our local (Formerly) ARES group does a huge public service event every year here called the Crim Festival of races.. it's a huge all day event that has 1k, 5k, and 10k runs along with the 'teddy bear trot' for kids. it takes tons of hams, tons of gear, and tons of organization. We have hams at every water station, with the lead and chase vehicles, and various check points. often we catch runners trying to cheat and take shortcuts off the course....
the organization at that even is just phenomenal. being that it runs all day often we have to be organized to get relief operators in certain places, and 're supply' the hams on the course that aren't at water stations etc..
last time I participated was 3 years ago, I took my mobile radio (25w) and put two large sealed lead-acid batteries in a tool box, and strapped a small base antenna to steel garden spike and was able to operate all day
the hardest thing is having enough battery to make it through the day.. sometimes you get lucky enough to be where you can have your car.. sometimes you can't.
it sounds like in the case of the o.p it was just a poorly organized event. we have been doing this crim race for a lot years, and have earned a lot of respect, to the point that our organization is invited to the planning meetings to offer advice...
we also have an amazing set up with NWS for skywarn.
we have two repeaters in our group. the 'local' repeater is a multiple-receive, single transmit setup.. receivers at the 4 corners of the county, plus one at the transmit site so that it's usable anywhere in the county on 5w or less.
this repeater is on top of the hospital. our 'chief of engineering' is a professional radio engineer for a series of FM Broadcast stations, so he knows his stuff.. after a lot of work and discussions, we got permission from the hospital to connect our repeater to the hospitals un-interruptable power. (Same one that powers the life support systems) so if our repeater is taken out.. chances are, the hospital is gone too.
the hospital roof is surrounded by an amazing network of lightning rods, so we have awesome protection there too
our second repeater, being a single transmit/receive unit, is linked with repeaters in the surrounding counties, plus an operator stationed at the local NWS office. this gives us a heads up on whats coming, and we can let others know what is coming their way.
our only real problem is people getting over-excited and forgetting what 'severe weather criteria only' means.
and now we are getting ICS certified, and RACES cards, and extensive training so we can participate in county Search and Rescue operations too.