WHAT DOES CERTIFICATION MEAN?
It means you have successfully passed the required educational courses necessary to become a reliable, informed and productive volunteer and participant in any emergency or support event within the Lake County Emergency Management Agency, our sponsor. It also demonstrates your commitment and dedication to serving the community most efficiently and effectively by investing time in learning how emergency events will operate in the county and your part in those events. Finally, certified operators also assist the Lake County EMA in obtaining and qualifying for funding, which ultimately helps support the Lake County RACES/ARES® organization.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO BECOME CERTIFIED?
You must successfully complete the courseware defined by the ARRL/ARES® or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and Lake County Emergency Management Agency (LCEMA).
WHY ARE THERE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF CERTIFICATION?
There are three levels of certification in effect, designed to accommodate the various needs for trained personnel in any emergency deployment, as well as to allow you to focus on the areas of volunteer service and amateur radio focus you prefer.
ARES® – This certification is an excellent entry point into becoming a fully certified Lake County RACES/ARES® emergency communication resource. Certification is easy! Just pass the Introduction to Emergency Communications (EC-01) course, as defined by the ARRL ARES® organization and complete FEMA IS 100 and IS 700.
RACES Level 2 – The focus of this certification is on compliance with FEMA, IEMA and LCEMA training requirements. This level is the way to go if you are interested in focusing your time with serving the LCEMA with communications during emergency events. You should successfully complete IS-100, IS-200, IS-700 and IS-800 online classes for certification.
RACES Level 1 – The ultimate level of certification delivers the most rewarding RACES/ARES experience. Once you have completed ARRL EC-01, IS-100, IS-200, IS-700 and IS-800, and successfully pass a criminal background check, you have reached the highest level of LCEMA certification. At this level, you will be one of Lake County RACES/ARES® organizations finest, relied upon as a knowledgeable emergency event communications expert.
WHICH CERTIFICATION PATH IS BEST FOR ME?
There are two paths to certification. You can select the one you are most comfortable with completing. You may elect to follow the ARRL/ARES® certification path by taking Introduction to Emergency Communications Course (EC-01). You may elect to follow the LCEMA certification path by passing IS 100, 200, 700 and 800 classes. Once you have ARES® or RACES Level 2 certification, you can then elevate yourself by completing the remaining training and become a RACES Level 1 certified communications expert.
HOW MUCH TIME WILL IT TAKE TO BECOME CERTIFIED?
That depends upon you. Most all mandatory and optional courseware is available on line and can be completed at your leisure in the evenings, on weekends, etc. To supplement this online courseware, from time to time Lake County RACES/ARES® organization conducts classroom courses for those who prefer this method. The time investment is not extensive, but does require a commitment to learn and complete the assigned courses.
ONCE I AM CERTIFIED, DO I HAVE TO RENEW ANNUALLY?
Once you have completed a certification class, it is not necessary to retake that class on an annual basis. As the requirements for certification are refined and advanced by FEMA, IEMA and LCEMA, it may require additional or new class certifications in the future in order to remain in step with their event operations standards.
WHAT IF, I AM NOT CERTIFIED, CAN I STILL PARTICIPATE IN THE RACES/ARES® ORGANIZATION?
Most certainly, YES we urge every licensed amateur radio person of any age to participate and contribute to the Lake County RACES/ARES® organization and our numerous activities. Non-certified hams are welcome and urged to participate as we assist several non-emergency events annually. However, if you are ARES®, RACES Level 1 or Level 2 certified, and then you can be assigned to operate communications equipment within any LCEMA emergency event. Also, consider that RACES Level 2 certification is required to qualify for a Lake County EMA-R.A.C.E.S. ID card. Only individuals with EMA -R.A.C.E.S. ID cards will be granted access to some controlled areas during emergency deployments. In almost every instance, communications support staff will need access to restricted areas in order to perform their assigned duties. If you are not certified, you are encouraged to participate in any emergency event. However, it most likely will be in support of activities in a non-secured area. Volunteers may receive day passes for clearance to secured event areas, but event management always makes final decisions.
WHY IS CERTIFICATION NECESSARY?
Certification to both LCEMA and the Lake County RACES/ARES® organization was adopted for several reasons. It establishes a well-trained team of volunteers who not only are amateur radio capable, but also are trained and aware of the organization, procedures and operational guidelines and policies used during all emergency events managed by IEMA and LCEMA. Additionally, since certification is a requirement of FEMA and IEMA, it is a key element to demonstrate local resources during issues of funding, readiness assessment and personnel capacity estimations. Finally, as mentioned earlier, most emergency support situations that we will be in secured and controlled areas. Access to these controlled areas requires you to have access credentials, such as the Lake County EMA -R.A.C.E.S. ID card. To obtain a card, you must complete the required RACES Level 1 certification process.
WHY IS THE LAKE COUNTY EMA RACES ID BADGE NECESSARY?
It is not if you wish to volunteer to assist with an emergency event. However, only those with valid Lake County EMA -R.A.C.E.S. ID credential will be granted access to some secure event areas. Much of the amateur radio centric work we perform will require access to secure areas. If you are not certified and issued an ID, assignment to a communications or amateur radio assignment is less likely. However, you can still volunteer and participate in other capacities without certification.
ALL THESE NEW ACRONYMS (NIMS, ICS, IAP, ETC.) ARE CONFUSING, WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?
The acronyms and phrases are all part of the emergency event organization structure and policies that apply to programs, procedures and policies of all FEMA, IEMA and LCEMA managed events. In order for you to participate and contribute to these events most efficiently and effectively, it is important for you to have a good general understanding of the programs, event organization and policies that apply. This is what the certification training supplies you, the knowledge to understand and contribute to the operations, which follow the FEMA guidelines.
MUST I BECOME CERTIFIED TO REMAIN A MEMBER OF THE LAKE COUNTY RACES/ARES® ORGANIZATION?
Certification in either ARES® or RACES training programs is not a mandatory requirement. You are welcome to join the Lake County RACES/ARES® organization and participate in the numerous non-emergency activities, attend meetings, etc. Some join our organization to support the operation of the repeaters and do not intend to become certified. The door is always open, should you decide to make the step to contribute your time and knowledge in support of emergency operations in our area. While the focus of our organization is in support of emergency communications tasks and the Lake County Emergency Management Agency, you will always be welcome, certification or no certification.
I RECENTLY RECEIVED THE DIGITAL MODE CERTIFICATION; DOES THIS QUALIFY IN THE MINIMUM CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS?
No. The education and certification requirements we outlined are mandates of Federal, State and County authorities. The Digital Mode certification is valuable, but an optional offering of the Lake County RACES/ARES® organization. We urge you to become certified in any of the Digital Modes that the Lake County RACES/ARES® organization will use, but it does not act as a prerequisite or alternate for this certification requirement.
IS THERE A DEADLINE FOR CERTIFICATION?
There are no deadlines for certification. As soon as you complete your training, and copies of your certificates are provide to the organizations secretary, your training record is updated and certificates/ID issued if appropriate.