I hear many people who believe that amateur radio operators are the communication dinosaur. They are out dated and serve no purpose. I try to remind these folks that ham radio operators are essential during disasters for communications.
The tornado outbreak on March 2 brought this to light again. No local news media in Louisville mentioned any ham operators working. Everyone thinks they will just use their cell phones to call people, or dispatch. Cell towers need power (if they are even still standing) and they get clogged with traffic quickly during and immediately following disaster events.
Amateur radio operators usually can be self sufficient with their radios for at least 24 hours (some even have generators so they can be on station passing vital communications for days). They do not need a tower with a repeater (though they will use them if the repeater is still on line), since they can communicate directly to other amateur radio operators.
I have been monitoring the radio traffic for the ongoing clean up in Clark County Indiana for over a week. The amateur radio operators are all volunteer, and assigned a posting location through the local Emergency Management agency. They have been providing updates to conditions, supplies and passing information back and forth. Without the amateur radio operators, information gathering would be very slow and tracking which areas need supplies would be a daunting task.
The next time you think of a ham radio operator, remember that they may be your only means of communication after a disaster. Follow the link for an article on how the amateur radio operators helped out.