A lot of new hams will join the hobby because they want to become involved with an Emergency response organization. Thank you for wanting to help out during crisis times!
Any new ham will have a lot to learn before they can be effective. Some of the key points are:
- Ability to function under pressure
- Knowing good radio procedure
- Knowledge of the served agencies we work with
- Knowing how to use your equipment
The last one is the most important because under pressure you will make mistakes. The fewer they are and the more minor the less of an impact you will have on an outcome. I have seen new hams forget how to change frequency when they are pushed a little outside of their comfort zone. I can only imagine how things would be in a life threatening event.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE and more practice. Listen to the various nets. When you know how they are operated check in. Do it on a regular basis and if they hold on air drills, participate! Your nervousness will diminish over time and you will be confident that you can pass traffic.
ARES is one of the ARRL groups that will serve agencies such as the Red Cross. You should know what type of traffic you might be expected to pass and in what format. A lot of ARES groups will assist with events like marathons and bike rides. This is a great way to get practice in a real world situation.
RACES is a parallel group but their only served agencies are government. A lot of people actually belong to both but you must commit to one for a call out! They will handle traffic for Emergency Management, Police, Fire, EMS, Roads and other services. If you are going to join this group get to know the folks you will work with before your services are needed.
CERT is a newer group but very strong in some areas. It is a grassroots effort to train people to handle emergencies on their own when professional help is unavailable. CERTs are often used for special events, traffic control, fairs and other large events. As a radio person you become valuable because you can pass traffic to other teams or the controlling agency.
Because of the nature of the work a lot of teams and individuals have to be vetted. You might even have to go for fingerprinting and other background checks. Most of these costs are borne by the group but check if you are required to do any of them.
No matter which group you participate in be ready to serve in a moments notice.
You might be part of a life saving team !
73 Dolph WA2NTW