Winter 2006 Issue

Public Service Event Guidelines

What makes for a successful public service event? Good guidelines.
Here KC5ZQM draws from his experience in order to instruct us on how
to have everything go smoothly.

By Douglas D. Lee, KC5ZQM


Amateur radio has a long-standing tradition of providing communications during emergencies and disasters. To stay prepared for these events, hams also provide communications for parades, bike and foot races, walkathons, etc.

Public service events and emergencies have similar characteristics that affect communications: the need to move information quickly, the need to move information from one point to many, the need for one station to control the flow of information.

I have “worked” or organized close to two dozen public service events. Also, I was an Emergency Management volunteer from 1997 through 2000, with experience in storm spotting and communications. My communications background goes back to my days as a “commo” man in an Army National Guard infantry unit in the last half of the 1970s. My motivation for writing this article comes from my dissatisfaction with the way I have seen some public service events conducted.

My aim in this article is not to present myself as a final authority on the subject, but to suggest some guidelines that others may find useful. These guidelines cover the following:
• group-level preparations,
• individual preparations,
• working the event, and
• after the event.

Group-Level Preparations

If you are the public service officer for an amateur radio club, I know how busy you can be. As I write this, I have been the Activities Chair for the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Repeater Organization for almost two years. My duties include public service, some public relations, liaison with the Tulsa Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and Skywarn, plus organizing Field Day operations. Sometimes keeping everything straight can be a challenge. You need to give yourself every advantage to make things go smoothly. This section is for you.

Early Contact

Contacting the organizers of an event early can be an important key to success. Why? Some events have a different director every year. Some events cover a large area and require large amounts of resources, so the organizers may have a series of meetings you need to attend. For example, the Tulsa Run is a 15K (9.3 mile) race. It happens on the last Saturday in October, but the planning meetings begin in early September.

When you contact the event organizers, always confirm your club’s participation and make sure they understand your primary role is communications. Your contact person may be new to his or her job and have no idea of what ham radio is, or what you can do for the event.

You also will need to confirm the particulars of the event:
• What it is, if it is not obvious from the name.
• Where it starts and stops; where the event control will be; how big an area it covers, etc.
• When (date and time); schedule of particular events (some races 5K and up will also have a “Fun Run”).
• Number of operators and where they will be needed.
• When operators need to be on station.
• To whom the operators need to report.

You may get some of this information from your first contact, but most will come from planning meetings and/or communicating with the organizers. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Information is the raw material of the process of organization. You are responsible for getting the information you need.

Click here to return to Winter 2006 highlights

Click here to subscribe to VHF


© Copyright 2006, CQ Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced or republished, including posting to a website, in part or in whole, by any means, without the express written permission of the publisher, CQ Communications, Inc. Hyperlinks to this page are permitted.