The ability to provide communication as a free public service has been a traditional responsibility of Amateur Radio from the start. Today, this most often involves ham radio’s volunteer efforts during disasters and emergencies. When floods struck North Dakota and Minnesota in the spring of 2009, the Amateur Radio community rallied to supplement overly stressed public safety systems. Hams volunteered around the clock to provide communication for sandbagging operations and evacuation efforts, as well as to link hospitals, emergency operations centers and non-government relief agencies. Public service also can take less dramatic forms: Hams also step forward to provide communication for walkathons, marathons, bike races, parades and other community events.
Practice makes perfect. On any given weekend, hams associated with emergency communication teams might be found supporting radio communication in the aftermath of a simulated disaster or weather emergency, to sharpen their emergency-preparedness skills.