Bloomington’s Civil Defense activities began in earnest in 1961 when the City of Bloomington appointed its first full-time Civil Defense Director. The City of Bloomington began recruiting men and women volunteers for the Civil Defense police and fire auxiliary. These Civil Defense activities fostered the development of groups such as the Bloomington Rescue Squad, the Bloomington Police Reserves and the Bloomington Emergency Communications Group.
Many of the priorities and hazards of the 1960s have changed. The missions and roles of these Civil Defense organizations have changed as well. The changing role of the Bloomington Communications Group (BCG) now includes the following services.
The Bloomington Communications Group is a R.A.C.E.S. group. R.A.C.E.S. stands for “Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service,” a protocol created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC Part 97, Section 407). Volunteers serve their respective jurisdictions pursuant to guidelines and mandates established by local emergency management officials. R.A.C.E.S. volunteer operators are:
Licensed Radio Amateurs
Certified by a civil defense agency
Able to communicate on Amateur Radio frequencies during drills, exercises and emergencies
Activated by local, county and state jurisdictions and are the only Amateur Radio operators authorized to transmit during declared emergencies when the President of the United States specifically invokes the War Powers Act.
As a R.A.C.E.S. group, members are deployed by Bloomington’s Emergency Manager to serve the citizens of Bloomington. Member duties will vary based on need. All members carry a Police Department issued photo ID card.
The Bloomington Communications Group operates a Skywarn Center from within the Bloomington Police Department. During severe weather, Skywarn Spotters from across the metropolitan area report weather observations to the Bloomington Skywarn Center via amateur radio. These duties are shared with other organizations in the metro area. Reports are relayed to the U.S. Weather Bureau in Chanhassen. Eye-witness observations provide accurate details of weather phenomena that cannot be seen with radar or other monitoring devices.
The Bloomington Communications Group is a member of the Association of Emergency Radio Organizations (AERO). The mission of the Association of Emergency Radio Organizations (AERO) is to enhance the ability of volunteer emergency radio organizations to support emergency management and disaster response agencies with supplemental communications in times of disaster.
Many of the BCG members are also serve with ARES. ARES provides emergency assistance to organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other disaster relief organizations.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.