 97 to realize that was its genesis.
"I'm a volunteer and I don't have time." Ever heard that response in a call out? Or, "I don't feel like doing it"; or "There isn't anyone available."
Well, it does happen, more so in units without a clear goal than in those with strong effective leadership that screens out those that lack capability and dedication. Fortunately, there is another side to the situation; namely those who seem to ALWAYS respond, no matter what the personal sacrifice. At some level we have all seen it, whether radio officer, communications officer, emergency coordinator, director of communications, section manager, search and rescue captain, volunteer fire chief, coordinator, pilots or communications specialist. In an emergency the most valuable responder is the person that can respond to the call out regardless of their personal situation. Key participants in Search and Rescue or Drowning Accident Recovery units are often of this type; and worth their weight in gold. From them you never hear "I don't feel like doing it" or "There isn't anyone available." When needed, they are there. Period. They lead by "doing".
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.