County of Orange (California)
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service

Orange County Sheriff's Department
Emergency Management Division

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County of Orange RACES, an auxiliary communications unit of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD), is coordinated by OCSD's Emergency Management Division. Members are trained to provide voice, video, and data communications during emergencies, using their own equipment on County VHF and UHF repeaters and simplex frequencies. When activated, OCRACES provides emergency communications support, handles messages between incidents and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), or between public-safety agencies and critical locations, and reports conditions from the field to the EOC or Command Post.

OCRACES Online and In-Person Meetings and Group Activities

OCRACES has resumed some outside group activities, while observing current COVID conditions. Online OCRACES meetings have been well-attended during the pandemic. We will continue online monthly meetings, interspersed with in-person meetings, perhaps quarterly. Monday night 2-meter nets at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday morning 60-meter nets at 10:00 a.m. will continue (except for some major holidays). However, due to new schedules in the OCSD Mutual Aid Bureau, mandatory PSR meetings will occasionally be held on Monday evenings, resulting in OCRACES ACS net cancelations on those evenings and possible shift in OCRACES meetings to a different Monday.

Websites with COVID-19 Information

The Orange County Health Care Agency website at https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com has information that is regularly updated regarding the status of COVID-19 in Orange County.  A good site to monitor for the latest Orange County COVID-19 news is https://www.ocgov.com.

For information about COVID-19 in the state of California, visit https://covid19.ca.gov. That site emphasizes that if you have any symptoms or are at risk, it’s especially important to stay home and avoid in-person contact with others.

CDC and FEMA have an informative website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/. You can also visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus.

FEMA has a website at https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/rumor-control to help you distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to the pandemic.

Sign up for County of Orange AlertOC COVID-19 updates to your smartphone. Text “OCCOVID19” to 888777.

Earthquake Drill on October 20, 2022, Has 36 Check-Ins

On Thursday, October 20, 2022, from 1000 to 1100 hours, OCRACES conducted its annual Great California ShakeOut Drill, with 36 check-ins from OCRACES, city RACES, and EmComm members on the 146.895 MHz repeater. Participants reported observations of a simulated strong earthquake, which began in San Diego County and progressed up through the Santa Ana Mountains and then through the Chino Hills and Puente Hills. Observations were given as “Mike-Mike reports, using the Modified Mercalli Earthquake Intensity Scale. Three simulated major damage reports were also given. OCRACES Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK, was net control.

Participating organizations and members included Costa Mesa RACES (MESAC) (KM6UJD), Fountain Valley RACES (KK6OEX), Fullerton RACES (KB4GOD), Huntington Beach RACES (KE6BNS and KB6JOE), Irvine RACES (IDEC) (K6PB), Laguna Niguel ACS/OCHEART (KK6BML, KB6BXD, WB6CKG, KK6CUR, K0PGE, KI6SHD, KK6URR, and WB6VEM), Laguna Woods RACES (KN6CVB, K6EEE, AJ6VT, and NH7WG), Los Alamitos/Seal Beach RACES (KM6RSY), Mission Viejo RACES-ARES (W6EDT and K6WHC), OCHEART (KE6MVS), Orange RACES (COAR) (KJ6IA, KF6WRM, and KK6YUP), Orange County RACES (KD6DAQ, KB6EID, WF6F, W6HK, N6PRL, NJ6R, and N8RG) Placentia RACES (KB6FTI), Red Cross (KG6WTQ), and Westminster RACES (N6HVC). N2VAJ in Orange also participated.

City/County RACES & EmComm Drill Held on October 1, 2022

A City/County RACES & EmComm ACS Exercise was held on Saturday, October 1, 2022, from 0900 to 1200 hours. It was basically a field-deployment exercise focusing on alternative means of communications in case of repeater failures. These alternative means consisted of simplex communications on 2 meters FM and HF NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) on 60 meters, Winlink, and AREDN mesh. Some county and city RACES and EmComm members operated portable stations at locations that needed to be tested for local and countywide simplex radio coverage, while most participants remained at home. W6ACS net control was at the Orange County EOC at Loma Ridge. Steve Livingston, NJ6R, operated 2 meters, Randy Benicky, N6PRL, operated 60 meters, and Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE, operated Winlink.

From 0900 to 0930 hours, city RACES and EmComm units called a roll of their members on their primary simplex frequencies, while OCRACES W6ACS net control (operated by Steve, NJ6R) called the roll of its members on the OCRACES primary simplex frequency of 146.595 MHz. From 0930 to 1000 hours, net control called the roll of the city RACES and EmComm units on 146.595 MHz simplex. Each unit responded with the total number of participants from their members and any visitors checking into their net.

