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Author Topic: Concerning public service...  (Read 9795 times)

Posts: 9

« on: June 07, 2010, 11:44:38 AM »

Most all the radio clubs in my area claim some sort of 'standing' as a 'special service club'.  As near as I can figure somebody (ARRL???) sanctions such a designation and it means that the club members assist as volunteer communicators at events that span more a than a single large field or that are in motion: bike rides and races, balloon fly-in or outs,  cross country or backroads events with horses or horsepower.

On the surface this seems noble and admirable, but is it relevant?

As I very new to amateur radio type I wanted to see what such an event was all about-I wanted to observe the hams and see where and how I might fit in once I've acquired a bit more equipment.  I got my chance this past weekend.  I didn't attend any planning or organizing events but rather just joined in on the day of the event at one of the radio check-points and observed to my hearts content.  And I know one event cannot be adequate to base a judgment-I'm aware of the obvious.

The radio stuff was good to very good.  The net control operator was organized, articulate and professional.  With the exception of one operator who seemed to have all the 'priority' traffic, the rank and file operators were efficient and fast to respond to event conditions and needs.  They found the off course riders, got the resupply going in the right direction in a timely manner and gave fair warning to stations about the imminent arrival of 'need'.


The organizing side of the event was pitiful.  Short on logistical elements, especially critical supplies like water and first aid.  Lacking a cohesive command and control structure including simple things like name tags and route signage as well as no effective participant management.  Finally a completely non existent understanding of how to manage human assets, including the radio operators.

A very obvious 'commercial driving force' from the main event sponsors/organizers and their 'one size fits all events' approach seemed from the start to be a disaster in the making rather than a fun filled and wonderful experience---at least for someone.

So my questions are simple:  is this normal?  Are you involved in public service and how can amateur radio be fully utilized? Who assumes the lead?  Share with me you most recent or most memorable event, I'm still undecided on how to proceed.

Posts: 1316

« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2010, 11:28:59 AM »

It just depends on the organization and its members, who's in charge of planning, "project ownership," who is detail oriented, etc.

If you want to go first class, consider applying for M.A.R.S.

The basic training is not trivial, nor are the membership requirements.

It is a DoD sponsored program, and its members take everything very seriously.

For example, you won't hear any custom phonetics. "R" is "romeo and "G" is "golf" (not "radio" and "Germany.")


Posts: 2630

« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2010, 12:55:07 PM »

Having been involved in public service (not the ham side of it at the time) the radio operators are serving as a supplement to that organization's function or charter. All we can do (as hams) is to;

  • Provide the best communications services possible (integration with the people who need the service)
    To not become part of the problem (plan on being self-sufficient)
    Be accurate
    Be timely
    Be thorough
    Be professional

Unless we are hosting our own event (field day) we are there are the behest of the sponsoring organization. It would help if the hams had some representation to provide useful suggestions (organizational things) to the group before the event happens, no-one likes working at a "cluster-frack".

We always have the choice to not participate if we see it is going to be a fiasco. In some cases when it goes really bad there is someone looking to sue and we can get collectively painted with that brush.

No-one is paying you, we have not been drafted and as a volunteer we can always go home.

Tisha Hayes

Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama

Posts: 6283

« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2010, 06:16:56 AM »

I think you've already answered your own question by your observations. 

At one yearly event where I was involved, the hams (communications) were the most organized section of the event.  It got to the point that the event organizers were turning to the hams for things other than communication.  That is where my participation ended.

Posts: 550


« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2010, 08:44:22 AM »

Most all the radio clubs in my area claim some sort of 'standing' as a 'special service club'.  As near as I can figure somebody (ARRL???) sanctions such a designation and it means that the club members assist as volunteer communicators at events that span more a than a single large field or that are in motion: bike rides and races, balloon fly-in or outs,  cross country or backroads events with horses or horsepower.

This is not quite right.

The ARRL Field Organization allows local clubs to affiliate
with the ARRL.

The 'Special Service Club' designation is a designation for
clubs that go "above and beyond" the normal local clubs,
in a wide variety of facets; public service involvement is
only one of the many requirements.

More information about the affiliated club program, and the
SSC designation in particular, is available at:

Here's an excerpt

For Special Service Clubs

This section is presented to assist Special Service Clubs in maintaining their
SSC status. SSCs have gone through a process above and beyond the
requirements for other affiliated clubs. These clubs have demonstrated
proficiency in the following areas:
a. Training and supporting local Amateur Radio efforts in licensing, upgrading
and continuing education or elmering.
b. Public Relations and improving the visibility of Amateur Radio, promoting it as
a positive force within the community.
c. A willingness to become involved in any local emergency or drill.
d. Technical Advancement and encouraging members to become more familiar
and knowledgeable in technical Amateur Radio aspects in the community.
e. Operating Activities in which a substantial program is conducted in an area of
particular interest of the club; and,
f. Miscellaneous Activities in which ongoing programs or activities are in
additional established areas (or suitable substitutes).

73 Scott W5ESE

Posts: 645

« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2010, 07:34:30 AM »

Public service events like the one described aren't all that uncommon. We do several of those a year. Some are more well run than others. Depends on who the event organizer is. I've been doing events like that for over 20 years, and have probably seen the full spectrum from extremely well run events, all the way down to "do these people even have a clue". The experience you had seems to fall somewhere just below the middle of the range.

To the organizers, we give their event a central nervous system. Instant access to the entire race course, on one frequency. Eyes and ears at every checkpoint. As you noticed, some of those eyes and ears tend to work better than others. Status on supply levels at every water stop in real time. And the ability to summon help for an injured participant instantly. What makes it all work is the discipline of the directed net.
From the Amateur Radio standpoint, the value of participating in events like that isn't necessarily the event itself. It's what we practice doing while supporting the event. Those are: 1) Directed net operations, and 2) Field Operations. As you do more and more of these, it's important to keep it in the proper perspective. For the event organizer it's the real deal. For us, it's only practice.

73 de N8AUC


Posts: 298

« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2011, 05:21:47 PM »

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 Smiley
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.   Grin  the hospital roof is surrounded by an amazing network of lightning rods, so we have awesome protection there too Smiley

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.  Roll Eyes

and now we are getting ICS certified, and RACES cards, and extensive training so we can participate in county Search and Rescue operations too.

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