SUSSEX COUNTY AUXCOMM GROUP
The Sussex County Emergency Operations Department adopted the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) program as an Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS) entity to provide the county authorities with direct control of the amateur radio resource during emergencies and disasters. 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) direct how the agencies responsible for disaster services now operate and respond. 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. Joseph Thomas, Director of Emergency Operations for Sussex County, initiated the Sussex County RACES Group in March of 2007 to fulfill that need.
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. 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. 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.
AUXCOMM could be considered the new RACES because of similarities in the core requirements of the programs. However, AUXCOMM provides a more flexible, inclusive program for the management of auxiliary communication assets under the “government authority of competent jurisdiction”. This document provides for the development and management of an ICS compliant ACS function. A viable and legally constituted RACES entity pursuant to U.S. Code Part 97.407 will also be maintained.
The Sussex County AUXCOMM Group is tasked with providing flexible auxiliary communication support at the direction of the Sussex County Emergency Operations Director (EOD) or other designated county official. The AUXCOMM program is directed by the county EOD designated Auxiliary Communications Leader (ACL), who reports to the County EOD or his/her designee. Members of this group may perform communications related tasks in support of the Department of Emergency Operations as needed.
There are two distinctly different missions of auxiliary communication support assigned. The normal day to day operation includes administrative tasks, maintenance of equipment, training, and operating in public service events with the Mobile Command Unit (MCU). These comprise the daily routine when “the lights are on”. The second mission, the one that is planned for, trained for, and exercised; is when “the lights don’t work”. All resources are focused on supporting the Emergency Operations Center, the Sussex County Emergency Operations Plan (SCEOP) and responding to the changing priorities of response and recovery operations. This is the primary mission, providing communication support for disaster response and recovery.