Concept of Operations

Montgomery County Auxiliary Communications Service (MCACS) is an independent voluntary organization, closely allied with the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

MCACS is incorporated in the State of Maryland. Our legal name is Auxiliary Communications Service of Montgomery County Maryland, Inc.The organization is currently seeking status as a tax-exempt non-stock corporation with 501(c)(3) status under IRS rules.

As stated in our Articles of Incorporation, the mission of MCACS is to develop and maintain a cadre of volunteers who are qualified and equipped to provide a wide range of supplemental telecommunications services supporting Montgomery County, Maryland during civil emergencies. MCACS resources may also be made available to other jurisdictions in times of need.

Governance

As an independent organization, MCACS is guided and directed by a Board of Directors having the responsibility to:

  • establish policy, guide the organization, and provide oversight of activities;
  • define, implement, and maintain the organizational structure; and
  • enter into service agreements with the County and possibly other served agencies;

The Board and officers are elected by the members of MCACS. The Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security also has an ex officio seat on the board.

Structure and Concept of Operations

The structure of MCACS is still evolving. Under the leadership and guidance of the board, we envision a Technical Cadre and an Operations Cadre (see diagram). The Technical Cadre will be responsible for developing and deploying technical communications assets in emergencies, while the Operations Cadre will be responsible for planning and providing tactical and strategic communications on behalf of served agencies.

Under the leadership of the respective Cadre Leaders, there will be special-purpose teams (strike teams and/or communications task forces, following ICS nomenclature)  trained to perform defined functions such as staffing the Comm Room at the County EOC, serving as WebEOC controllers, providing supplementary communications at shelter and hospitals, or setting up satellite earth stations and other telecom assets in the field, to name a few. While certain MCACS members will be closely associated with one or a few of these special-purpose teams, cross-training of MCACS members will provide additional depth and facilitate real-time coordination of these disparate functions in large-scale or extended-duration emergencies.

In between the Board and the fine structure of the Cadres, we envision a small group of Communications Officers whose function will be to be on call and accessible at all times (on a rotating basis), and who will be trained to activate any required MCACS resources on behalf of served agencies. The Communications Officers will be senior members of the organization, and might also hold positions on the Board or in one of the Cadres.

While the Cadre Leaders will be responsible for establishing and maintaining the various strike teams and task forces under their umbrella, the Communications Officers will honor requests to activate resources within the County’s ICS structure or on behalf of other served agencies (including mutual aid to nearby jurisdictions). During an activation, the MCACS resources (individuals, strike teams, and/or task forces) would report to the  appropriate position within the ICS structure. For example, the EOC Strike Team would report to the EOC Manager.

This vision of MCACS presumes that public service communications (e.g., communications support to the Twilight Run or Marine Corps Marathon) would be coordinated by a public service coordinator external to the MCACS organization. MCACS will not ordinarily engage in organizing public service events, but will encourage the participation of MCACS members in such events for training purposes. A model that has worked very well in the past is for the local radio clubs to coordinate public service events, while MCACS or its predecessors (RACES/ARES) concentrates on emergency preparedness activities.

Funding

As a voluntary organization, MCACS services will be customarily be provided without monetary compensation, other than the possibility of reimbursing members’ incidental expenses and providing compensation for injuries while serving under the auspices of a governmental organization.

However, the organization as a whole will have expenses to acquire and maintain equipment. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, MCACS can solicit donations from individuals and corporations, and engage in fund-raising activities where permitted by law. The organization should also have mechanisms in place to act as custodian for equipment owned by served agencies and entrusted to MCACS for care, maintenance, and/or operation. In addition, there might be expenses associated with credentialing of members. Last but not least, while MCACS members may make available their own equipment and/or facilities, there might be situations where served agencies will benefit by providing permanently installed communications equipment in their facilities for use by qualified MCACS volunteers.