Taking Part in Public Events as a Ham

I had the opportunity as an amateur radio operator to take part in the communications network for the “Trunk or Treat” event held by a neighboring town recently.

It was the first such event I had participated in, and I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to get my feet wet with emergency communications– without an actual full bore emergency.

The event was projected to have up to 15k attendees and the city had used volunteer hams for event coordination on the previous two years.

The previous years, there had also been a couple of lost children, and at least one person with a medical issue, as well as booths running out of things, volunteers being sent where they are needed, and other issues.

Turning up in the early afternoon with my own handy talkie radio, headset, a spare battery, folding chair, and a bottle of water to the “Net Control” station I was handed a safety vest and given a final event briefing.

The volunteers had also met the week before at town hall to meet the event staff, discuss what to expect, learn the event layout, and what to bring, so we were prepared in advance– which was really useful.

We helped vendors find their way into their spots to set up before the event actually started and learned the “tactical” call signs being used for the event.

Tactical call signs were quite interesting as a concept. Instead of using our own FCC assigned call signs, each ham was assigned to a person or location, and that became their tactical call sign.

I can see the value of tactical call signs, because their are easier to remember and use at events.

Some example call signs– the event’s main coordinator’s name was Erica, so the ham assigned to roam with her went by ERICA.

Other tactical call signs were things like “Purple Trunk”, “Ticket One”, “Ashley”.

We had three frequencies that were being used and monitored by the group which we were given ahead of time- but one was a backup in case the first repeater went down.

Three or four hams were stationed at “Net Control” including me.

During the event, I listened to the broadcasts on the main frequency, providing a backup set of ears (sometimes it’s hard to understand what people said, and one person may have heard something another person did not) and helped give directions to people to find parking.

Later on, as parking filled up, we were taking turns metering how many people could enter and leave the lot we were next to. (You would not BELIEVE how hostile people can get when a lot is full and they want to park there anyway.)

During the event we had one missing child, two missing “rodeo queens”, and a case of “substance abuse” which required an ambulance.

All in all it was a very interesting and valuable experience.