What are ARES and RACES?

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) both have very similar goals: to protect life and property during an emergency. Membership in the ARRL or any other organization is not required for either, just a valid Amateur Radio license (Technician or higher for RACES).

In Monroe County, New York, the ARES and RACES are organized as essentially one group of people. There are technical and legal differences between the two services, outlined below, but, by and large, it is the same group of Amateurs. Following is a brief description of ARES and RACES. For more detailed information, see the ARRL Public Service Communications Manual (PSCM).

Participation in ARES and RACES is voluntary and you may quit at any time. You must be pre-enrolled in RACES in order to participate in RACES activities. Joint membership in both ARES and RACES is encouraged.

ARES – The Amateur Radio Emergency Service

The American Radio Relay League administers ARES (although you do not have to be a League member to participate). Any member can activate the ARES group. ARES provides emergency radio communications to a number of client groups, including local government, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and others.

RACES – The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can provide matching funds to support a local or state government’s use of RACES (which is authorized by part 97 of the FCC Rules). However, RACES is a local or state government service — there is no Federal RACES. Only the RACES Radio Officer of a local government civil preparedness agency can activate RACES in times of emergency. In our case, the local government agency is the Monroe County Office of  Emergency Management (OEM).

During times of war (when the President invokes War Emergency Powers), normal Amateur Radio Service operation is silenced and RACES stations are limited to a pre-defined set of operating frequencies that are within the normal Amateur bands. RACES may also be used for non-wartime emergencies which can include natural or technological disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, chemical spills, and nuclear power plant accidents.

During all times that Amateur stations are operating under RACES rules, they may only communicate with other RACES stations, and only for the purpose of conveying official civil-preparedness emergency communications.

Monroe County ARES/RACES coordinates the organization and training of the volunteer Amateur Radio operators who have registered their willingness to serve.

How Does My Organization or Agency Request ARES/RACES Services?

If your organization’s emergency preparedness planning includes the need for emergency communications, please contact the ARES EC/RACES Radio Officer above.

Also, please note that the Rochester Amateur Radio Association Public Service Coordinator may be contacted regarding public service communications for events such as walkathons and parades in which the safety of members of the general public participating in or viewing the event could be aided.


Portions of this page were borrowed from the Westchester Emergency Communications Association website.