Over the course of the last 20 years the communications systems used by public emergency services organizations (law enforcement and fire) have become very sophisticated and highly reliable.  Many of these organizations don’t see the value of amateur radio.  What they fail to consider is their need to communicate with outside organizations during a major disaster.

Some of the organizations they may need to be in communication with include the Red Cross, school districts, home owners associations, evacuation sites, and many others.  Many of these organizations rely on telephone networks for contact with the outside world and don’t realize how fragile both land-line and mobile networks really are.
This is where amateur radio comes into play.  Specifically, the Amateur Radio Emergency Services, or ARES, group comes into play.
According to the FCC, the purpose amateur radio is as follows (Title 47, Part 97.1):
  1. Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
  2. Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
  3. Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.
  4. Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.
  5. Continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.


As you can see, there is a lot of emphasis on emergency communications.
ARES is coordinated by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL).  The ARRL offers standardized training and materials to interested persons and maintains a registry of amateur radio operators interested in helping during an emergency.
Local coordinators run drills in conjunction with law enforcement, fire, hospitals, and many other organizations so everyone understands their role and can operate, even when coordinators are not available.
You can learn more about ARES at http://www.arrl.org/ares
Check with your local ARRL section for information ARES groups and events in your area.