Who are we?
Broward ARES and RACES are twin organizations providing a corps of trained amateur ("Ham") radio operators who volunteer to assist in public service and emergency communications. Communication failures have been a defining part of natural disasters such as hurricanes, and even some human-generated events such as the September 11 attacks. Amateur radio provides a means of communication "when all else fails".
We volunteer before, during, and after emergencies to provide communicators to staff shelters and hospitals, the county Emergency Operations Center, and other locations as needed. We also provide volunteer communicates for public service events such as bike rides and the Winterfest boat parade. These public service events provide us opportunities to practice our skills and test our equipment.
What is the difference between ARES and RACES?
Technically there is a big difference, but in practice not much. RACES is a civil defense communications service defined by FCC regulations (Part 97.407) and has a very specific and limited role. ARES is an ARRL program with a broader set of roles. In Broward County, as in many other places, the ARES and RACES organizations are merged, operating as RACES when called upon to do so, and as ARES the rest of the time.
What is SKYWARN? How does it relate to ARES/RACES?
SKYWARN is a program of the National Weather Service (NWS). Its mission is to collect reports of localized severe weather. These reports are used to aid forecasters in issuing and verifying severe weather watches and warnings and to improve the forecasting and warning processes and the tools used to collect meteorological data. It consists of a network of severe storm spotters that observe weather conditions and make reports of severe weather to their local NWS offices. These spotters are regularly trained by personnel from the local NWS offices (in our area, the Miami-South Florida Forecast Office).
You do not need to be SKYWARN trained to participate in ARES/RACES, although it's nice training to have. Likewise you don't have to be a member of ARES/RACES (or even to have a amateur radio license) to participate in SKYWARN.
What is CERT? How does it relate to ARES/RACES?
The CERT program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.
Using the training taught in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when public safety personnel are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to take a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community. By getting trained in CERT, you will have the skills to help emergency responders save lives and protect property.
In Broward County, all CERT programs are managed by local Fire/Rescue departments. Contact your department's public information line for more information.
There is no connection between ARES/RACES and CERT, except that CERT training may be helpful to ARES/RACES members (and vice versa), and so there is some overlap in membership between local CERT teams and ARES/RACES.