Emergency communications is serious stuff! In a "situation," radio "amateur" communicators are likely to interact with public safety professionals. We "hams" want to "put a best foot forward." And as communicators we need (a) to know and understand the operational environment, and (b) be confident that our skills (and equipment) match what is needed.
The obvious entry level course is the on-line "Introduction to Emergency Communications (EC-001)" offered by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). A link to the ARRL courses is in the tab at the top of the page.
This course has recently been updated. Recognizing recent developments in how federal, state and local agencies will respond to emergencies and disasters, it has pre-requisites - two free on-line mini-courses:
ICS-100 - Introduction to the Incident Command System, and
IS-700 - National Incident Management System, An Introduction
These course are offered by FEMA's Emergency Management Institute. A link to the FEMA courses is also in a tab above.
Many groups we work with (and some follow-on courses) require two additional FEMA courses. You should plan on completing all four:
ICS-200 - ICS for Single Resources and Initial Command Incidents, and
IS-800 - National Response Framework, An Introduction.
Completion of these courses are not requirements for basic ARES activities, but may be asked for if we support some agencies. They do help you understand how emergency response is now being done.
The concept of "Auxiliary Communications" or "AuxComm" has been developed by FEMA's Office of Emergency Communications. It provides a "place" within the Incident Command System for non-official, i.e. "auxiliary", communications assets when regular comms, such as public-safety radios and internet, are either overloaded or otherwise "down."
Amateur radio is the largest element in "AuxComm." FEMA has developed a standardized AuxComm course which is periodically offered in Illinois. The four FEMA courses mentioned above are pre-requisites. If you have a chance to take the AuxComm course, do so.
Preparation is not just study, but also requires using our communications skills. We start with nets, but also give demonstrations and chances for practice at our team meetings. We exercise with key served agencies, as in Exercise Dark Web in the fall of 2017. Throughout the year, providing communications for "public-service" events (runs, bike rides, parades, a major marathon) lets us train by actually using our skills "in the field."