The Joy of Public Service


I’ve had some of the most rewarding experiences an Amateur while volunteering my time and skills in a public service capacity. Although many of us like to “play radio,” having the skills, resources and of course the privileges as a licensed operator allows us to contribute at many public service events where dedicated communication services are needed to help coordinate services, especially medical help.

This year was my next of many stints helping out at the Boston Marathon and second year at the finish line. As one of about 300 Amateurs helping out, my job was to support one of the “medical sweep” teams charged with helping out runners after they crossed the finish line. With many of the runners near exhaustion after running the 26 miles of The Marathon, some may need medical help. The sweep team (usually consisting of a RN, radio operator, EMTs and nursing students) watches the runners and ascertains if they need help.  We encourage them to stay standing if they can. If they do sit, watch them closely when they stand up (runners often pass out if they get up too quickly after running). We may pop them into a wheel chair if they cannot walk and/or  get them over to one of the medical tents if they require expert medical assistance.


The day started early with a first meeting at 6:00AM downtown to check in along with the other Amateurs. We then had to head off to Medical Tent A for another briefing and then get over to Copley for a briefing about what to expect for the day and how the number of runners, weather and other factors may effect how busy we will be. Things got really busy around 1:00PM when the runners started arriving. It was really busy at 2:00PM and things didn’t start to taper off until about 5:00. We were released at 6:00.

This year was not nearly as “eventful” as last year but still great. I met some really nice people in my medical sweep team, several runners who shared their experiences during the marathon, helped some of them who needed help and called in for supplies when needed. If you’re going to enjoy a nice Spring day, why not do so while helping others? If the Boston Marathon is not your style, you can always volunteer at another road race, the Walk for Hunger or one of the many activities where Amateur Radio Operators help out.

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