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 outside group activities. Online OCRACES meetings have been well-attended during the COVID-19 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).

Earthquake Drill on October 19, 2023, Has 34 Check-ins

On Thursday, October 19, 2023, the Great California ShakeOut officially occurred at 10:19 a.m. In conjunction with this event, OCRACES conducted an earthquake drill that day from 1000 to 1100 hours, simulating a strong earthquake striking Orange County. Net control asked for locations and observation reports from participants in county and city RACES and EmComm units via the 146.895 MHz repeater and via Winlink. Simulated reports were given as “Mike-Mike” intensities, using the USGS Modified Mercalli Earthquake Intensity Scale. The drill had 34 check-ins.

OCRACES Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK, operated ShakeOut net control from the EOC RACES Room at Loma Ridge. OCRACES members checking in with Mike-Mike reports and observations throughout Orange County included: Heide Aguirre, K3TOG; Assistant Radio Officer Randy Benicky, N6PRL; Joel Bishop, AJ6ZP; Steve Livingston, NJ6R; Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE (also for COAR); Robert Moore, KW6B; Ryan Moore, KN6WSJ; Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS; Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ; and Ken Tucker, WF6F.

Members of several City RACES units checking into OCRACES net control included Brea RACES, W6BRE. For Costa Mesa RACES (MESAC): Ashley Fisher, KM6UJD; and Don Haddock, KN6QDV. For Fountain Valley RACES: Ken Hemkin, KK6OEX; and Garry Jones, N6NQN. Fullerton RACES, K6FUL. For Irvine RACES (IDEC): Pete Bergstrom, K6PB; Avram Grossman, KN6BMO; and Steve Skwarlo, WB6CJH. For Laguna Niguel ACS (WE6ACS): David Black, WB6VEM; Kevin Korff, KK6KUR; Marlene Ruderman, KN6USQ; and Haney Williams, KJ6JIA (in Anaheim). For Laguna Woods RACES: Bruce Bonbright, NH7WG. For Mission Viejo RACES-ARES: Cher Baker, K6CHR; Scott Holcomb, K6WHC; and Phil Lonzello, WA6LDI. For Placentia RACES: Duke Walls, W6EIF (in Yorba Linda). For Westminster RACES: Adam Valek, N6HVC. Other EmComm check-ins included: Gary Standard, K6GSX, for Newport Beach Repeater Club; Robert Gimbel, KG6WTQ, for American Red Cross; and David Gorin, KB6BXQ, for OCHEART. Carlos Adams, KE6QEU, checked in from Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.

City/County RACES & EmComm Drill Held on October 7, 2023

Joel Bishop, AJ6ZP (left), operates 2 meters simplex; Robert Moore, KW6B (center), operates 60 meters; and Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE (right) operates Winlink during October 7, 2023, drill.

A City/County RACES & EmComm ACS Drill occurred on Saturday, October 7, 2023, from 0900 to 1200 hours for the simplex portion. Conducting operations from the Orange County EOC at Loma Ridge were OCRACES Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK, with Joel Bishop, AJ6ZP, on 2 meters and Robert Moore, KW6B, on 60 meters. Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE, handled the Winlink portion of the drill.

The scenario for this drill was a series of cyberattacks that disabled major infrastructures, including power and gas utilities, water and wastewater facilities, telephone companies, cable systems and internet service providers, hospital networks, banks and other financial institutions, law-enforcement and other government administrative systems, transportation systems, dams, education, and postal and shipping services. In addition, all repeaters had failed, and all communications were on simplex frequencies.

Communications consisted of simplex communications on 2 meters FM and HF NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) on 60 meters. OCRACES net control operated from the Orange County EOC. Most City and County RACES and EmComm members operated portable stations at locations that needed to be tested for local and countywide simplex radio coverage.

The simplex drill ran from 0900 to 1200 hours. On 2 meters, the first hour was devoted to communicating with each RACES unit’s own members on their primary simplex frequency. Check-ins included simulated emergencies and requests for resources. The remaining two hours were for communications between OCRACES and city net controls on 146.595 MHz, while city RACES and EmComm members continued to call their net controls for urgent resources.

