Blog - Amateur Radio and Disaster Preparedness

This week's topic was presented by Bill, KF5YIV. I was all prepared the write the blog when he surprised me with this perfectly written piece. So, ladies and gentleman, I present to you, a YIV original. Thanks, Bill~


Amateur radio operators can play a variety of roles that allow public safety officials to maximize their resources, including facilitating communications; providing emergency managers with on-scene situational awareness; and helping manage large-scale events, such as state fairs and marathons. The purpose of this blog is to provide a few items for you to think about if you volunteer with one of the disaster relief organizations or participate in storm spotting.


Disasters do not happen at our convenience. A volunteer operator could be called at any time of year, however the fall hurricane season has proven to be the prime period when call-outs occur. Other periods of possible activity include spring tornado season and summer wildfire seasons.

Before these seasons approach, make arrangements to meet your personal commitments (family, finances, work, etc.). If the disaster is in, or possibly heading toward your community, make sure your family is safe first.

It is important to prepare yourself emotionally and physically. You need to understand how disasters may affect both victims and relief workers. None of us are super-heroes. Get plenty of rest before, during, and after disaster service.

The first consideration should be: "What personal items do I need to bring with me?" The best rule of thumb here is: "If you need it, you bring it." Remember, you are serving a disaster area. Don't expect the local stores to have any stock, or pharmacies to have your prescription.

For communicators, the second considerations should be: "What radio equipment and accessories do I need?" This could be your "Go Kit" or "Jump-kit". To compile this list, we would need to know what bands and modes you will be operating on. Will a dual band HT be sufficient? Will HF or packet be required? Each of these have their own list of requirements for field use. There are many detailed lists on the website and other sources on the web.


Volunteer radio operators assisting emergency personnel fall into two groups: Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) members. Many people participate in both organizations, but the main difference is ARES members provide emergency communications before an emergency has been officially declared, while RACES operators, which are registered with state and local governments, are activated after an emergency is declared. RACES members may operate from state Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a US organization of amateur radio operators, has memorandums of understanding with numerous organizations, including FEMA, the American Red Cross, National Weather Service and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International. As a result of those agreements, the ARRL trains with and works to develop these organizations' amateur radio communications capacity. It also builds relationships with these organizations to collaborate during disasters.

About 156,000 amateur radio operators are ARRL members. The best way for these ham operators to connect with local responders is to participate in their local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).

Amateur radio operators can also get special license plates displaying their call signs, which identify them to emergency crews, getting them past roadblocks and into the affected area to provide communications assistance.


One way for communicators to work with other organizations deployed to a disaster is to complete the Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) training courses. These include FEMA Independent Study Courses IS-100, IS-200, IS-700, and IS-800.

Attend local CERT training when offered and take Introduction to Community Emergency Response Teams, CERT/FEMA, course number IS-0317.

Become a certified storm spotter with the National Weather Service by attending SkyWarn Training.

Get First Aid Basic and Advanced training.

Get CPR / AED certified.

Participate and become proficient at handling traffic on the National Traffic System nets.

Search the ARRL website for: "ARES Field Resources Manual" for more detailed information.


SATERN -- Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network
14265 kHz SSB 1500Z Monday through Saturday - National/International Net at 1500 UTC - and choose; "SATERN training".
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief – communications team – Yellow hat training provided annually around Texas.

American Red Cross


Ultimately, the decision is yours when it comes to helping others in their time of need. If you are like many of us that always have the desire to help others, then emergency communications can be the tool in your toolbox to make that happen. A little training and preparation will provide you the confidence to serve in many disaster relief scenarios.