Articles for Amateur Radio Newsletters aimed at new hams
 written by Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS, Rowlett, Texas



NHP #15: Why Work Public Service Events

Most of us have at one time or another been asked to participate in public service events. The typical questions that come up are.

What are public service events?
What's involved?
What equipment do I need?
What's in for me.

What are public service events

These events can be anything that needs an alternate kind of wireless communications, from helping light the Christmas trees in the town square to walk-a-thons, bike-a thons, marathons, evacuation and transportation of people, Communications to and from a disaster site, weather nets for the National Weather Service (NWS), tests for any kind of community service devices such as sirens, flash flood detectors or water level detectors.

What's involved

Most of the public service events are usually planned out well in advance. Some one has taken time to define the communications parameters and needs, knows how many operators are needed and placed them at field to best use the resourses

Usually these events are run in a "controlled net" environment where some one assumes net control responsibility and asks for input from the field stations. The biggest single thing a field station has to do is


There is nothing worse in a controled net than to make a report only to have several people ask net control to repeat that information several minutes later. Skilled listing and assimilating of whats going one is a skill we all should try to cultivate.

Only contact net control if you have an immediate emergency. If you are called on to talk to the net control station, take a second or two to think about it then give your response back to him in the H.A.N.D. format.

H what do you HAVE
A where are you AT
N what do you NEED
D DETAILS to get the job done

There are on occasions, events that communications have to be brought up on the spur of the moment. Evacuating a nursing home because of fire or flood, a lost child, helping with communications at an evacuation center. In any of these cases, if you have a radio and a little time you are an asset.

What equipment do I need

Not much. Again listen to the local repeater first and see what involved. Usually a handi-talkie and a spare battery pack is all that's required for most of these. Take a look at the weather, bring clothing appropriate to the season and always keep a bottle of water with you. If you belong to an emergency service organization such as RACES or ARES, you will find that they have good recommended lists of equipment. The more involved the event the more equipment you might need. But again, you know about these well in advance.

Just about any service that the amateur radio community can provide will find a use. Voice or data communications, APRS, ATV, RTTY all have found uses. During the 1981 flooding in Virginia SSTV was used by the State of Virginia to document flood damage for Federal Disaster Funding.

What's in for me

Most of these events have a few perks. First is the event itself. If you are a volunteer for these events, you get into the event for working it. A good example here is that working a 2 hour security shift for HAMCOM gets you into the event for day.

Most of the events that run more than a few hours provide the volunteer food and drink. T-Shirts are another perk usually received from these events.

The big thing you get from these events is experience working in a controlled net. You learn how to make a good concise report without making a mistake, You learn when to listen and when to transmit. Many of these fun events are a good training ground for something more serious.

Most public service events are a fun way of giving back to the community and getting the experience you need for when things get more serious. You don't need to volunteer for them all but try to do one or two a year just for the fun of it, to exercise your battery pack and check that you can communicate when the phone lines are down.


Gerry WD4BIS

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Copyright 2005 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.

Permission in advance is granted to those who use this for non-profit Amateur Radio club newsletters as long as it is used unmodified including this copyright notice and that notice is given to the author via email ([email protected]). In addition, please forward a copy of any newsletter this appears in to: Gerry Crenshaw WD4BIS, c/o GARC, 1027B W. Austin St, Garland, TX, 75040

Web site maintained by Janet Gobeille Crenshaw (WB9ZPH)