Auxiliary communications groups are used by many agencies to provide backup communications in the event of a failure of their primary systems. In the case of Snohomish County DEM, amateur operators are used to handle all radio traffic because they are authorized to use both amateur and government systems. These groups are known by a number of names. The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) was created by the FCC in 1952 to provide support to civil defense agencies and have special war-time capabilities and limitations still granted in FCC rules part 97.407. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) was created by the ARRL to provide emergency communications support to non-government agencies not covered by RACES. In many cases these teams are combined to provide a broader range of services.
More recently some jurisdictions have chosen to create their own teams, chartered under local rules to meet their local needs. These groups can be seen with names like Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), Disaster Communications Service (DCS) or Emergency Communications Service (ECS). The Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management is the sponsoring agency for ACS. Members of the combined ACS/ARES team complete the ACS membership application and are then credentialed through Snohomish County DEM. When credentialed by Snohomish DEM (a recognized civil defense agency), operators are able to respond as RACES members if needed and are covered by insurance as state emergency workers when activated with a state mission number.
Traditional operations involve emergency message handling on Amateur Radio Service frequencies. These operations typically involve messages between critical locations such as hospitals, emergency services, emergency shelters, and any other locations where communication is needed. These communications are handled in any mode available, with 2 meters FM being the most prevalent.
Other tasks that ACS/ARES personnel are involved with may not involve amateur radio communications. For example, communicators may become involved in public safety or other government communications, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staffing, and emergency equipment repair.
Whatever need arises, trained personnel are ready and prepared to help as volunteer professionals. The ACS/ARES group develops and maintains their communications ability by training throughout the year with special exercises and public service events. When that fateful day occurs, the ACS/ARES will be there to meet the challenge.
To join the Snohomish County ACS/ARES, see our Join Us Web page
Snohomish County ACS/ARES holds on air nets every Tuesday at 20:00 local time on the Granite Falls 146.920- (tone 123.0) repeater. The team also meets at the Snohomish County DEM offices at 720 80th St SW, Everett, WA 98203 the third Thursday of the month at 19:00. Anyone is welcome on the net or at the meetings. A map to DEM is included below.