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Illinois Teams with Amateur Radio Operators to Create RACES Program

02/02/2010

A newly forged partnership between Amateur Radio operators throughout the state of Illinois and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will provide an additional layer of emergency communications during disasters. The agreement creates the State Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) program. Under the agreement, IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez appointed ARRL Illinois Section Emergency Coordinator Brad Pioveson, W9FX, of Benton as the volunteer State RACES Officer. Pioveson will serve as the single point of contact between IEMA and the Illinois Amateur Radio community.

"We're very fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteer Amateur Radio operators who are willing to donate their time and expertise to help make Illinois safer," Velasquez said. "This agreement serves to further strengthen our federally approved State Communications Interoperability Plan, which includes several layers of redundant communications systems."

To facilitate communications between the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and the Amateur Radio operators throughout Illinois, IEMA will equip a RACES station with communications equipment and the resources needed to maintain wired or wireless communications with the SEOC during emergencies. The state's response to disasters anywhere in the state, including deployment of personnel and resources, is coordinated through the SEOC in Springfield.

The agreement outlines how information will flow from city or county RACES officers to regional RACES officers, who will channel information to the state RACES station, which will then send it to the SEOC.

"We have not had an Amateur Radio presence in IEMA since 1993," Pioveson said. "Getting those doors opened has been a collective effort including our Illinois State Government Liaison Charlie Richey, K9DUE, Macoupin County EMA Director Jim Pitchford, N9LQF, and Illinois Section Manager Tom Ciciora, KA9QPN. While there are some county-level RACES programs around Illinois, many of our ARESĀ® members are not familiar with the RACES program, so the first order of the day is to educate our folks about the differences between RACES and ARESĀ®, get some additional RACES programs established and start 'dual-hat' enrollments. Needless to say, we're excited!"

There are more than 20,000 federally licensed Amateur Radio operators in Illinois. Pioveson said there are 500 privately owned, wide-area voice and data communications systems in place within Illinois that can be pressed into service during emergencies. "Amateur Radio operators have a very rich history of providing emergency communications. On behalf of the dedicated volunteer emergency communicators who are Illinois ham radio operators, I am delighted to have forged this new agreement with IEMA."

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