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Emergency Communications
Safety of Life
Preservation of Property
Dissemination of Information


Concept of Operations

National priorities emphasize the need to standardize structures and processes for  collaboration and to enable entities, collectively, to manage and coordinate activities for operations and preparedness consistently and effectively. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) Five-Year Training Plan includes training and credentialing requirements, and the National Integration Center intends to add amateur radio support to the NIMS’ typed resources. The MDACS / Baltimore County ACS Program will provide the mechanism to target the coordination of these particular disaster response organizations and their resources on a county wide and mutual aid basis.

Most public safety communications systems are designed to perform in emergencies at any time. These systems generally fulfill the demands placed on them by normal conditions or small emergencies and operate within their design parameters. It is when these systems fail, are degraded, or are expected to perform beyond their design limits that backup and supplemental  communications provide by the Auxiliary Communications Service are considered as an alternate means of communicating.

Baltimore County is home to approximately 5,000 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed  radio operators. A large number of these individuals provide emergency communications support through a diverse group of organizations: RACES, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®), Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), local clubs, and the National Weather Service (NWS) SKYWARN program. Others who may not be licensed amateur radio operators also provide emergency communications support through organizations such as: Radio Emergency Associated Communications Team (REACT), Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGAUX), and others. These organizations conduct communications on radio frequencies governed by a set of rules and regulations.

  • Part 97.1 of the FCC’s rules and regulations are designed to provide an Amateur Radio Service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following: “(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the Amateur Radio Service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications”. This is an essential element of the "public interest, convenience, or necessity" doctrine embodied in the Communications Act of 1934. With this in mind, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a private corporation, makes emergency communications an objective for its Field Organization, using ARES® as its vehicle for accomplishing this task.
  •  Part 97.407 of the FCC’s rules provides for RACES. RACES is a special phase of amateur radio recognized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that provides amateur radio communications for civil preparedness purposes and for local, regional, or national civil emergencies. These types of emergencies are not limited to wartime, but can be incorporated into all hazards communications planning with special emphasis on natural disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes, which historically are common practice for utilization of this service.
  • Part 95 of the FCC’s rules regulates the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), Family Radio Service (FRS), Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)  and the Citizens’ Band (CB) Radio Service. Parts 95.143 and 95.418 regulate the use of GMRS and CB, respectively, during emergencies.
  • The National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) assigns and regulates the frequencies used by organizations such as the CAP, MARS, and the USCGAUX. Each of these organizations has individual policies, regulations, directives, etc. that govern their support of civil authorities during emergencies.  The DOD has issued Directive 3025.15, Military Assistance to Civil Authorities dated February 18, 1997 titled under this directive, MARS and military auxiliaries (e.g. CAP, USCGAUX) are authorized to provide assistance to civil authorities.

MDACS and the Baltimore County Auxiliary are  based on the RACES model, however we broaden the scope to include the use of non-amateur radio volunteers and beyond. MDACS and the Baltimore County Auxiliary is operational at the County level and provides operational support to MEMA and surrounding jurisdictions.

  1. ACS is more than just another name for an existing RACES program. Moving to an ACS model has formalized the ongoing attempts at removing the barriers that have existed previously between RACES, ARES®, and other amateur radio groups.
  2. Another important element in ACS model is the elimination of the concept that a volunteer communications reserve is one in which ONLY amateur radio resources and frequencies are utilized in support of government communications. While the program continues to rely heavily upon amateur radio resources, the operational principles followed allow for the Baltimore County Auxiliary  to include and incorporate other communication volunteers and resources.
  3. MDACS and the Baltimore Auxiliary  provide for government use of emergency communications specialists. Additionally, it provides DHSOEM with a primary, redundant emergency communications unit that serves to set an example of how volunteers can support government operations during declared emergencies.
  4. Our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds including medical, broadcasting, information technology,  networking, telephone, microwave, satellite, computer programming, and other volunteer-based telecommunications organization. Personnel may, or may not, hold FCC licenses; yet the majority usually hold amateur radio licenses and is involved with a variety of volunteer emergency communications programs.
  5. ACS resources are trained to  provide auxiliary and emergency communications voice and data support using Single Side Band (SSB), Amplitude Modulation (AM), Frequency Modulation (FM, radio-based email, and various other digital and voice modes.

ACS personnel are unpaid volunteers registered as Duly Enrolled Emergency Management Volunteers. They do not replace available paid staff. However, they are placed in an emergency hire relationship when the need arises.

“Preparedness is Not an Option, Preparedness is a Requirement

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Baltimore  County Auxiliary Communications Service
115 Wight Avenue - PBX 88 -  Hunt Valley, MD 21031