In Virginia, ARES® = RACES
On July 3, Virginia officials, along with representatives from that state's ARES® and RACES groups, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), uniting the three groups. State Coordinator, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) Michael M. Cline; State RACES Officer Mac McNeer, K4YEF; ARRL Virginia Section Manager Carl Clements, W4CAC, and ARRL Virginia Section Emergency Coordinator Ron Sokol, K4KHZ, signed what ARRL Emergency and Preparedness Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, called a "precedent setting" document.
"Before the signing of the new MOU, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia's Department of Emergency Management RACES Program, the ARRL ARES program and various representations from unofficial RACES groups in Virginia led to the ineffective utilization of Amateur Radio resources," Dura said. "In some situations, Amateur Radio was not even a part of emergency management organization's response structure due to existing tensions and problems."
According to Clements, the new MOU spells out that during activations that require deployment of ARES personnel, a State RACES officer at the State Emergency Operations Center will direct the Virginia Section Emergency Coordinator as to where Emergency Communications help is needed. The SEC will then assume the role of Virginia ARES-RACES Deployment Officer and will be responsible for the deployment of all Virginia ARES personnel and resources.
"The MOU formally recognizes any registered Virginia ARES member as a registered RACES member in Virginia; a volunteer does enjoy limited protection from liability to the same extent as a state employee, provided they act within the scope of their training, the limits of the MOU and the mission assigned by the agency," said Clements.
"This MOU now provides the opportunity for all of the independent RACES units operating within the Commonwealth of Virginia to join with ARES/RACES to complete the fabric of mutual assistance that will help us cooperatively cover the entire Commonwealth," said Clements. "We will continue to work together with emergency managers across the Commonwealth in support of their emergency communications needs in service to the citizens and guests in Virginia."
Sokol said he was extremely pleased that the signing of the document has come to fruition: "The restoration of this MOU has taken a succession of ARES administrations to accomplish. Both Carl and I are pleased to be in leadership at this time to see this MOU to conclusion. We are fortunate to have such viable and flexible VDEM leadership and staff to work with. This document allows ARES/RACES to [work] as one in the best interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia."