Besides improving your own communication, ham radio operators also can help their community recover after a disaster. In fact, this is a main reason many people become hams. Certainly, recent events around the world clearly demonstrate why amateur radio and emergency communications is important.
It’s important for amateur radio operators to become familiar with all the emergency rules and procedures so when a disaster occurs, they can contribute effectively when normal communications is not available. The emergency doesn’t necessarily need to affect you directly for you to be able to help others. Ham operators can take emergency communications from other hams that are directly affected. You might also be able to help your immediate neighborhood by acting as a conduit of communications for them during an emergency.
There are a couple of organizations whose mission is to respond effectively to emergencies. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) are the primary organizations for this purpose. ARES is organized and managed by members of the ARRL’s Field Organization and RACES is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Membership in ARES is available to any licensed amateur while participating in RACES requires you to be registered with a local civil defense organization. You can learn more about becoming involved in these organizations here.