General RACES Operations

Q: When we are called out, under whose authority do we work?
A: It depends on the agency we are serving. If the Red Cross needs us for shelter communications then, we would be working for them. If the Emergency Management needs us then we work for them.

Q: You have just been paged out for a communications emergency. What should you bring?
A: At the very least you should have:

  • A 2 meter radio
  • A mag mount antenna and adapter if needed
  • RACES Identification
  • Note pad, pen and paper
  • Power supply or extra battery if it is a HT

Q: I receive too many emails. Do I have to receive the weather email every day?
A: No. The weather email list is optional. We do, however, encourage participation of in it, but it is not required.

Q: Why did I receive a letter stating that my membership status has been changed to inactive and that I need to attend the next meeting or I will loose my membership in RACES?
A: KCRACES requires all members to maintain a 60% commitment level. This commitment includes all training sessions, nets, meetings, operations and outings. If you miss 3 meetings in a row and have not talked to a cadre leader about your attendance or have not made other activities, then your status is changed to inactive and a letter is sent to you. If your participation does not change within the next 2 months then you are removed from the roster and your ID is returned to the Sheriffs office. When you are ready to become active again, you must reapply. The reason for taking these actions is to maintain a current roster of actively trained personnel.

Q: I have a concealed weapons permit from the State of Michigan. May I carry my gun to meetings?
A: No. Because we meet at the Kent County Sheriffs Department we are subject to the same rules that employees of the county are subject to and may not carry weapons while on the premises. However, you may lock your weapon in your vehicle while on the premises and retrieve it when you leave.

Q: I am an EMT, paramedic, MFR, doctor or nurse. Am I allowed to practice my emergency medical skills while working as an RACES member.
A: Yes and No. As a person trained in basic first aid you are able to render assistance as needed to anyone at anytime. However, during operations medical staff are usually on duty to assist those with medical needs. The medical personnel on duty are the ones in charge and you should always yield to them during the incident. Your job is emergency communications. However, there may be times that your medical skills are needed during a disaster, but it will be the decision of the incident commander.
Q: What if something happens to my equipment while operating as an RACES member?
A: While we try to be as careful as we can with equipment, sometimes bad things happen. Unfortunately this is the cost of doing what we do. KCRACES/KCEST/KCARPSC is not liable for any damages or injuries.
Q: Who gives the leadership their authority?
A: All of the authority is given by the Kent County Emergency Manager, who ultimately decides who stays and who does not.

Q: Why was I sent a page at 3 A.M. with a net reminder?
A: Most net reminders are automated and sometimes they are not sent as planned (depending on what the computer decides to do that day).

Q: Why are the warning sirens going off at noon on a Friday?
A: If you are able to find the siren, check it out and report into the net (usually on the main RACES Repeater) at 12:05. If there is no net then call the 800 telephone number located on the contact page and leave a message.

Q: Why do I get pages for things in other counties?
A: Because we have accepted a request from the District 6 Emergency Response Team. We also have standing mutual aid agreements with some other counties in the district. Membership in the DERT is not automatic and assistance depends on the specific request.

Q: You arrive at a shelter. What is the first thing you should do?
A: First, you should introduce yourself to the person in charge. Then you should learn about your location and assess the following: 

  • Is this in a possible hazardous area?
  • Are there any risks associated with being here?
  • What are the communications needs?
  • Where should the radio room be set up?

Q: You happen to be the first person on scene of an accident. What should you do?
A: Any person arriving or stopping at an accident must take a couple important actions. First assess whether or not the scene safe. If there are hazards present then they must be eliminated before you enter the area. Remember, if you are putting yourself in danger then you should not be there. If the scene is safe then your next action should be to communicate. While this will not be a prolonged disaster emergency requiring a go kit and many radios, you will use some important training. Get as much information as possible then call 911. You can use your cell phone or your radio by using an auto-patch, or by having another Amateur Radio operator help you. The most important thing to tell the 911 dispatcher is the location of the accident. Be sure to tell the location first. However, if you are using an auto-patch then be sure to tell the dispatcher you are an Amateur Radio operator using a repeater auto-patch. They will probably understand. The next items to tell them are: the number of injuries, the number of cars, any threat to life or hazard, and any other pertinent information.

Here is a sample call to 911: “Hi, I am at 28th and Byron Center. I am at the scene of a car accident with injuries. There are 3 people hurt and one of them looks pretty bad. There is a telephone pole lying across the road and the wires are arching.”

Joining RACES

Q: I am not a ham can I join?
A: Yes, although you will have to get your amateur radio license within 6 months of joining.

Q: I am in a wheelchair and cannot do a lot of physical activity. Can I be involved with RACES?
A: Yes, we have a place for everyone even with a disability. You must be able to participate in the required training sessions unless your disability limits your training.

Q: I only have a technician class license. Can I participate in RACES?
A: Yes. Eighty percent of the membership is made up of technician class licensees and it is not necessary to be a level 1 member. We can also help each other to upgrade.
Q: Is there a membership fee or dues?
A: No. We prefer to not take money from members unless we really need to. We have been successful in fund raisers and do a few of them each year.
Q: How much are members paid?
A: Zilch, Zippo, Notta, Zero, Absolutely nothing. As Amateur Radio operators we provide our services free of charge.

