Civil Defense in the United States was formalized in 1916 with the formation of the Council of National Defense. While there have been many evolutions of the Civil Defense concept, the basis was civilian participation in homeland defense. In WWII CD trained volunteers monitored the coastlines and skies for enemy ships, submarines, and aircraft. CD volunteers also took on a wide range of other defense and preparedness roles.
Included in the program were amateur radio operators. Hams provided training for military operators, were themselves inducted as military radio operators and were incorporated in emergency communications plans here at home. Amateur radio has a long tradition of involvement with civil defense programs.
Since the end of the Cold War, amateur radio’s role in civil defense has shifted from an active defense role to a disaster preparedness and relief operations role.
A holdover from the old civil defense days are the RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) operating rules. Under the Presidential War Powers Act, the President may instruct the FCC to suspend amateur radio licensee operating privileges. Only those amateur operators registered with the local Civil Defense authority would be allowed to operate under color of that authority.
While Civil Defense no longer functions under that moniker, it’s descendant, known frequently as Emergency Management is considered the local Civil Defense authority under the act.
What is the Civil Defense Communications Auxiliary
While Civil Defense is no longer a government agency here in the United States, there are remnants in the civilian space such as RACES operations. The concept of civil defense, organized and trained civilians helping the community through service in times of need is an important one. Amateur radio’s Emergency Communications community regularly demonstrates these and similar characteristics.
The EmComm community is continuously reaching out to train new amateurs, helping them get their licenses and provide emergency communications training. This community develops new technologies and new implementations of existing technologies to advance emergency preparedness and emergency communications.
The Civil Defense Communications Auxiliary is an Oregon nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to providing instruction and instructional materials for amateur radio and emergency communications along with technical and material support to emergency communications units.
While communication is our primary space, we are also involved in emergency preparedness, providing instruction, instructional materials, and support for emergency preparedness groups and programs.