The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a group of volunteer Amateur Radio Operators (hams) serving their fellow citizens by providing emergency communications during disasters. RACES Operators provided much needed communications out of New York City during 9-11, Mississippi and Louisiana during Katrina and during the frequent hurricanes in Florida. These highly skilled radio operators can rig temporary antenna on HF (shortwave) radios after a catastrophic disaster and be communicating world-wide in minutes. Amateur Radio is frequently the first communications out of a disaster area immediately following an incident.
Talbot County RACES
The FCC recognizes that each jurisdiction may establish a RACES group. There is no national or regional organization for RACES. RACES volunteers work directly for the local Director of Emergency Management in each jurisdiction. The Talbot County RACES group currently consists of 10 volunteers, led by RACES Officer, Bob Luff. Operators are required to pass a background check, must have a valid FCC Amateur Radio License, be trained in the National Incident Management System (NIMS/ICS), be trained in sending & receiving messages accurately and trained in the Talbot County RACES Plan. Talbot County RACES participates in the state-wide communications exercises sponsored by the Maryland Emergency management Agency (MEMA) each month. This time is also utilized to rehearse our own procedures, ensure that equipment is operational and to gain experience on equipment used during an emergency.
In addition to providing backup communications after a disaster, RACES is also used for less-than-catastrophic emergencies when additional communications bandwidth may be required. For example: If Red Cross Shelters are opened during a winter storm or flood, RACES would provide radio communications between the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the shelters in order to leave the public safety radio system's bandwidth available for first responders. It is also common for cell and landline phones to be overwhelmed and inoperable during an incident as happened during the Virginia Tech shooting and subsequent media frenzy. Amateur frequencies are always available for emergency communications.
Talbot County RACES has permanently installed radio equipment at the Talbot County Department of Emergency Services in close proximity of the EOC. From there, RACES can communicate to any other jurisdiction in Maryland, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency's Joint Operations Center, shelters, Talbot County Health Department and soon from Memorial Hospital. Using our HF equipment, we can communicate worldwide. RACES also has 3 portable mobile radios in waterproof cases that can be installed in any vehicle at a moment's notice. Radio Equipment for shelters is stored in waterproof cases with wheels that can quickly be set up anywhere and operate off batteries for days if necessary.
The Talbot County RACES Group recently completed installation of the Winlink 2000 systems which allows us to send email over amateur radios from anywhere in the County to the COC and onto the Internet. If internet connection is lost, email can be forwarded via an HF radio to one of over 30 stations across the U.S. that are connected to the Internet. This state-of-the-art capability is one of only 30 in the United States and has the fastest radio data link in Maryland. We have also acquired a 30-foot trailer, donated by MEMA that is being configured as a remote communications station for use in Talbot County or to assist in other jurisdictions as well.
The Talbot County RACES program is one of the most capable in the State at little or no cost to Talbot County citizens. Anyone wishing to donate, volunteer, or receive additional information, please contact Clay B. Stamp, Director, Talbot County Department of Emergency Services at 410-770-8160.