County of Orange (California)
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service

Orange County Sheriff's Department
Communications & Technology Division

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County of Orange RACES, an auxiliary communications unit of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD), is administered by OCSD's Communications & Technology Division. Members are registered as Disaster Service Workers with OCSD's Emergency Management Division. They 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.

Next Cooperative T-Hunt: Monday, September 16th

The next cooperative T-hunt will be on Monday, September 16, 2019, immediately following the OCRACES 2-meter net (approximately 7:20 PM). The fox will be Peter Gonzalez, KC6TWS. He will hide on paved, publicly accessible property in the City of Orange. He will transmit tones on the input (146.295 MHz) of the 146.895 MHz repeater. Hunters will compare bearings via an OCRACES UHF repeater and are encouraged to beacon their positions via APRS while hunting. We are looking for a volunteer to be the fox. The cooperative T-hunts are usually held on the third Monday of each month (except in October). The hunts are not official RACES events, so DSW (Disaster Service Worker) coverage does not apply. Please drive carefully! RACES members are urged to equip themselves with direction-finding equipment and be ready to find sources of interference to RACES repeaters and to VHF public-safety communications. These hunts provide excellent practice in working together to find such interference.

City/County RACES & MOU Drill: Saturday, October 5th

The next City/County RACES & MOU Drill will be on Saturday, October 5, 2019, from 0900 to 1100 hours. This will be a deployment drill, similar to last year’s drill, which proved to be very enjoyable. Unit members will set up portable stations on 60 meters as well as on OCRACES repeaters on 2 meters and 70 centimeters, especially in areas that are questionable for accessing the repeaters, such as deep in canyons or below seaside cliffs. When those poor-coverage areas are located, alternate coverage via 60 meters channel 4 NVIS (near vertical incidence skywave) on 5371.5 kHz upper sideband (dial frequency) will be tested. Simplex relay will also be tested on 2 meters (146.595 MHz) and 70 centimeters (446.000 MHz), with relay stations at high points, such as Loma Ridge, Belmont Park in the Orange hills, Canyon Rim Park in Anaheim Hills, Coastal Peak Park (near Signal Peak) in Newport Beach, etc. Station locations should be beaconed via APRS, using either a cellphone app (such as aprs.fi) or a 2-meter tracker (such as the Byonics MicroTrak AIO).

City and County RACES members are encouraged to set up portable 60-meter stations and experiment with various horizontal antennas such as MFJ Hamstick dipoles mounted on tripod masts.

Next OCRACES Meeting: Monday, October 7th

The next County of Orange RACES meeting will be on Monday, October 7, 2019, at 7:30 PM, at OCSD Communications & Technology Division, 840 N. Eckhoff Street, Suite 104, in Orange. At this meeting, Bob Morris, KK6BXJ, and David Bell, K6DJB, will give a presentation on NBEMS (Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software), which is an open-source software suite that allows radio amateurs to reliably send and receive data using nearly any computer (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and any analog radio without requiring a dedicated digital infrastructure or specialized modem hardware. HBEMS works on VHF/UHF FM and on HF. NBEMS uses the FLDIGI suite of software routines that emulate the hardware modem, compute the error correction, and format many standard message forms (including ICS forms).

Bob and David are associated with the Northwest Riverside ARES group and the American Red Cross Riverside Chapter. They conducted the ARES boot camp at the Orange County Red Cross in January 2019. The ARES boot camp chapter on NBEMS will be the source of their presentation.

ACS Radio Rodeo Rides Again on May 4, 2019 

Assistant Radio Officer Bob McFadden, KK6CUS (left photo), at Control 7 and Radio Officer Scott Byington, KC6MMF, at his 60-meter portable station during ACS Radio Rodeo on May 4, 2019.

City and County RACES and MOU units participated in the annual ACS Radio Rodeo on Saturday, May 4, 2019, as they gathered at the rear parking lot of OCSD Communications & Technology Division in Orange. They began setting up before 0800 hours with OCSD’s Control 7 Chevy Tahoe providing net-control facilities on 2 meters and 70 centimeters, Peter Putnam’s (NI6E from Newport Beach RACES) surplus news van providing net-control facilities on 6 meters and 1¼ meters, and OCRACES Lt. Scott Byington’s (KC6MMF) portable station providing net-control facilities on 60 meters. At 0830 hours, OCRACES Capt. Ken Bourne briefed all participants of exercise procedures. Questions were answered on 146.595 MHz simplex.

