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About Us pages: RACES | ARES | What is Ham Radio?


RACES Radio Amateur Civil Emergency ServiceHarford County RACES is group of amateur radio operators who have volunteered to provide emergency, backup, and supplemental communication services to the citizens of Harford County under the direction of the Harford County Dept. of Emergency Services (DES). Harford County RACES is led by a RACES Officer (RO), who receives his appointment through the Harford County Executive based on the recommendation of the Harford County Emergency Manager.

RACES is a governmental function and, once activated, RACES members become temporary unpaid Harford County employees for the duration of their activation period. RACES can only be activated by the Harford County Emergency Manager or his/her designate. RACES members are not permitted to self-deploy to provide communications services in a RACES capacity.


aresHarford County ARES is group of amateur radio operators who have volunteered to provide emergency, backup, and supplemental communication services to emergency service and nonprofit organizations. ARES is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). Harford County ARES is led by an Emergency Coordinator (EC), who is appointed to the position by the Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) and Section Manger (SM) of the ARRL Maryland-DC (MDC) Section. To assist him in leading the organization, the EC may appoint one or more Assistant Emergency Coordinators (AECs).

Unlike RACES, ARES can provide emergency communications support even if the request is not routed through DES. ARES can also provide public service communications to nonprofit organizations outside the emergency services field. For example, Harford County ARES has, for a number of years, provided communications support to the March of Dimes Walk for Babies in Forest Hill.

ARES vs RACES – What’s The Difference?

Many amateur radio operators new to the field of emergency communications are confused as to the differences between ARES and RACES. Below are some of the key similarities and differences between the two organizations.

  1. Due to their similar functions, prospective members of ARES and RACES are strongly encouraged to join both organizations. With few exceptions, most RACES members are also ARES members, and vice versa. The difference is really a matter of “which hat we are wearing”, i.e., under which organization’s banner we are operating as outlined above.
  2. RACES is a governmental function, while ARES is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the ARRL.
  3. RACES is a federally recognized emergency communications function established by the U.S. Congress decades ago. In certain emergencies such as military attack on the U.S., RACES could continue to operate on certain designated amateur radio bands even when other amateur radio communications would be temporarily forbidden.
  4. Federal law restricts RACES training nets to one hour per month. RACES, as a nationwide communications service, was established by federal law in the first half of the 20th century. In those days, VHF and UHF radio technology was not yet generally available, and amateurs shared High Frequency (HF) spectrum space with other organizations such as military and police organizations. To prevent RACES training nets from having too adverse an impact on these other vital services, Congress created the one hour per month training restriction. Though dated, this law has never been modified or repealed, so RACES members must continue to abide by the one hour restriction. There is no legal restriction on the length of ARES training nets.
  5. As stated above, ARES can provide emergency communication service to organizations even if these organizations do not request such support through the county emergency manager. RACES only provides service when directed to do so by the county emergency manager or his/her designate.
  6. ARES can also provide public service communications to nonprofit groups outside the emergency services field.

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