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Just what the title states.

Here, in India, in the context of public service we hear of RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service). I recently learnt about something called ARES in a similar context applicable to CONUS. Yet RACES, as far as I'm aware, was relevant to the US too.

How is ARES different from RACES?

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The ARRL actually has an FAQ that discusses this topic explicitly:

http://www.arrl.org/ares-races-faq

ARES is activated before, during and after an emergency. Generally, ARES handles all emergency messages, including those between government emergency management officials. RACES, on the other hand, almost never starts before an emergency and is active only during the emergency and during the immediate aftermath if government emergency management offices need communications support. RACES is normally shut down shortly after the emergency has cleared.

The FAQ continues into more detail, but the general gist is that RACES is specifically for coordinating actual civil services, whereas ARES is a more general communications network for overall messaging around emergencies.

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In addition to what @Amber said, in the US RACES is only activated by order of the President of the United States. When that happens, all other amateur services (including ARES) are shut down. So many ARES organizations encourage their members to also join RACES, so that they can just change hats and continue to operate when RACES is activated.

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    $\begingroup$ This is not how RACES is activated. A RACES station is registered with a civil defense organization. This is usually the city or county office of emergency services. A RACES station is activated by "the responsible civil defense official for the organization with which the amateur station is registered". Even if a station was registered with FEMA, they would be activated by the FEMA director, not the President. See 97.407: gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2009-title47-vol5/pdf/… $\endgroup$ – Walter Underwood K6WRU Oct 24 '13 at 5:15

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