Beginning at 0900 hours, roll calls of stations at the local site were conducted on the five bands. The first local net was on 60 meters, run by Lt. Byington, with 10 check-ins. Near Scott’s setup was a portable station set up by OCRACES Sgt. Jack Barth, AB6VC. The 60-meter net was run on 5346.5 kHz upper sideband (dial frequency), the same frequency that has been used most Saturday mornings at 10:00 AM for the Cal OES Southern Region ACS Net, usually run by OCRACES. (As of July 28, 2019, the Saturday nets will move to 5371.5 kHz upper sideband dial frequency, due to noise interference.) The next two Rodeo nets were run on the OCRACES 2-meter repeater (29 check-ins) and then on the 448.320 MHz repeater (21 check-ins) by Roger Berchtold, WB6HMW (sadly, now a silent key), from Control 7, while Sgt. Bob McFadden, KK6CUS, oversaw operations. The final two nets were conducted on the OCRACES 6-meter repeater (11 check-ins) and 1¼-meter repeater (16 check-ins) by Tony Scalpi, N2VAJ, assisted by Tom Wright, KJ6SPE, from the NI6E van. Announcements of net-frequency changes were made by OCRACES Sgt. Tom Tracey, KC6FIC, on 146.595 MHz simplex. OCSD Emergency Communications Manager Lee Kaser, KK6VIV, made announcements over the Control 7 public-address system. Other OCRACES members participating and checking into the nets included Matt Luczko, KM6CAO, and Randy Benicky, N6PRL, both checking in from Randy’s car, Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ (who was also the event evaluator), Sgt. Jack Barth, AB6VC, from his portable station, Walter Kroy, KC6HAM, Sgt. Ernest Fierheller, KG6LXT, and Fran Needham, KJ6UJS. Applicant John Pilger, K6PIO, also checked in.

At 1000 hours, OCRACES began checking in on eight different Cal OES nets run from the Southern Region EOC in Los Alamitos. The nets were on 60 meters Channel 2, Cactus 70-cm linked system, SCRN 70-cm linked system, EARN 1¼-m linked system, OCRACES 448.320 MHz repeater, LACDCS repeaters, and a Riverside County 1¼-m RACES repeater. OCRACES checked in from Lt. Byington’s station, Control 7, and the NI6E van. During this time period, local participants inspected Control 7, the NI6E van, Placentia Police Department’s impressive Mobile Command Vehicle, and portable stations from OCRACES members as well as members from Buena Park RACES, Costa Mesa RACES (MESAC), Fountain Valley RACES, Huntington Beach RACES, Laguna Woods RACES (Radio Officer Bruce Bonbright, NH7WG, who also communicated with their Incident Command Post in a field behind the Laguna Woods Community Center), Mission Viejo RACES, Westminster RACES, and American Red Cross. Members from Anaheim RACES, Laguna Niguel ACS, and Orange RACES (COAR) also participated and communicated with their members who were deployed to other events, such as most COAR members who were with the Orange Police Mobile Command Vehicle at the Orange May Parade.

OCRACES Activates for February 2nd Flash Flood Warning

On Friday, February 1, 2019, OCSD Emergency Communications Manager Lee Kaser, KK6VIV, and OCRACES Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK, discussed the Flash Flood Warning that was predicted for the next day, Saturday, February 2nd, and that, if it occurred, OCRACES should activate. Sure enough, the National Weather Service declared a Flash Flood Warning on Saturday. When that happened, Capt. Bourne contacted Assistant Radio Officer Tom Tracey, KC6FIC, and requested him to notify all members via AlertOC of an activation. Upon receiving his AlertOC notification of the activation, Radio Officer Scott Byington, KC6MMF, called Capt. Bourne on the OCRACES 2-meter repeater and asked what was required. Bourne said he was on his way to the Orange County EOC and needed one more member at the EOC RACES Room. Lt. Byington soon headed to the EOC.

Activation announcements stated that flooding or emergency reports would be taken from OCRACES members in the field and relayed to the EOC Command Center from the RACES Room. However, OCSD Emergency Management Division (EMD) did not activate the EOC, but Bourne and Byington could have run any emergency messages to Control One if necessary. After a couple of hours, it appeared that weather conditions were not so severe that the activation had to continue, and therefore OCRACES was deactivated.

On February 14th, NWS issued another Flash Flood Warning and the EOC activated to Level 3 (low level). OCRACES was advised that no response was needed until EMD elevated the level (which they didn't). All members were asked to advise of their availability in case of activation.

