Auxiliary Communications Service FAQ
The Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) is a program created to supplement government emergency communications with professional, unpaid volunteer staff. ACS is not an amateur radio club. It is part of local government and operates under the authority of the Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management.
ACS supports any and all government public service communications systems in the event of failure, overload or other problems that might jeopardize their usefulness. The volunteers provide emergency communications between the county and its jurisdictions, county and city governments and neighboring county governments.
ACS may provide communications support using amateur radio, cellular and regular phones, computers, e-mail, facsimile, Internet, microwave, public service radio (police, fire, law enforcement), satellite, television, and video-conference systems; as well as field and in-office support of personnel, in order to maintain the highest possible level of staff and equipment readiness.
The Department of Emergency Management relies on 125 ACS volunteers to supplement the County’s emergency communications capabilities in the event of a disaster. These volunteers are registered Disaster Service Workers who provide a variety of professional skills including administrative, technical and operational for emergency communications between local and state agencies. These ACS licensed operators conduct a weekly county-wide radio check-in and participate in disaster preparedness exercises.
Auxiliary Communications Service FAQs
What is ACS?
The Auxiliary Communications Service has its start in units originally designed for radio communications by Amateur Radio Operators on FCC authorized frequencies. Dramatic changes in technology and expansion of governmental Public Safety systems indicated the need for a broader service. Activities include much more than operations on selected frequencies of a single service. The ACS provides tactical, logistical and administrative support and communications for all government communications systems. This includes operations on equipment and frequencies of ANY authorized equipment or frequencies in support of ANY need by government that might be in any way connected with an eventual emergency. This includes: cellular, computer, e-mail, facsimile, Internet, interpersonal, microwave, radio (police, fire, amateur, other), satellite, telephone, television, video-conference, in-office support of personnel, operators of equipment and systems.
When is the ACS Level One training offered?
Level One training is offered once a year on the first Saturday of November.
Why do ACS Members need to track their hours?
ALL Sonoma County volunteers keep records of the hours they work. This is important in order for the County to properly recognize the efforts of its volunteers and document the usefulness of the various volunteer programs. The County sponsors events such as the annual Volunteer Recognition Reception, various volunteer awards, certificates, etc. Showing the hours worked by individual volunteers also demonstrates that the program is functional and useful and helps justify the continued commitment of resources that are devoted to maintaining the ACS program.
How are my ACS volunteer hours tracked?
Unit Leaders track the hours of the members in each area unit. Your cooperation is needed in reporting the number of hours spent participating in ACS training, exercises, and actual emergencies. (Do not include time spent in activities, meetings, or dinners for other organizations such as CDF VIPs or radio clubs). For purposes of recognition, it is not necessary to have the specific dates and times; just the estimate of hours accrued on a regular basis.
Why does ACS have a Volunteer Application/Contract?
The County Volunteer Program guidelines require an application and a renewable contract. The contract gives both parties a chance to evaluate the relationship and continuously renew the contract if it is in the best interest of both the department and the volunteer. The contract is renewable on an annual basis to provide an opportunity for both parties to reevaluate the relationship on an on-going basis.
How is my ACS volunteer contract renewed?
At the end of the renewal date the relationship between the Department and the volunteer is assessed. If both parties find it mutually beneficial, the contract can be renewed. In the case of ACS members, unless there is a need for either party to discuss difficulties or concerns, the contract will automatically be renewed. There is no need to come to the Department to renew the contract, or complete any additional paperwork.
Am I under any obligation to be an active ACS member because of the contract?
You must follow the policies and procedures of the program to remain a volunteer, but you may resign at any time. The contract serves as an agreement that both the volunteer and the Department will work together to meet each other's needs. Either party may discontinue the relationship at any time.
Why does ACS have volunteer policies and procedures?
Policies and procedures are needed in order to ensure that all ACS members are treated equally, fairly and with the respect that dedicated volunteers deserve. These policies are modeled from basic and commonly accepted business standards and practices. These policies also provide valuable legal protection for the volunteers and the department.
Do I have to become an ACS Member?
No. If you already participate in such organizations as ARES or CDF's VIP, you may continue to serve - ACS policies do not affect those groups, they are independent organizations. However, if you wish to participate in the traditional RACES-style role, you must become a registered ACS member (see FCC Regulations Part 97, Section 407(a).