Several times a year I volunteer for backcountry ultra run events operating at an aid station. The location of the aid station is typically not accessible by cell service, and on the fringe of established repeaters. In my opinion, this is the best readiness training an amateur operator can have.
Making Your Event A Drill
You are given an assignment, you prepare your equipment for a grid down situation, and then have to perform your duties with real situations. This "real event drill" as Gordo WB6NOA refers to it as being superior to a planned drill you would experience with your local EmComm group. A typical scenario for a drill is to assign operators to respond to a location, then practice passing scripted messages to each other to test equipment, operating plans, and skills.
This is effective training, but there is no dynamic interaction with non-operators, and there is no consequence for failure. In performing this same drill associated with an event, there is interaction with people, and there are consequences for failure. Instead of identifying what did not work in a drill, in a real event drill you have to find a way to make it work right then. Your Emergency Communication group should adopt the popular term, "Failure is not an Option".
When working as a radio volunteer at an event, I get endless thanks from event participants and other volunteers of my specialized service. Working these events is an excellent goodwill opportunity to educate the public and civic leaders on the Amateur Radio hobby. It is one thing to invite the public and leaders to experience a field day. It is another to put our skills and equipment into action to accomplish a community service goal and purpose.
When there is a goal and purpose the equipment, skills, and hobby is more understandable to the general public. While at one event a runner that was resting under my canopy was very interested to understand why I would go to the expense and time to volunteer for the event. Beyond the desire to serve the community, I explained how I had ulterior motives and this event was really a chance for me to test my equipment and skills in a real world situation.
There are also other effective ways to test our readiness for emergency communications such as Field Day, RADAR type activations, SOTA, or just going to the park to try out new gear. The goal is to find a way to get out of the shack and test our skills and equipment.
So if emergency communications is an interest you have in this hobby, volunteering for event support is an excellent way to practice and hone your craft of radio communications. If you do not feel comfortable at extreme backcountry events, volunteer at events in the city where communication is easier. Or offer to shadow another operator who is experienced to learn from them.