RACES Conducts Deployment Drill on October 5, 2018

In the left photo, OCRACES Assistant Radio Officer Bob McFadden, KK6CUS, ran 60 meters, using this pair of MFJ Hamsticks on a mast, at Dana Point. He also ran portable Winlink and checked in on 2-m and 70-cm repeater and simplex frequencies. In the right photo, Tony Scalpi, N2VAJ, set up this portable station at Belmont Park high in the hills of Orange. Using a yagi antenna, he successfully relayed simplex stations around the county to net control at Loma Ridge. Tony also operated 60 meters, using a homebrew vertical antenna.

The City/County RACES & MOU ACS Exercise on Saturday, October 6, 2018, from 0900 to 1100 hours, was a deployment exercise to test alternate means of communications in case of repeater failure or inability to access the OCRACES repeaters on 2 meters and 70 centimeters from deep in the canyons or below cliffs in beach areas or even from some “dead spots” in cities throughout the county.

60 meters (channel 2) proved to be an excellent means of countywide communications during the drill, especially when repeater failure was simulated. Net control at the Orange County EOC communicated on 60 meters with portable OCRACES stations in Dana Point, Belmont Park (Orange), Irvine Regional Park, Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon, Carbon Canyon, and Trabuco Canyon. Net control also communicated with portable city RACES stations in Cypress, Brea (Olinda Village), Huntington Beach, Laguna Woods, Newport Beach (Crystal Cove), and Westminster, as well as with American Red Cross. Portable stations in canyons and beach areas were also able to communicate with each other on 60 meters. N6WIX of Ventura County ACS provided a relay from Ventura between canyons in Orange County, when needed. Other City RACES units participating from non-portable locations included Buena Park, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Laguna Niguel, Orange, Seal Beach/Los Alamitos, and Placentia. American Red Cross also participated.

Six stations participated on DMR on the KA6P Santiago Peak repeater, Local-1 talkgroup. Seven OCRACES and City RACES members communicated via the Zello app on their smartphones during the drill.

OCRACES Braves the Heat at Ham Jam

OCRACES members under the canopy include (left to right) RACES Lt. Scott Byington, KC6MMF, Martin La Rocque, N6NTH, and RACES Capt. Ken Bourne, W6HK.

It was very toasty (105 degrees) at HRO Ham Jam on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Fran Needham, KJ6UJS, brought a nice canopy to provide shade to the other OCRACES members who participated and promoted RACES to many visitors who dropped by our booth. Ken Bourne, W6HK, set up a portable 40-meter station and worked Newport Beach, Laguna Woods, and Ventura with 20 watts into a pair of MFJ Hamsticks up 9½ feet. Scott Byington, KC6MMF, set up a 20-meter station with an Elecraft KX3 and a beam, and Tony Scalpi, N2VAJ, set up a 6-meter station. Also participating were Bob McFadden, KK6CUS, and Martin La Rocque, N6NTH. In spite of the heat, many visitors dropped by the booth and learned about OCRACES.

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. Click the Contact OCRACES link for more information.

Events Calendar

September 14: 1000 hours
60 m Cal OES Southern Region ACS Net, 5371.5 kHz upper sideband (dial frequency)

September 16: 1900 hours
2 m: Don Mikami, N6ELD

September 16: 1920 hours
Cooperative T-Hunt

September 21: 1000 hours
60 m Cal OES Southern Region ACS Net, 5371.5 kHz upper sideband (dial frequency)

September 23: 1900 hours
2 m/70 cm/6 m/1¼ m/10 m: Tony Scalpi, N2VAJ

September 28: 1000 hours
60 m Cal OES Southern Region ACS Net, 5371.5 kHz upper sideband (dial frequency)

September 30: 1900 hours
2 m: Harvey Packard, KM6BV

October 5: 0900-1100 hours
City/County RACES & MOU Drill

October 7: 1900 hours
2 m: Joe Selikov, KB6EID

October 7: 1930 hours
840 N. Eckhoff Street, Suite 104, Orange

October 12: 1000 hours
Cal OES Southern Region ACS Leadership Meeting, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Communications Center

October 14: 1900 hours
Columbus Day
2 m: Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ

October 21: 1900 hours
2 m: Tom Tracey, KC6FIC

October 21: 1930 hours
City/County RACES & MOU Meeting, 840 N. Eckhoff Street, Suite 104, Orange (no cooperative T-hunt)

October 28: 1900 hours
2 m/70 cm/6 m/1¼ m/10 m: Ken Tucker, WF6F