Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)

A major function of Cowlitz County ACS is supporting the Department of Emergency Management of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office. During official callouts ACS operators provide assistance in the county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC), set up and operate the County's Emergency Communications Van, provide radio relay services to other parts of the state (including the State EOC) and deploy to field locations as required.

A combination of ham frequencies and public safety frequencies may be used at any given time. Most operations in the Communications Van are conducted on public safety frequencies.

Full ACS membership requires successful completion of a background check by the Sheriff's Office as well as approval by the Department of Emergency Management. A Washington State Emergency Worker Card is issued to qualified ACS members. ARRL membership is recommended but not required.

ACS members are given access to sensitive areas and information so we take the need for discretion and confidentiality seriously. We enjoy a very good working relationship with local law enforcement agencies and we appreciate the opportunities they provide us.

Radio Direction Finding - ELT

Radio direction finding is the use of receiving equipment and directional antennas to locate a signal source. Cowlitz County ACS has been involved with finding Emergency Locator Transmitters for a number of years.

These devices are used on general aviation aircraft and boats (called EPIRB in marine use) as automatically activated distress beacons. Specialized equipment is used to triangulate a position on the ground when the activated signal is detected. Periodic drills are held with a test transmitter so teams can practice their skills.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®)

ARES® is organized and administered by the American Radio Relay League to provide national emergency commmunications coordination among radio amateurs and private service organizations such as the American Red Cross.

The Western Washington Section of the ARRL is divided into 6 geographic regions plus the Medical Services Team. The Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) reports to the Section Manager and is charged with overall administration of ARES® for the Section. Each region is under the leadership of a District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) with Emergency Coordinators (EC) from each individual county reporting to the DEC. Cowlitz County is located in Washington's Region 4 along with Clark, Wahkiakum and Skamania counties.

Cowlitz County ACS is available to support various organizations including providing communications support during special events. Special events provide excellent training opportunities by providing on-air experience without the stress of a "real" situation. Two of the annual events where we provide communications support are the "Tour de Blast" 50 km round trip bike ride into the Mt. St Helens blast zone and (through LCARA) the annual "Walk and Knock" food drive. Both of these events provide solid training opportunities while providing a real service to the community.

Membership in the ARRL (or any other organization) is not required for ACS/ARES® membership. A valid amateur radio operator's license is required.