Many new hams get involved in emergency communications (EmComm) and it may even be their primary focus or purpose for getting an amateur radio license. Emergency communications is the first of five basic principles spelled out by the FCC for the existence of the licensed amateur radio service in Part 97:
Section 97.1(a): Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
In fact, by accepting an FCC operator/primary station license grant under these rules, USA amateurs are obliged to provide emergency communications as needed. Not that you’ll get thrown in the slammer if you don’t help, but all licensed hams with the equipment and experience should help out in case of disaster or other EmComm situation, and most do so.
Having said all that, I would encourage all hams to join a local or regional EmComm group (such as ARES or RACES in the USA) and train and drill with them to get some experience. It’s not enough to know how to talk on a repeater or social net; things get more serious in an EmComm situation.
There are more formal radio operating practices and language used in EmComm which is almost always conducted as a directed net. You need to learn when and how to communicate and with whom and what to say and why things are done a certain way. Participating in EmComm drills and public service events is important training, as is listening in on EmComm training nets. Taking EmComm courses such as the ARRL’s Introduction to Emergency Communication Course EC-001 is also of great benefit.
To familiarize you with the Who/What/When/Where/Why/How of EmComm, attached here is a presentation entitled, “EmComm Toolbox / Practices, Guidelines, Procedures and Etiquette.” Some might call it Radiocraft Language.
This document covers seven key topics (tools) in our EmComm toolbox:
- ITU Phonetic Alphabet
- ITU Phonetic Numbers
- Break Tags
- Using Tactical Call Signs
- Operating Procedures
I hope it is useful to you.