We’ve completed two public service events, and there are two more left for the club this summer. And there are plenty of other ones in the area. Most of the clubs in our area support a lot of the same events that we support, parades, charity walks and the like. If you’re interested in helping out you can usually find out more information by listening to their nets or checking their web sites. I’ve worked events for other clubs in the past and they’re always glad to receive help. Then there are the larger events, which typically don’t have a club affiliation. Around there there are several 100 mile bike rides, and the Chicago marathon. All of which are great events to be a part of. Please contact me if you’re interested in working one of these events and I can get you in touch with their coordinators.
As ham radio operators we have a unique skill set that makes us valuable to the people who organize events. There is the obvious fact that per FCC rules our services are free. But there is a lot more to it than that. We provide additional manpower that is already trained for the specific task of communicating. What’s interesting here is that our training to a degree comes in the form of formal courses such as ICS 100 and ICS 200, but it also is done informally on nearly every net that you check in to or round table discussion that you join on a repeater. As a community we have developed ways to effectively pass traffic, usually in the form of directed nets, and we use these skills on a weekly basis (if not more often). In a round table format we do things like insert a short pause between the end of one transmission and the beginning of the next. This allows another operator an easy way to join the conversation. In a large scale net such as the Chicago marathon, this same method allows for someone with extremely urgent traffic to be able to pass it in a very timely fashion.
In addition to our communications training, we also unburden the event organizers from needing to be proficient in using a radio to communicate. As we are always instructed at the beginning of our public service events, and as the ICS courses teach, we are there for communications only and we are not there to work the situation. In practice what this means is that we listen to our radios and pull out traffic that is specific to our assignment, and then pass it along to the person or team that we are working with. This filtering of information removes a significant task from those actually working a situation. It also works in reverse, when an event official needs to send traffic over the radio they can hand the information off to us to handle the details of sending the traffic and getting a response, freeing up their time to continue working the event.
Public service events can be very rewarding. I encourage everyone to take the radio skills that you already have and try applying them to one of these events.