Author Topic: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night  (Read 22291 times)

Offline Cedar

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Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« on: November 17, 2014, 09:29:26 AM »
We went out on a call the other night for an elk hunter with a broken leg. We had a heck of a time with communications out there, and with 911 Dispatch. Usually we can use Channel 1 and it gets us to Dispatch. The rest of us can hear it too, if we are on 1.

Channel 2 is line of sight for us in the fire department. It is our Tac channel. But it is pretty much only if we can see each other.

We were in pretty rough country and basically the roads are at the bottom of creek ravines, with large 300-500 foot hills surrounding those ravines. We were traveling the ravines, which snake through the area, and each ravine branches out into multiple more ravines/roadways.

I had noticed during the ice storm when I was at home, just listening to see what was happening in the area due to the ice storm, that the radio for Dispatch was very poor. I was wondering if it was due to my battery, put a fresh one in and same issue. Then I was wondering if it was ice buildup on the tower, which is at 4,000 feet, many many miles away. Or on the millions of iced trees with 2-3" coating on them causing issues. The radios for once, was very crackly, and distorted. These are like $1,500 radios and they generally work very well.

On the team, I am the newest member, so I am low person on the totem pole. I just follow directions/orders. When we debriefed, we were talking about issues and good things we did out there, but communications were at the top of everyone's complaint list. if I am not looked to a higher authority, I would have at least suggested a BASE up on the closest hill to where we were searching, with two radios.. one set to Channel 1 and one for Channel 2, and act as a 'local repeater', but I was wondering if HAM radio would have done us any better? Even 2-meter.

I am planning on taking my Ham classes and test in February, but I am curious now to understand what we could have done differently to be able to get critical information better out there. The night was very clear and at 22F.

Would have a Ham radio, even a little Beofeng, have done us any better than the fire department issued radios?

Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2014, 09:38:29 AM »
I'm going to say that hams would have had the same problems, but setting up a person on a high point, ideally with a truck radio, would give you the opportunity to use them to relay with other members in lower places.

Better antennas might help some.  We have 14" whips on our wildland radios that tend to reach out there a little better, although the trade off in convenience makes them less than ideal for everyday use.

Of course having a ham would open up other repeaters, potentially, which would be a game changer under certain circumstances, but too often most repeaters are clustered on a handful of high points and towers.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2014, 09:58:32 AM »
but too often most repeaters are clustered on a handful of high points and towers.

The same one/location that our emergency one is on.

Cedar

Offline Carl

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2014, 10:17:40 AM »
CEDAR,and others...HAM radio is no different from others (HAMs just understand a bit more of how they work.
basically UHF/VHF and even the 800 MHZ radios are line of sight and the signals go in a straight line (like light),
so passing through dirt,trees,snow ,rain,buildings will greatly degrade the radio signal ...this is why satellite TV often
is effected by weather at times...so basically ,though HAM is a great option for communications,you will not find it 'better'
for your use in the hills and gulleys.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2014, 10:18:52 AM »
Thanks guys... so back to sticking a poor person up on the mountainside... which they would have had to do on foot.

Cedar

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2014, 10:19:26 AM »
Hopefully more experienced hams will weigh in, but this scenario sounds like the ideal case for a cross band mobile repeater.  The concept is to park the vehicle with the dual band radio up on some high point that's both in line of sight of the ravine and the desired destination of your TX. 

From the ravine your operations guys might be using VHF walkie talkies, that are hitting your mobile rig up on the hill.  That mobile unit immediately retransmits the signal(s) from the walkie talkies on a UHF frequency.  I suppose the opposite UHF->VHF could be true as well.



A popular example is the Yaesu FT-8800R. 
From Yaesu:

Quote
Cross-Band Repeat Capability
For emergency work, or to extend the range of a hand-held unit, the FT-8800R includes Cross-Band Repeat capability, similar to that pioneered on our popular FT-8100R Dual Band FM Mobile!

Offline Carl

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2014, 10:24:55 AM »

   :clap:  I could not have answered better...but it is tough to get a car up a ridge like the one illustrated...

I wouldn't put it past CEDAR getting it done though.... ;D

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2014, 10:48:03 AM »
.but it is tough to get a car up a ridge like the one illustrated...
I wouldn't put it past CEDAR getting it done though.... ;D

Even as good as you guys think I am, it was IMPOSSIBLE to get anything, even a 4-wheeler up there without a lot of chainsawing with something larger than a 19" bar. The one tree which was down and I had to crawl under, was about 5 feet through. There were at least 15 trees down on that roadway to the ridge I am thinking of. Whatever I (or whomever) hauled up to that ridge would have had to be in something portable, like a backpack... which I likely would have had to take off and shove under each fallen tree or over the tree.

Cedar

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2014, 11:52:24 AM »
Even as good as you guys think I am, it was IMPOSSIBLE to get anything, even a 4-wheeler up there without a lot of chainsawing with something larger than a 19" bar. The one tree which was down and I had to crawl under, was about 5 feet through. There were at least 15 trees down on that roadway to the ridge I am thinking of. Whatever I (or whomever) hauled up to that ridge would have had to be in something portable, like a backpack... which I likely would have had to take off and shove under each fallen tree or over the tree.

