While improving my own communication capabilities following a disaster, I can use my ham radio to help my community recover after a disaster. Certainly, recent events around the world clearly demonstrate why amateur radio and emergency communications is important. Recent fires in California destroyed much of the traditional communication infrastructure and a hurricane in Puerto Rico pretty much devastated the entire islands communication grid. Ham radio operators stepped up and provided much needed communications in those affected areas.
I don’t have any idea how a potential disaster might unfold in my location or even if it will ever occur. But, I do want to prepare as best I can to be able to communicate when traditional forms of communication might be disrupted.
An important part of that preparation is be become familiar with the operations of the radio and the emergency rules and procedures so when a disaster occurs, I can contribute effectively. The emergency doesn’t necessarily need to affect me directly in order to be a help to others. It might be that I take emergency communications from other hams that are directly affected. I might also be able to help my immediate neighborhood by acting as a conduit of communications for them during an emergency.
There are a couple of organizations whose mission is to respond effectively to emergencies. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) are the primary organizations for this purpose. ARES is organized and managed by members of the ARRL’s Field Organization and RACES is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Membership in ARES is available to any licensed amateur while participating in RACES requires you to be registered with a local civil defense organization. You can learn more about becoming involved in these organizations here.