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Third-Party Traffic Handling Is a Public Service

posted Apr 2, 2017, 4:24 PM by C. Matthew Curtin
Amateur radio is a great hobby, where one can tinker and experiment to learn the art of radio, to advance the state of the art, and even to enhance international goodwill. All of these benefits are memorialized in the opening of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 97, the rules that define the amateur radio service in the United States. The very first benefit of all, however, is something more serious:

(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.

Here is traffic handling: a voluntary noncommercial communication service for the public. Since the earliest days of amateur radio, our technology and operating skill have been ready to serve. When one of the worst windstorms ever experienced by Ann Arbor, Michigan blew through on the night of March 21, 1913, toppling houses and telegraph lines. The situation worsened when by a week later, the city of Freemont, Ohio was under water and flooding was prevalent throughout central Ohio. During this time, amateur radio operators worked day and night to keep the communications flowing though other systems had failed. Lessons learned from this early event were clear. Amateurs should "Put [their] aerial up so it will stay up, no matter what happens, and learn to handle messages at commercial speeds, for [they] may be called on to handle emergency messages when [they] least expect it." Radio, "in the hands of the amateur, while it is used by some as a plaything, is capable of doing excellent service in time of need; and we hope the work done by these men who did all they could to maintain communication between the flood stricken cities and the rest of the world, will long be remembered." (Modern Electronics. "The Wireless Amateur in Times of Disaster." April 1913)

In those days, the response was ad hoc. Today, however, we are far better organized to handle events large and small. This is due in no large part to the voluntary public service rendered by radio amateurs. The Central Ohio Traffic Net, and the larger network of amateur operators around the world, may well be hobbyists, but train and operate so that they may serve their communities in a professional, if unpaid, manner.

While we typically enjoy the work, traffic handling is not a hobby: it is a public service. Once we make an appearance and volunteer in a traffic net, as part of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), or put our radio to work for a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), we are not hobbyists: we've committed to help to achieve a mission on behalf of the public.

COTN is a training net, and we encourage all regardless of experience to join us and to learn how to put the art of radio to good use. We're happy to help you along the way so that you can see whether this is the kind of public service you'd like to render, and if so, how you can be the greatest asset you can be in a time of need. We encourage all to follow a few guidelines:
  1. Learn to operate well.
  2. Keep proper logs of operation.
  3. Track your traffic, using the "Received" and "Sent" parts of the Radiogram.
  4. Handle your traffic in a timely manner.
  5. Perform your duties professionally.
  6. Report your activity.
We're here to get the job done, and to help others learn to do the job well. Never hesitate to ask if you have a question. Once we're finished with the ongoing operation we're happy to take the time to discuss what you've seen and heard, and to find out how we can improve. Thank you for all that you do to advance amateur radio and to provide service to your community.
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