County EOC partners with amateur radio group for emergencies

1200 Hours, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007: The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center and a local amateur radio group will team up when disasters strike, with the volunteer corps providing a critical communications link if and when conventional means fail.

The newly formed Sussex County chapter of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) will augment EOC communications during major events. Federally-regulated and licensed radio operators, also known as hams, in the last few months have organized a local chapter as part of the national reserve unit.

Ham operators use a variety of equipment and radio frequencies to communicate with others around the globe. They are an especially useful resource to emergency managers during large-scale disasters, when standard means of communication – landline and wireless telephone service, for instance – can be knocked out for prolonged periods.

The formation of the local RACES chapter, and the EOC’s recognition of that unit, strengthens a working relationship that has existed for years between the County and a handful of loosely affiliated amateur operators, said EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas.

“Amateur radio operators have been our ‘eyes’ and our ‘ears’ around the county in the past, relaying vital information, for instance, during ice storms and hurricanes,” Mr. Thomas said. “The formation of this local RACES group now gives us a unit that we can turn to in times of need, one complete with specific duties and a command structure. What remains the same is their role as an important link in our emergency operations.”

While members of the group will be responsible for assigning personnel and managing their own equipment, the EOC director will control and direct amateur radio operators during EOC activations.

RACES members are FCC-licensed amateur radio operators who volunteer their time as part of the county chapter. For more information on joining or learning about Sussex County RACES, contact John Ferguson at (302) 855-9385 or