Cedar

Assuming a short duration that only requires a small battery, a mobile transceiver is generally "man portable".   You could fashion up one of those ladderline J-pole antennas that store coiled up, but can be hung up from a tree limb.

Depending on the design, the antennas can be very small:


This is similar to Carl's now famous "Big Stick" design:


It's the same basic "ladder" line, but housed inside a length of PVC pipe.

Though we really need a "dual band" antenna for this situation.  Building and tuning a single antenna for different bands is above my pay grade at the moment.

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2014, 12:13:19 PM »
I know the Forest Service uses backpack portable repeaters for wildland fires on occasion.  I also know a local sheriff's office that every patrol car acts as a repeater for their handhelds, but I also know they've never worked out all the kinks and while they have better coverage than they used to, they still have a lot of coverage issues.  There's only so much you can do in really hilly terrain and when you cover everything in ice, it's time to find a straw...

Offline Carl

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2014, 12:15:28 PM »
 :)  Except that my BIG STICK is dual band...2 meter and 440-450 MHZ

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5ZIZLZV4AwIVVVPNGJiODFjM0U&authuser=0   This is PDF

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5ZIZLZV4AwIbzY3MjZiSkg0S0U&authuser=0   This is DOC


Download free from my GOOGLE DRIVE

Offline Carl

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2014, 12:17:53 PM »
I know the Forest Service uses backpack portable repeaters for wildland fires on occasion.  I also know a local sheriff's office that every patrol car acts as a repeater for their handhelds, but I also know they've never worked out all the kinks and while they have better coverage than they used to, they still have a lot of coverage issues.  There's only so much you can do in really hilly terrain and when you cover everything in ice, it's time to find a straw...


YEP...to really be an advantage...a repeater should be in a higher location (though higher power helps just a little...POWER alone is not the answer.

Offline Beechnut

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2014, 09:37:42 AM »
If you were to go with a man portable repeater system, the buddipole guys have a sweet lithium battery pack that is just a shade over 3lbs and has 10ah of juice @ 13.8 Volts.

4S4P A123 Battery Pack http://www.buddipole.com/4sa1bapa2.html


Offline r_w

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2014, 10:34:00 AM »
This is where drone would actually be a good thing for local ems to have.  Fly a drone as a repeater.  But it would have to be a pretty big one to carry that much payload.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2014, 11:23:08 AM »
This is where drone would actually be a good thing for local ems to have.  Fly a drone as a repeater.  But it would have to be a pretty big one to carry that much payload.

Not to mention handle wind, tree branches and trees falling. Lots of forest. If I had known in hindsight, I would have climbed up on a ridge and relayed on our Tac channel for everyone.


This is the kind of landscape we were in.. we were walking on the two-track forestry roads at the bottom of the ravines. (now you can see why I was whining about hiking 3+ miles in here in full fire department turnout gear and fire boots, you still have to go up and over ridges -- would have rather had my SAR gear and hiking boots).

Trees like this, with some clear cuts. Heavy 1-3" ice on the trees. ALOT of trees down.


Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2014, 11:30:16 AM »
Ugh, how miserable.  We stopped doing SAR in bunkers a few years ago.  Now it's wildland pants, wildland boots and either dept. T-shirt or hoodie over whatever else you're wearing.  Bunker boots suck for cross country travel, as you well know.

That looks like ideal terrain for a relay on a hilltop.  Lessons learned for next time.  ...because there's always a next time (with just enough wrinkles to make things interesting).

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2014, 11:35:59 AM »
Ugh, how miserable.  We stopped doing SAR in bunkers a few years ago.  Now it's wildland pants, wildland boots and either dept. T-shirt or hoodie over whatever else you're wearing.  Bunker boots suck for cross country travel, as you well know.

Yep. The problem was dispatch told us that the man with the broken leg was AT THE FORESTRY GATE.. not 3 miles BEHIND the LOCKED forestry gate. The lock was not the issue, we have keys for every single forestry gate. The problem was the hunter parked his full sized pickup in FRONT of the locked forestry gate.

I rarely wear my full bunkers out. Pants and hiking boots normally (alot of our calls, I want to be able to move better), unless it was those car fires obviously. But I wanted high visibility and easy warmth that night, so I went in full turnouts. And I ALMOST tossed my hikers into the truck as well, as decided "nah.. I will not need them. "

Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2014, 11:44:23 AM »
We have a local open space with a total of four trails in it that make intersecting loops with one parking lot/trailhead at the bottom, 2,000'/3-4 miles below and one at the top.  Regardless of the call, given years of collective experience with the department, one ambulance goes to the bottom, one goes to the top, each with two teams of two.  People are never where they say they are.  You would think cell phone GPS would help, and there's no doubt that in some cases it does, but in many cases the communication with the reporting party breaks down and if we go to the reporting party's location, it turns out it's a parking lot where they called it in from; they left the patient an hour ago, but failed to mention that do dispatch.

