The Sussex County Emergency Operations Department adopted the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) program in March of 2007 as an Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS) entity to provide the county authorities with direct control of the amateur radio resource during emergencies and disasters. The incorporation of a permanent amateur station in the new county Emergency Operations Center (EOC), dictated the need for direct control of the amateur radio operators that would staff the facility. Director of Emergency Operations for Sussex County, Joe Thomas, initiated the Sussex County RACES Group in March of 2007 to fulfill that need, appointing John Ferguson, K3PFW, as the Radio Officer.
The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) was established in 1952 during the Cold War era to provide Civil Defense Agencies and local governments with a codified approach to adopting the amateur radio resource of for use during emergencies and disasters. The original directive CPG 15 – 1, later modified in 1992, was part of a series of Civil Preparedness Guides produced by FEMA. The document provided guidance and direction for establishing a RACES program by a government entity of competent jurisdiction as required by law. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Part 97.4xx established the operational rules for RACES operators and stations.
In the Post 9-11 era, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations and directives, along with the National Incident Management System (NIMS), brought many changes in how the agencies responsible for disaster response and recovery services now operate. The continuing change and evolution in the field of Emergency Management, and the requirement that all such agencies adopt and operate under the tenets of the Incident Command System (ICS), and adhere to the requirements of NIMS, has brought a change in the ACS programs previously developed. The acronym AUXCOMM is now the term used by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify adjunct and volunteer communication resources that augment the full time paid staff of response organizations. Under the directives of AUXCOMM individuals can perform any communication related task that their training and experience has prepared them for. The Incident Command System (ICS) structure recognizes and places AUXCOMM personnel as applicable.
The Sussex County RACES Group in September of 2017 began working on a transition from the traditional RACES structure to the new AUXCOMM structure. Formal adoption of the AUXCOMM structure as the operational model was in January of 2018. The organization continues to develop and expand to meet the needs of the Sussex County Department of Emergency Operations. The AUXCOMM group is directed by an Auxiliary Communication Leader (ACL) appointed by the Emergency Operations Director.
AUXCOMM can be considered the new RACES because of similarities in the core requirements of the two programs; prior registration of personnel, and management by a government disaster response agency. AUXCOMM, however, provides a more flexible, inclusive program for the management of auxiliary communication assets. It is a structured program requiring a minimum level of mandatory training, and additional training as required to meet local needs. Individuals within the organization are assigned to tasks and operations based on their training and abilities.
A viable and legally constituted RACES entity pursuant to U.S. Code Part 97.407 will continue to be maintained utilizing the AUXCOMM personnel.