W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 7.2  

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What Is


John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. What is RACES?

A. RACES is the acronym for our government’s Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. Section 97.3(a)(37) says it is a radio service using amateur stations for civil defense communications during periods of local, regional or national civil emergencies. Section 97.111(a)(4) authorizes an amateur station to transmit two-way communications necessary to exchange messages with a United States government station, necessary to providing communications in RACES. 

   RACES authorized transmissions share radio spectrum allocated to our amateur service, sometimes with Section 97.101(c) priority, over our normal amateur station transmissions with the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

Q. Where are the rules for RACES codified?

A. They are codified in Section 97.407 under Part 97 Subpart E, Providing emergency communications (“EmComm 407”).

Q. What is the purpose of RACES?   

A. Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 606, gives our President the authority to invoke special War Emergency Powers. That is the basis for Section 97.407 which says that in the event of an emergency that necessitates the President invoking those powers, amateur stations participating in RACES may only transmit on the frequency segments authorized pursuant to Part 214 Procedures For The Use And Coordination Of The Radio Spectrum During A Wartime Emergency

Q. What does Part 214 say about planned actions?   

A. Section 214.4(a) says that whenever it is determined necessary to exercise, in whole or in part, the President's emergency authority over telecommunications, the Director, Office of Science and Telecommunications Policy, will exercise that authority. Section 214.4(b) says, in this connection, and concurrently with the war or national emergency proclamation by the President, the Director, OSTP will:  

   (1) Authorize the continuance of all frequency authorizations issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC, except as they may otherwise be modified or revoked by the Director, in the national interest;  

   (2) Re-delegate to the Secretary of Defense the authority necessary to control the use of the radio spectrum in areas of active combat, where such control is necessary to the support of U.S. military operations; 

   (3) Close all non-government radio stations in the international broadcasting service as defined in the FCC rules and regulations, except those carrying or scheduled to carry U.S. Government-controlled radio broadcasts.

Q. What are those certain types of emergency-related messages that RACES stations can transmit?

A. Section 97.407(e) says that all communications transmitted in RACES must be specifically authorized by the civil defense organization for the area served. Only civil defense communications of the following types may be transmitted:  

    (1) Messages concerning impending or actual conditions jeopardizing the public safety, or affecting the national defense or security during periods of local, regional, or national civil emergencies;  

   (2) Messages directly concerning the immediate safety of life of individuals, the immediate protection of property, maintenance of law and order, alleviation of human suffering and need, and the combating of armed attack or sabotage;  

   (3) Messages directly concerning the accumulation and dissemination of public information or instructions to the civilian population essential to the activities of the civil defense organization or other authorized governmental or relief agencies; and 

   (4) Communications for RACES training drills and tests necessary to ensure the establishment and maintenance of orderly and efficient operation of the RACES as ordered by the responsible civil defense organization served. Such drills and tests may not exceed a total time of 1 hour per week. With the approval of the chief officer for emergency planning in the applicable State, Commonwealth, District or territory, however, such tests and drills may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours no more than twice in any calendar year. 

Q. Do EmComm 407 RACES transmissions have Section 97.101(c) priority over our normal amateur service transmissions?

A. Yes, unless the stations are transmitting Section 97.407(d)(4) training drills and tests.

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January 1, 2016 

Supersedes all prior editions