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.

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