On the 2-meter OCRACES roll call from 0900 to 0930 hours, OCRACES members checking in included KD6DAQ, WF6F, W6HK, and KJ6UJS. N6PRL (60 meters net control), NJ6R (2 meters net control), and KM6RTE (Winlink) were operating in the RACES Room at Loma Ridge.

From 0930 to 1000, City RACES and EmComm units checking in on the OCRACES primary simplex frequency (146.595 MHz) with their results included: Anaheim (10), Brea (6), Costa Mesa (8), Cypress (3), Fountain Valley (5), Fullerton (4), Huntington Beach (2), Irvine (22), Laguna Niguel (8), Laguna Woods (6 + 1 visitor), Mission Viejo (7), Orange (12 + 1 visitor), Westminster (3), and Red Cross (1).

Beginning at 1000 hours on 60 meters, OCRACES W6ACS net control (operated by Randy, N6PRL) ran a net on 60 meters channel 4 (5371.5 kHz dial frequency, upper sideband), using the same roll call of county and city RACES and EmComm stations within Orange County as on the regular weekly Saturday morning OCRACES ACS net. Next, net control called for additional RACES and EmComm stations in Orange County that are not on the regular Saturday roll call. Then Randy called RACES/ACS stations outside Orange County, and finally called non-EmComm stations on the regular Saturday list.

OCRACES stations participating on 60 meters included WF6F and W6HK, with N6PRL at W6ACS net control. NJ6R (2-meter net control) and KM6RTE (Winlink) were also at Loma Ridge. City RACES units checking in included Brea (K6UDW), Cypress (W6CYP), Laguna Niguel (N6JCN), Laguna Woods (K6EEE and NH7WG), Mission Viejo (W6EDT), and Orange (KG6MIG and K0VNJ). NI6E checked in for Newport Beach Repeater Club. W6GMU checked in for Cal OES from Cypress. ACS stations checking in from outside Orange County included W6CAW (Cal OES in Campo, San Diego County) and N6WIX (Ventura County ACS in Ventura). Participating non-EmComm stations included WD6AJR (Orange), AA6RF (Riverside), N2VAJ (Orange), and W6YLD (Santa Maria).

A total of 51 Winlink messages were sent and received, with messages sent from 25 unique callsigns. The majority of operators (48.0%, 12 operators) used telnet communications mode. The next most used communications mode was packet on VHF band (44.0%, 11 operators). Information was requested about the Winlink operator’s role in their city or MOU organization that they were participating on behalf of. In total, 15 organizations were represented and the operators identified a total 26 instances of membership with these organizations.

City/County RACES & MOU ACS Exercise Held on May 7, 2022

Steve Livingston, NJ6R (left), at the 2-meter simplex station; Scott MacGillivrary, KM6RTE (center), at the Winlink station; and Ken Bourne, W6HK (right), at the 60-meter station at the OC EOC RACES Room. Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS, operated the OCHEART station.

Simulating repeater outage, a City/County RACES & EmComm ACS exercise was held on Saturday, May 7, 2022, on 2 meters simplex, 60 meters SSB, Winlink, and AREDN mesh. OCRACES and OCHEART net controls were at the Orange County EOC at Loma Ridge. The drill began at 0900 hours with each agency calling its members on their primary 2-meter or 70-centimeter simplex frequencies for the first half hour, and then reporting to OCRACES net control on 146.595 MHz simplex how many had checked in on their primary frequencies. Participating OCRACES members included Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ, Ken Tucker, WF6F, Ken Bourne, W6HK, Scott Byington, KC6MMF, Randy Benicky, N6PRL, Steve Livingston, NJ6R, Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE, and Fran Needham, KJ6UJS. Besides OCRACES, other participants (their unit check-ins in parentheses) included RACES units from Anaheim (5), Brea (6), Costa Mesa (15), Cypress (6), Fountain Valley (5), Fullerton (4), Huntington Beach (5), Irvine (26), Laguna Niguel (7), Laguna Woods (5 + 3 guests), Mission Viejo (12), Orange (13), and Westminster (4), plus Newport Beach Repeater Club (5) and OCHEART (9). The 60-meter portion of the exercise began at 1000 hours, with 34 check-ins, including stations throughout Orange County plus San Diego County and Ventura County. On Winlink, 91 messages were sent and received from 31 unique operators, over a 24-hour period. There were 19 operators on telnet. AREDN mesh participation included RACES units from Anaheim Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo, and OCRACES, plus OCHEART. Most had RF connection to the network. There were 17 successful VoIP phone calls, and 25 files were successfully transferred to the FTP file server.

