Cypress RACES volunteers staff operations center for 24-hour field day exercise

Field day operations for RACES on Saturday, June 22, became impressive when you looked more closely.

If “The Big One” shakes Southern California to its foundation, members of RACES will provide critically needed means to share information locally and regionally. RACES is ready for the ground to shake, for the rain to fall, for wind-swept fire, for mudslides and debris flow.

“RACES” stands for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.

RACES volunteers work with the Cypress Police Department (CPD). The fourteen members support the CPD and the City government generally with communications capabilities during extraordinary conditions. Their communications base is in a building at the City maintenance yard, and shares a wall with the City’s emergency operations center. You may have seen them at a CYPD open house, or the Cypress Community Festival.

Added up, the years of experience and expertise represented by Cypress RACES is in the hundreds of years, reaching back to the 1950s when ham radio operators used Morse code and the radios were big and bulky.

These days, the radios are small enough to tuck underneath shelves and run off batteries that can be recharged from a solar panel. At the recent field day exercise, a dipole antenna lashed to a handicapped parking sign outside connected to the radios through a cable trailing across the pavement and through an open door. Communication is generally by voice rather than Morse code — but you must have at least a technician-level license from the Federal Communications Commission. (Unless you’re a lucky ducky student, like the one in the photo below under close supervision of a RACES member.)

Other requirements to become a Cypress RACES member:

  • Complete and submit a Cypress Volunteer Application.
  • Successfully complete an interview.
  • Pass a background investigation/check conducted by the Cypress Police Department.
  • Complete FEMA classes IS100, IS200, and IS700. These classes do not need to be taken prior to becoming a member
  • Possess a valid California Driver’s License. The license does not need to be REAL ID compliant.
A student form Kennedy High School goes live during the Cypress RACES field day exercise. Photo by James Wiedel.