Response: FEMA has certain responsibilities, but "running" RACES (in the sense of control) is not included. The RACES is a LOCAL or STATE governments emergency communications reserve, sponsored and controlled by that government which sets up the unit. FEMA has NO jurisdiction or authority over the local or state government, including that of its RACES, except in the area of matching funds. In the past FEMA did provide a "Guide" to assist local governments in establishing the RACES. The operative word is "guide".
The RACES provisions in the FCC regulations do not preclude the Amateur Service from other forms of Public Safety Communications. Local government could achieve the same result by establishing a public safety emergency communications reserve and calling it something other than "RACES". However, the essential difference between such a program and RACES would be two fold: (1) it could not be used in a Presidential Declaration of certain National Emergencies and (2) FEMA would not assist with funding as it now does with the RACES program when adopted and approved plans are filed with the State and FEMA.
Question: Does FEMA activate RACES ?
Response: NO. Statements to that effect are incorrect.
First, there is no Federal RACES.
Second, The agency that activates RACES is the one that sponsors (or has) the RACES unit: i.e., the county, city or state. NO action of FEMA, or of State OES, is required to activate the RACES unit of a jurisdiction (i.e., County, City) that has need of its abilities in support of its communications. Even in Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge quake (both major disasters) FEMA had to wait for a request from the State before it could go in to do anything. That's part of the legal separation of government in the U.S.
A RACES unit is a part of the government jurisdiction that it serves. It provides PUBLIC SAFETY communications and related duties for that specific local or state government [or to other governments that request mutual aid from them under a Mutual Aid plan.]
The RACES (or equivalent emergency communications unit) function is to establish and support command, liaison and communications circuits for the Public Safety requirements of THAT government. Hence its utilization can be sparse: (1) if the local government EMA people haven't grasped the programs full capability; (2) if other Public Safety circuits are intact; (3) if the support needed is administrative, rather than that of operators (as most Amateurs have yet to realize how to be of aid without operating a radio.) As more RACES participants realize just how they can become "part of government" in mental concept as well as in practicality (as unpaid staff) the more that government begins to rely on them and turn to them the very first thing in any escalating event, no matter how small. When that happens, the hassle over "activation" becomes moot.
[end of 2 part series by Cary Mangum, LLB., JD., W6WWW, Chief State Radio Officer.]