Public Service is what draws a significant number of radio enthusiasts to Amateur Radio – Radio Amateurs also have a long tradition of helping their communities recover in times of emergency or disaster. They do this by providing strong, decentralized systems that provide the basic network needed to bring up the services now seen as essential by the public. They can also provide interoperability links between users of different radio systems who may not normally work together like Voluntary Agencies.
The ability to provide communication as a free public service has been a traditional responsibility of Amateur Radio from the start. Today, this most often involves ham radio’s volunteer efforts during disasters and emergencies. When Irma the Atlantic hurricane of 2017 struck the west and north coast of Florida, the Amateur Radio community rallied to supplement overly stressed public safety systems. Hams volunteered around the clock to provide communication for sandbagging operations and evacuation efforts, as well as to link hospitals, emergency operations centers and non-government relief agencies. Public service can also take less dramatic forms:
Practice makes perfect. On any given weekend, hams associated with emergency communication teams might be found supporting radio communication in the aftermath of a simulated disaster or weather emergency, to sharpen their emergency-preparedness skills.