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).

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.

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.

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

December 9: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

December 11: 1930 hours
2 m: Scott MacGillivray, KM6RTE

December 16: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

December 18: 1930 hours
2 m: Robert Moore, KW6B

December 23: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

December 25:
Christmas Day (no nets)

December 30: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

January 1:
New Year's Day
(no meeting, no net)

January 6: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

January 8: 1900 hours
2 m: Ron Mosher, K0PGE

January 8: 1930 hours

January 13: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

January 15: 1900 hours
2 m: Fran Needham, KJ6UJS

January 20: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

January 22: 1900 hours
2 m/70 cm/1¼ m/6 m:
Chi Nguyen, KE6MVS

January 27: 1000 hours
60 meters channel 4

January 29: 1900 hours
2 m: Joe Selikov, KB6EID