Q: Do I have to be a radio geek to be involved?
A: No. To be a member of Kent County RACES member you just need to be willing to meet the requirements and volunteer your time.

Q: I am a Ham and have a radio but have no idea how to use it. If I become a member can someone help me with it?
A: Yes. As a group we are one big family and are always willing to help one another.

Q: How do I know who else is a member?
A: Come to the meetings, trainings, events, and listen to the nets. As an active member you are issued a roster with limited contact information.
Q: I do not want my information given out to everyone. Can I be a member without this happening?
A: Yes. As a member you still have a right to privacy and not be contacted by other members. It is your choice. In Kent County we only issue a roster with names, call signs, training level and license class. You can choose whether you want to give out your telephone number or not.

Q: How often are RACES meetings?
A: Once a month, usually the 4th Thursday.

Q: Can anyone attend a RACES meeting?
A: No. Because of the location and nature of some of our activities, all visitors must be approved before they can attend a meeting.

Q: I have anti-government beliefs and want to overthrow it. May I still be a member?
A: No. As a member of KCRACES/KCARPSC/KCEST you agree that you have no issues with law enforcement, government or anything else that may cause you a problem in serving government agencies or the public.

Q: Have you ever fired a member?
A: Yes. KCEST/KCRACES/KCARPSC is an “at will” organization meaning you serve at the will of the Emergency Management Office, the EC, the board of directors. If any of these entities feel a member is a risk to themselves or others, they will remove the member immediately. Members can be fired for such things as improper behavior, sexual harassment, or failure to obey a request. Members are required to read the general operations procedures which explains disciplinary actions.

Q: As a member do I need to carry anything special?
A: Members are encouraged to either carry, or keep close at hand, the mandatory go kit. RACES members also need to carry a pager or cell phone capable of receiving email.

Q: I am interested in Search and Rescue. Are you a Search and Rescue group?
A: Kent County Races has many different programs including Search and Rescue. Please contact the Search and Rescue Director at jnawrot@kcvrm.net for more information.

Q: I am from a different county how do I join the 6th DERT?
A: Contact the Emergency Coordinator and he will get you an application.

Q: I have a personal issue with one of the leadership staff. Should this stop me from joining?
A: No. All of the staff are professionals. They are able to leave personal issues behind to get the job done and are concerned for what is best for the group.

Q: What are the time commitments to join RACES?
A: This can be a hard question to answer. There are always 2 parts to this. Training and Response.

  • Training: To get an idea of the training “time” you need to look at the training requirements for each level. Each requirement has a set amount of time that it should or could take to teach a subject. Sometimes it takes less time then is listed to teach a class. On a Monthly basis we hold a membership meeting / training every 1st Thursday of the month, sometimes this training is moved to the weekend or extended the night of to cover a specific topic.
  • Response: Obviously work, school, family all come before an activations although many members works allow them to leave and members families are generally pretty accepting of missing a family occasion as they put themselves in the victims families place.

Q: I have no experience in emergency service type stuff. What about training? Who does it and under what authority?
A: That’s not a problem, we train you. No experience is needed! Training is always brought to the membership when possible by members of the RACES team. Some members are instructors for various training programs that benefit from the members volunteering with RACES or vice versa. When possible we always will train in house as we consider our members family. When it comes to authority for “certifications” given. Depending on the type of certification it all depends on the instructor. Our programs all meet all standard national and federal guidelines and any private organizations training requirements. IE American heart association for CPR / First aid.

Q: Does it Cost anything for training?
A: Sometimes yes, we try to keep trainings as free / cheap as possible to members. We really try to train within the group using our own resources when possible. Sometimes costs are past on to members because of outside costs. For example during the RACES operations training we charge 25.00 (local cost) per person which covers expenses for the weekend including food for the class, glow sticks, flagging tape, gas for the response truck, and other “disposable” items. We do this because the instructors cannot afford to buy everything for each class. Whatever is left goes right back into the groups bank account and there is never a monetary gain. Other trainings can cost more depending on instructor’s expenses and such. We always try to keep it as low as possible.

Q: I work? I have a family?
A: So do the rest of us! Welcome you’re among friends. Family, Work, School all come before volunteering. We understand that these things are out there. We just ask you to do the best possible and to always evaluate your position / status before making any commitments.


Q: Do I have to live in Kent County to participate in Skywarn?
A: No, but to be an official Skywarn spotter you must have a SKYWARN ID number issued from your county of residence.

Q: How do I measure snow?
A: Usually we use a snow board. This is a board with a ruler attached vertically to it. Place three or four of these around an open area (usually an area that does not drift) then take an average from the boards.

Q: What should I do during a severe thunderstorm?
A: You should check into the local Skywarn net. In Kent County the frequency is 145.11/r with a PL tone of 94.8.

Q: What should I do during a thunderstorm or tornado watch?
A: Check into the local net on 145.11/r with a PL tone of 94.8.

Q: A thunderstorm warning is being broadcast by the NWS and my pager hasn’t gone off. What should I do?
A: There are plenty of reasons why you didn’t receive a page. However, as far as the warning, you can check into your local Skywarn net. If there is no net on the air, you can become an unofficial net control and take check-ins. When the official net control comes on they will appreciate the information you collected

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