EMC291 RACES and FEMA
An area of misunderstanding that has arisen is that of RACES
relationship to FEMA. Whatever the situation was 50 years
ago it is very different today . Even the l991 reprint of an
old FEMA document states the matter incorrectly.
CPG 1-15 as reissued March 18, 1991 is on the FEMA web page.
It reads as follows:
General Information, 1.5
b. RACES is a special part of the amateur operation sponsored
by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
There was, unfortunately, a misunderstanding on the part of the
author of that publication. The correct statement as to who
"sponsors RACES" is that it is the agency that authorizes and
uses the unit. If you have a unit in your parish, county or city,
then that is the SPONSOR of that RACES unit, and it needs NO FCC
or FEMA approval. If FEMA disappeared entirely every RACES unit
would still exist.
It hasn't helped that certain publications printed and reprinted
the same misconception, some of which are still in print. Some
even seem to interpret the wording of CPG 1-15 to mean that FEMA
"controls or manages" the RACES. That is not factual either.
The role of FEMA is, and was, to provide guidance, not direction
and control. Today the RACES guidance FEMA offers through 1991 CPG
1-15 is incorrect and contains details not required (neither FCC or
FEMA sign a RACES Plan), and overlooks various aspects of RACES.
We have drawn over 50 RACES Plans for local governments using our
model RACES plan (for ease of use and in aid of cooperative mutual
aid). Each LOCAL GOVERNMENT is the sponsor of their unit. We did
NOT submit any of those plans to the FCC or FEMA for approval.
(We do send a copy of the signed plan to the FEMA Regional Office
so that IF funds ever become available from FEMA, then the local
jurisdiction can apply, but for no other purpose.)
Even the background statement on RACES (in CPG 1-15 1.5.a) missed
the mark when it said "RACES is an organization of amateur radio
operators who volunteer...." While that is seemingly a generic
overview it has been interpreted to mean that ONLY Amateur
licensees can belong to RACES which is not the case. The correct
statement would be " RACES is a Service authorized by the FCC,
which, when operating on the Amateur Radio Service frequencies,
requires that the operator be FCC licensed, and one who must
belong to a RACES unit of a State or Local government." Those
in a RACES unit not licensed obviously cannot operate the radio
but can provide other needed services, and do so in many RACES
The FCC regulations are empowering; that is, they AUTHORIZE A
SERVICE in accord with specific regulations for that service.
Several misconceptions come from not realizing that basic
The next bulletins cover successful and unsuccessful units, and
some reasons why.
Cary Mangum, W6WWW