From 0900 to 1000 hours, OCRACES members checking in on 2 meters included Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ, Ken Tucker, WF6F, Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS, Ron Mosher, K0PGE, Randy Benicky, N6PRL, and Fran Needham, KJ6UJS, as well as OCSD Emergency Management Division Deputy Director Lee Kaser, KK6VIV, who was driving through the canyons and checking coverage. At 1000 hours, RACES units from Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa (MESAC), Tri-Cities (Dana Point, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano), Fountain Valley, Mission Viejo, and Orange, as well as the Newport Beach Repeater Club, checked into OCRACES and gave their reports of check-ins during the previous hour. Gordon West, WB6NOA (MESAC) reported that 50 gallons of fuel were needed at the Costa Mesa Fire Station.

The 60-meter net occurred on 5371.5 kHz upper sideband. At first, net control used the same roll call of Orange County City and County RACES and EmComm stations as on the Saturday morning OCRACES ACS net. Check-ins included: Dale Tyler, W6EDT, for Mission Viejo RACES; Gary Standard, K6GSX, and Roy Shlemon, K6GVG, for Newport Beach Repeater Club; Gordon West, WB6NOA, for Costa Mesa RACES (MESAC); Garry Jones, N6NQN, for Fountain Valley RACES; Pete Bergstrom, K6PB, for Irvine RACES (IDEC); Steve Livingston, NJ6R for OCRACES; Bruce Bonbright, NH7WG, for Laguna Woods RACES; Bill Kreutinger, KM6SLF, for Tri-Cities RACES; and Paul Gussow, NJ6U (Cypress), and Craig Williams, W6CAW (Campo, San Diego County), for Cal OES Communications Reserve Unit. Non-EmComm stations included Neil Smith, K6KWI (Anaheim Hills), and Tony Scalpi, N2VAJ (Orange).

In the Winlink portion of the drill, messages were accepted over a 24-hour period, from 1500 hours on Friday to 1500 hours on Saturday. Participanting operators totaled 26. Information was requested about the Winlink operator’s role in their city or EmComm organization that they were participating on behalf of. In total, 13 organizations were represented and the operators identified a total 29 instances of membership with these organizations.

OCRACES Participates in Field Day on June 23, 2023

OCRACES Field Day on Saturday, June 23, 2023, at Irvine Regional Park.

OCRACES participated in Field Day on Saturday, June 23, 2023, at Irvine Regional Park east of Orange. Our three stations focused on setting up in the field for possible future deployments during emergencies.

Randy Benicky, N6PRL, set up a station with his Icom IC-705 transceiver, covering HF, VHF, and UHF on all modes. He also set up vertical HF, VHF, and UHF antennas on masts and tripods. His mobile radio is the new Yaesu FTM-500DR 2-m/70-cm FM/C4FM transceiver.

Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE, brought an elaborate portable EmComm setup. It included portable table and chairs, portable UHF/VHF/GMRS radios in a field case, his Icom IC-7300 HF radio in a separate field case, portable battery, solar arrays, HF and VHF/UHF antennas with masts and tripod, sandbags, cables, and documentation. Scott’s focus was sending and receiving some Winlink VHF and HF messages, which he did successfully on VHF.

Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS, had a nice portable setup with radios mounted in a field case and mast-mounted antennas. For 6 meters FM and SSB he had a Kenwood TS-60S all-mode transceiver. On VHF/UHF FM he had a Kenwood TM-V71A transceiver.

City/County RACES & EmComm Drill Held on May 6, 2023

Ron Mosher, K0PGE, and Ernest Fierheller, KG6LXT (left and center), operate 2 meters simplex, while Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE (right), operates Winlink at the Orange County EOC during the May 6th drill.

