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The FCC Regulations which govern the Amateur Radio Licensing contain this statement under Part 97.1 which defines the purpose of the Amateur Radio Service: 

The rules and regulations in this Part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(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.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communications and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

It is no accident that the first thing mentioned in the purpose of amateur radio is the providing of emergency communications.  Emergency communications is a part of amateur radio that many hams participate in.  When the power is out and the phones are down, it is the amateur radio operators who in a few moments can be in touch with the state capitol hundreds of miles away, or the national guard, or FEMA, any other agency with the radio reach of hundreds to thousands of miles that ham radio is capable of with no wires and no dependence on infrastructure such as the phone system, or the internet.  Many government Emergency Operations Centers, Red Cross Chapters and National Weather Service facilities have permanent Amateur Radio stations installed for such operations.

This participation by amateurs can take many forms and provides hams opportunities to get involved in a range of emergency communications activities including:

Emergency communications and disaster assistance is performed in conjunction with volunteer disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local government emergency management agencies, search and rescue, the Civil Air Patrol, as well as volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps.

The ARRL has memoranda of understanding with numerous agencies expected to receive services, including the American Red Cross and Salvation Army and is a partner in theCitizen Corps program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The ARRL also is a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and conducts emergency communications certification courses for interested Amateur Radio operators.  

Many regular activities performed by ham are done with the eye towards training and improving radio communications proficiency in the event of a need for disaster communications services.  From participation in the National Traffic System to helping out with the local bike race, parade, or marathon.  These activities provide experience and training in accurate, efficient communications that could be utilized in natural disaster situations, manning a emergency shelter, or even assistance during evaluations due to a hazards materials situation. 

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