That is exactly what happens during a disaster like this where other forms of communication don't work. There is a HAM present at each of the Red Cross emergency shelters specifically for this purpose as a matter of fact. If anyone is curious, do some research on ARES
As itguy05 said, the test is not too hard to pass for the basic level. Most of the guys use the 2 meter band with a walkie-talkie type radio (with a small antenna) or a mobile in the car for fairly local communication. The larger antennas are for lower frequencies that can go around the world. It is an extremely interesting 'hobby' with things like moon-bounce communications, digital modes, satellites, direction finding, 10+ GHz microwaves... I would have thought that more of the people in here would have been HAMs considering so many are technically minded.