ACS is the Auxiliary
Auxiliary Communications Service, or ACS, is a concept adopted
by a number of communities across the country to facilitate amateur radio communications
in a disaster. Usually aligned with a
government agency providing relief services, local chapters of ACS are
comprised of volunteer amateur radio operators who provide essential
communications and warning links as a supplement to local and state government
Membership requires satisfactory completion of required
training to remain on active status as a volunteer for the Cleveland – Bradley
County Emergency Management Agency.
The Evolution of ACS
Prior to 2005, amateur radio disaster communications in
Bradley County were affiliated with one of three organizations which each having
their own operating guidelines and structure. They are:
RACES – Founded in 1952, the Radio Amateur Civil
Emergency Services (abbreviated RACES) is a public service provided by a
reserve (volunteer) communications group within government agencies in times of
extraordinary need. During periods of
RACES activation, certified unpaid personnel are called upon to perform many
tasks for the government agencies they serve. Although the exact nature of each
activation is different, the common thread is communications. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
is responsible for the regulation of RACES operations. RACES is administered by a local, county, or
state civil defense agency responsible for disaster services, and is a part of
the Emergency Management Agency in Bradley County.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who
have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for
communication duty in the public service when disaster strikes. ARES is the emergency
services division of the American Radio Relay League, which is recognized as
the largest amateur radio organization in the world. Every licensed amateur,
regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization,
is eligible for membership in the ARES.
The only qualification, other than possession of an amateur radio
license, is a sincere desire to serve.
Because ARES is an amateur service, only amateurs are eligible for
membership. The possession of
emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for
SKYWARN – SkyWarn is a nationwide network of volunteer
storm spotters trained by the National Weather Service (NWS) to report
significant weather. Anyone with an interest in weather is welcome to participate. To become a trained storm spotter, you need
to attend a training session offered at various times and places across the
Morristown County Warning Area.
This structure offered some problems utilizing resources. Some amateurs were members of all three organizations. Others affiliated with one and in some
instances two. So, in 2004, Bradley
County RACES initiated discussions to form a single organization.
The result was an agreement to consolidate all amateur communications
under the local agency coordinating disaster preparedness, the Cleveland –
Bradley County Emergency Management Agency (CBCEMA).
ACS draws on the full contingent of amateur radio resources
giving the EMA an effective tool for management and utilization of personnel
from RACES, ARES, SkyWarn, and other amateur organizations such as the Military
Auxiliary Radio System (MARS). ACS
resources are normally mobilized at the same time as other public safety
resources responding to and recovering from an incident.
RACES operations are carried out in accordance with FCC
Rules and Regulations.
Purpose of ACS
The purpose of ACS is to give an organizational foundation
for Amateur Radio operators to provide essential communications during periods
of national, state, or local emergency, under the direction of the CBCEMA.
The resources of ACS may be shared with other counties under
the direction of the CBCEMA.
ACS is under the direction of the ACS Coordinator, who is
appointed by the Director of the CBCEMA from members of the organization.
The coordinator acts as a liaison with the E-M-A staff and
members of the organization. He /she
assigns personnel to tasks as directed by the EMA, and establishes the
organizations command structure.
Becoming a Member
Membership in ACS is open to licensed amateur radio operators
in Bradley County or adjacent counties willing to volunteer their time,
equipment, and efforts. Requirements are
completion of FEMA courses ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800. These courses provide a foundation of the
training needed to work in a disaster.
Information on how to become an amateur radio operator is
available from two local clubs.
The Cleveland Amateur Radio Club meets on the second and
fourth Tuesdays of the month (except December) at their clubhouse at 560
Johnson Boulevard. Club members are
available on Saturday mornings to prepare for the entry level license, the
Technician, or to upgrade to the General or Extra licenses. The club also offers amateur radio license
examinations on the third Saturday at 10 a.m.
License testing is not offered in December.
The Ocoee Amateur Radio Society meets on the first Monday of
each month at the #1 Cleveland Fire Station on South Ocoee Street.. Club members actively participate in many
aspects of amateur radio including contesting and emergency communications
Most participants in ACS have membership in one or both of
ACS offers training as part of regular meetings that are
held on the third Thursday of the month at 7:00 p.m. (unless otherwise
specified) at the Cleveland – Bradley County Emergency Management Agency. Addition training is provided during weekly
on-the-air nets on the 146.925 MHz repeater.
Nets are generally about an hour in length and include information about
upcoming ACS activities. To access the
repeater your radio must be programmed with the input and output frequencies
and a sub audible 114.8 Hz tone.
ACS participates in disaster drills for the Sequoyah Nuclear
Power Plant, the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant, and the Olin and Arch Chemical company
plants. These drills ensure we are prepared when an event occurs.
For information about membership contact the Cleveland –
Bradley County Emergency Management Agency at 1555 Guthrie Avenue, Cleveland
TN, or call 423-728-7289.