Public Service Events

Organizers Turn Down Ham Radio Volunteers

Over the last few months I have been searching for larger events and how they do their Comm Support. Amazingly, it seem like fewer and fewer events rely on ham radio. Why is that?

Have we, as Ham Radio Operators, put ourselves “out of business”?

  • Is our customer service below par?
  • Do we look like a flock misfits or sheep?
  • Does it have to be our way when the typical Race Director is a business person looking at things from a modern business point of view?
  • Do we fit into the event or does the event have to fit the Ham Radio Club?

What I have found as the key to success (for me) is to integrate commercial communications with Ham Communications. This way we can integrate with the organizers and not be a separate entity. Also, a “unified” command where the race command and ham-radio is co-located.

It is, of course hard to understand why an organizer wants to say “no thanks” to highly equipped volunteers. But, maybe not! So many events have over the years had ham-comm and cumbersome and, in many cases, a “can’t do that” attitude. 

Then again there are some huge successes around- 

The Boston Marathon has totally restructured the Ham radio Communications from previous years. It is as professional as amateurs can get. Here is an excerpt from their website:

Committee History
Prompted by the tragic bombing in 2013 and a subsequent increase in public safety concerns, the BAA formed a Communications Committee late in 2014 with a mandate to review and improve the entire communications program at the Boston Marathon. Security and operational challenges had increased, requiring Amateur Radio to function in a highly-structured environment, one following guidelines of the National Incident Management System and the Incident Command System (ICS).

In 2015, as a result of its review, the Committee presented a set of recommendations to the BAA which were accepted and implemented. These included changes specific to the requirements of BAA and its public safety partners, resulting in a considerable body of training, planning and operational documentation and a management structure to support and execute the plans during event day.

2016 will be expressed as an evolution of the 2015 efforts, rather than a revolution involving major changes.

The larger Committee membership is drawn from public safety, BAA, private ambulance services and commercial communications providers. Six Amateur Radio volunteers were selected to represent, manage and serve the almost 300 volunteers who provide communications for the BAA on event day. These members were chosen based on their common passion for public service, a desire to serve the BAA, and considerable experience with the BAA and its activities throughout the year. While a diversity of talent and interests may be found among the leadership team, a desire to expand, improve and assure the Amateur Radio volunteer experience at the Boston Marathon for years to come is a goal held by all.

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