OCRACES Participates in Alternate EOC Drill on June 30, 2021

OCRACES played a role in the 2021 Alternate EOC Exercise on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. For realism, this exercise was kept confidential from much of OCSD Emergency Management Division (EMD) personnel until it was activated Wednesday morning. OCRACES, which is an EMD AuxComm unit, was made a component of the exercise, and the exercise was also kept confidential to its members until the OCRACES 2-meter repeater was activated for the event. The exercise scenario was a fail-soft of the 800-MHz radio system, coupled with immediate and severe network connectivity issues at 0600 hours. OCSD Dispatch and Control One experience identical failures, rendering them unable to communicate.  
Radio Officer Scott Byington, KC6MMF, Assistant Emergency Manager Lee Kaser, KK6VIV, and Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK (left to right), at OCFA during the Alternate EOC Exercise.

OCSD Systems confirmed that both the 800-MHz system and the OCSD network connections to Loma Ridge had experienced a very complex cyberattack and they were unable to estimate when the services to the facility would be restored. OCIAC determined that multiple response agencies, transportation, and large corporations across the county were having similar issues and that a foreign government may be at the root of the problem.

The next step in the scenario was for OCSD Executive Command to place all sworn and essential professional staff on Tactical Alert. The OCSD Department Operations Center (DOC) activated to Level 2 at the Southwest Operations Division, Saddleback Station. EMD activated OCRACES on the 2-meter repeater for deployment to predetermined areas to assist with communications. A decision was then made to relocate the EOC to an alternate location. EMD staff rallied at Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Headquarters in Irvine, recovered the Alternate EOC equipment, and began setup. OCRACES Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK, and Radio Officer Scott Byington, KC6MMF, were assigned as AUXC to Control 7 at OCFA, to operate net control, beginning at 0930 hours. Joe Selikov, KB6EID, was ready to activate OCRACES members via AlertOC. He and Steve Livingston, NJ6R, and Fran Needham, KJ6UJS, sent and received exercise traffic in the field.

FEMA ICS and NIMS procedures were followed during the exercise. An ICS-211A form was used at Control 7 for checking in Ken and Scott. Messages were sent and received with the ICS-213 form. All activities were logged on an ICS-214 form.

RACES Wants You!

Experience the most exciting and rewarding part of amateur radio. Being a RACES member gives you the opportunity to sharpen your operating skills and technical knowledge while volunteering your services in public-safety communications. Get involved in emergency communications now.

To become an OCRACES member, you must first be a Sheriff’s Professional Services Responder (PSR, which is a non-sworn Reserve) or a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. PSR information may be found on this page on the Orange County Sheriff's website. Click on “Reserve Interest Form” in the left column. Then attend the next PSR Orientation followed by the PSR Prescreen. You can find the dates for those events by clicking “Reserve Testing & Orientation Dates” on the above web page. A background check will be conducted by the Sheriff’s Department. You must also attend three OCRACES meetings (online or in-person), in addition to passing the OCSD background for PSR, to become an OCRACES member.

OCRACES members need to have a dual-band radio to access our 2-meter and 70-centimeter repeaters. Members are also required to pass the IS-100, -200, -700, and -800 courses, which may be found on the FEMA website at https://training.fema.gov/is/crslist.aspx?lang=en. 

Click the Contact OCRACES link for more information.

Events Calendar

March 4: 0900 hours
Prescreen for PSR Applicants
OC Sheriff's Regional Training Academy, Tustin

March 4: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

March 6: 1900 hours
2 m: Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ

March 6: 1930 hours
OCRACES Meeting (online)

March 11: 1000 hours
69 meters channel 4

March 13: 1900 hours
2 m: Chuck Streitz, KK6HFS

March 18: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

March 20: 1900 hours
2 m: Randy Benicky, N6PRL

March 25: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

March 27: 1900 hours
2 m/70 cm/1¼ m/6 m:
Ken Tucker, WF6F

April 1: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 3: 1900 hours
2 m: Ernest Fierheller, KG6LXT

April 3: 1930 hours
OC Sheriff's Regional Training Academy

April 8: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 10: 1930 hours
2 m: Ken Bourne, W6HK

April 15: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 17: 1930 hours
2 m: Eric Bowen, W6RTR

April 22: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 24: 1930 hours
2 m/70 cm/1¼ m/6 m:
Scott Byington, KC6MMF

April 26: 1830 hours
Orientation for PSR Applicants

May 6: 0900-1200 hours
City/County RACES & EmComm ACS Exercise

May 17
OC EOC Functional Exercise