Amateur Radio Operators Go Beyond Communications

Submitted by Oswego County

A group of dedicated amateur radio operators were honored by Oswego County Emergency Management Director Patricia Egan recently. The Oswego County Emergency Communicators/RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) work with the Emergency Management Office to provide an essential service in backup communications.

“You have earned the respect, trust and gratitude of many in the Emergency Management Office and many other emergency services and community agencies in the county,” Egan told the members during their April 16 meeting.

The 30-plus members of the all-volunteer service provide amateur radio communications site-to-site during drills and exercises for the Emergency Management Office, the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Oswego County Local Human Needs Committee – and are ready to provide them during a disaster. During severe weather, the communicators group acts as weather spotters, radioing storm reports to the National Weather Service – Buffalo Forecast Office through the Skywarn program to help pinpoint storm locations so the NWS can issue accurate warnings. In their spare time, the group provides communications during CROP Walks and similar events.

“You are dedicated to the health and safety of the people of Oswego County,” Egan told the group. “You have taken what could have remained a personal hobby and taken it to the level of a valuable community asset.”

The Oswego County group is one of the most active RACES organizations in New York State, Egan noted. “Backup communications are critical during emergencies and disasters, but you go beyond that,” she said. “You perform many acts of community service throughout the year. There’s none like this group across the state.”

RACES Radio Officer John Darling, K2QQY, thanked Egan for her presentation to the group, adding that members appreciate the opportunity to practice their craft and readiness for emergencies.

As a highlight during “RACES Appreciation Night,” Egan presented the 2008 RACES Service Award to Mark Lewis, KC2JNI. A member since 2002, Lewis has been an Alternate Radio Officer since 2005. “I consistently hear his name mentioned when I inquire about the condition of RACES equipment,” the director noted. “He has provided very valuable – and cost effective –service on radios, repeaters, and your (communications) van … He truly meets the high standard of RACES and community service.”

The first and third Sunday of the month finds the members of the Oswego County Emergency Communicators meeting on the air to practice message handling and discussing better ways to operate during emergencies. A monthly meeting on the third Wednesday is held at 7 p.m. at the County Building in Fulton where other training programs, such as Skywarn by the NWS and radiological training by the EMO, are given and communication topics are discussed. This meeting is open to anyone interested in emergency communications and/or ham radio.

Darling said members have been active in achieving Incident Command System (ICS) training that meets or exceeds the First Responder level. This training is part of the Homeland Security mandates to have a common knowledge among responders of how to use the guidelines to manage an emergency.

“RACES ranks among the highest of agencies in its effort to complete the training,” Egan said. “They are one of a very small group that has chosen to exceed the minimum training requirements.”

Through the generosity of Constellation Energy, OCEC/RACES have a growing Web site at, which features the projects the group is involved in. They are also linked to the Emergency Management Office page at

Constellation and Entergy Nuclear also expressed their appreciation for RACES, which provides an invaluable service for nuclear power plant emergency planning, with small gifts for the members during the April 16 RACES Appreciation Night.

Anyone interested in the group may e-mail Darling at [email protected] or leave a message for him at the Emergency Management Office at 315/591-9150.

RACES award