Beginning at 0900 hours on Saturday, May 6, 2023, County and City RACES and EmComm units began taking check-ins on their primary simplex frequencies, along with reports of simulated earthquake damage, tsunamis, flooding, evacuations, and requests for resources, as part of a countywide ACS dril.

The scenario for this drill was a strong earthquake off the Orange County coast, generating a tsunami and significant damage, including a countywide power outage. We warned that the supposed tsunami could be moving at 500 mph toward the coast, and, as it slowed, could grow in height approaching 100 feet. Stations within 3 miles of the coast were advised to move to high ground further inland and report wave height and flooding. Other stations were to report earthquake damage and to forward agency requests for resources to OCRACES net control. All reporting stations were requested to advise net control of their locations.

OCRACES net control was at the Orange County EOC at Loma Ridge. Ron Mosher, K0PGE, handled the 2-meter simplex operation, backed up by Assistant Radio Officer Ernest Fierheller, KG6LXT, at an adjacent position. Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE, operated the Winlink position. Chief Radio Officer Ken Bourne, W6HK, handled 60-meter single-sideband operations. Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS, communicated with OCHEART participants.

During the first hour of the drill on 2 meters simplex, county, city, and EmComm net controls took check-ins from their members, with their reports of tsunami wave height, flooding, earthquake damage, and agency requests for resources. OCRACES members checking in included: Randy Benicky, N6PRL, Robert Stoffel, KD6DAQ, and Ken Tucker, WF6F. Randy provided a simulated damage report from his mobile station. The next two hours of the drill, from 1000 to 1200 hours, consisted of 13 city RACES and EmComm units contacting OCRACES at Loma Ridge on 2 meters simplex with their damage reports and resource requests, while their members and county members continued to check in on their primary simplex frequencies.

City RACES units checking into OCRACES on 2 meters simplex included Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa (MESAC), Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Irvine (IDEC), Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo, Orange (COAR), Tri-Cities, and Westminster. American Red Cross and OCHEART also checked in. Checking in on 60 meters were OCRACES (Randy Benicky, N6PRL), and City RACES units including Anaheim, Costa Mesa (MESAC), Fountain Valley, Irvine (IDEC), Laguna Woods, and Orange (COAR). Also checking in were Newport Beach Repeater Club and Cal OES CRU and two visitors (KB6KPK and N2VAJ).

Winlink participation included members from OCRACES and City RACES units including Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa (MESAC), Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Irvine (IDEC), Laguna Woods, Mission Viejo, Orange (COAR), Tri-Cities, and Westminster. Also participating were members from the Newport Beach Repeater Club and American Red Cross. 75 messages were sent and received, including one via telnet from OCRACES Member Steve Livingston, NJ6R, while waiting for an airplane home from Baltimore, Maryland!

Typical simulated drill messages included bridge collapses and floods. MESAC reported tsunami tidal flow coming up the Santa Ana River but not overflowing the river banks, but seawater was entering the many storm drains outflows and flooding Huntington Beach with the water pouring out of low-lying storm drains.

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 30: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 1: 1900 hours
2 m: Steve Livingston, NJ6R

April 1: 1930-2130 hours


April 6: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 8: 1900 hours
2 m: Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE

April 13: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 15: 1900 hours
2 m: Robert Moore, KW6B

April 20: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 22: 1900 hours
2 m/70 cm/1¼ m/6 m:
Fran Needham, KJ6UJS

April 27: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

April 19: 1900 hours
2 m: Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS

May 4: 0900-1200 hours
City/County RACES & EmComm ACS Drill

May 6: 1900 hours
2 m: Ryan Moore, KN6WSJ

May 6: 1930 hours

May 8: 1830 hours
Orientation for PSR Applicants
Sheriff's Training Academy, Tustin

May 11: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

May 13: 1900 hours
2 m: Ron Mosher, K0PGE

May 18: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

May 20: 1900 hours
2 m: Joe Selikov, KB6EID

May 25: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

May 27: 1900 hours
2 m: Joe Selikov, KB6EID