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Auxiliary Communication Service Overview

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ACS Program Overview

The Auxiliary Communications Services (ACS) for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a volunteer-based emergency communications reserve program that has both operational and educational components.  PEMA ACS is a component of PA-Task Force 2 (Search and Rescue Task Force).

These volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, including radio, information technology, telephone, microwave, satellite, medical, law and other professional backgrounds.  Personnel may or may not hold FCC licenses.

Most public safety communications systems are designed to perform in emergencies that can occur anytime, day or night.  These systems generally fulfill the demands placed on them by normal conditions or small emergencies, and operate within their system design.  It is when these systems fail, are degraded, or are expected to perform beyond their design, that ACS volunteers are called upon to supplement normal communications systems.

An important element in the ACS model is removing the false concept that a volunteer communications reserve is one in which ONLY amateur radio resources and frequencies are utilized in support of government communications.  While many programs will continue to rely heavily upon amateur radio resources.  These resources include, but are not limited to: GMRS radio, citizens band radio, microwave, and digital communications.

The ACS program is based on and includes RACES, but broadens the scope to include the use of non-amateur radio volunteers, only utilizing them during emergencies.  National priorities emphasize the need to coordinate resources regionally.  The Pennsylvania ACS Program provides the mechanism to support county and regional disaster response organizations and their resources on a statewide basis.  ACS is available to support not only disaster response, but also exercises, drills and other "significant" events.