I suspect you're learning from this that soon your SAR pack will be going with you again on even the most basic of calls. ;)

Offline Beetle

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2014, 11:59:13 AM »
How come you didn't tow the truck? Your SAR radios for line of sight would work just like a ham radio since 155.805 is best for foliage. Not sure what the fire radio frequency's are but if they are 400 or 800mhz they are not as good as VHF for that terrain. We have the same situation with terrain and we either use relays or if it gets to bad then the SAT phone. There are times when none of the above work even the SAT phones and those are long days. Ham might be a good backup for you as there are repeaters all over the place, the only thing about it is the local hams might get mad if your on their airwaves. Good luck Cedar.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2014, 12:16:48 PM »
How come you didn't tow the truck?

Ice. And where to tow it to? Over the edge of the ravine? A wrecker tow truck takes at LEAST an hour to get out there. At least. Generally 3.

Several hours later, when the family members showed up with keys to the truck, we were able to get 4 rigs in there, but there are no turn arounds, people had to walk behind trucks for miles so the truck could back. No pull offs. Straight up one side, Straight down the other.

Ham might be a good backup for you as there are repeaters all over the place, the only thing about it is the local hams might get mad if your on their airwaves.

Even during an emergency? Our community is pretty good, so I would think the ham guys would be too.. unless they are just complete jerks. We finally just knocked on some doors about 5 miles down the road to get a logger with a huge bar, to start cutting trees, just to be able to walk through with the Stokes.

Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2014, 12:19:27 PM »
How come you didn't tow the truck? Your SAR radios for line of sight would work just like a ham radio since 155.805 is best for foliage. Not sure what the fire radio frequency's are but if they are 400 or 800mhz they are not as good as VHF for that terrain. We have the same situation with terrain and we either use relays or if it gets to bad then the SAT phone. There are times when none of the above work even the SAT phones and those are long days. Ham might be a good backup for you as there are repeaters all over the place, the only thing about it is the local hams might get mad if your on their airwaves. Good luck Cedar.

Heck, the $30 BaoFeng's go from 144mhz all the way to 520mhz.  The rubber duck antennas kind of suck, but that's easy to improve.
There are some legalities involved, but for down and dirty SAR work, where primary comms fail, I wouldn't sweat TX on a non-ham band if it helped facilitate rescue of an injured person. 

I'm a newer ham, but from what I've come to understand, there's not a functional difference from 144mhz (2 meter) and 155mhz (first responder).  Exception being you may have a lot more wattage and antenna system options on the ham bands.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #21 on: November 18, 2014, 12:27:05 PM »
I so gotta take my class in February. I think I have 2 other TSPers talked into going with me, and one of the fire team

Cedar

Offline Carl

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2014, 12:35:58 PM »
I so gotta take my class in February. I think I have 2 other TSPers talked into going with me, and one of the fire team

Cedar

The UV5R and UV85 (better radio in my opinion) will work on MURS 150 mhz Non- licensed channels and FRS 450 MHZ channels and the UV82 has a Part 90 accepted version, if you are required to you it legally ( don't tear off that matress tag)...it is a toothless law and I have only seen part 90 compliance used against IMPORTERS of large numbers of radios.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2014, 12:53:20 PM »
If Cedar gets her ham ticket, she'll be an unstoppable force of self-sufficient might.

Just promise to use your powers for good :)

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2014, 01:20:46 PM »
If Cedar gets her ham ticket, she'll be an unstoppable force of self-sufficient might.

Just promise to use your powers for good :)
I'd like to see her use her powers to take over Monsanto and dismantle them piece by piece. ;D

Offline Beetle

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #25 on: November 18, 2014, 01:59:02 PM »
What County are you in Cedar? You would think the ham guys would be cool, but it only takes one complainer to wreck the party we have had it happen. That's why the SAR radios and relays. The only thing ham would improve is if you were able to hit a ham repeater. Usually both radios are 5 watts so no big advantage with ham over a SAR radio. Also your department might want to invest in a portable repeater they could deploy. Was this a fire call or a SAR callout?

Offline Chemsoldier

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #26 on: November 18, 2014, 02:07:40 PM »
Could an operator use a more efficient mode? I only own an FM radio but I understand that VHF SSB is more efficient than FM.

A fixed wing drone might be the ticket. It likely has the loiter time, altitude and payload. When its transmitter batteries start running down launch another drone. Maybe even dual use, use a drone with FLIR to pinpoint the victim and retrans on the drone to walk the team in.

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #27 on: November 18, 2014, 02:12:08 PM »
Instead of putting the repeater on the hill, could you just move the antenna higher?  Our weather squadron guys have helium tanks that are packable and small weather balloons that can carry small instrument packages.  Tether it to the valley floor but send it high enough to be a portable hilltop?

Offline Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #28 on: November 18, 2014, 02:20:49 PM »
What County are you in Cedar?

I admit I am in Western Oregon.

You would think the ham guys would be cool, but it only takes one complainer to wreck the party we have had it happen. That's why the SAR radios and relays. The only thing ham would improve is if you were able to hit a ham repeater. Usually both radios are 5 watts so no big advantage with ham over a SAR radio. Also your department might want to invest in a portable repeater they could deploy. Was this a fire call or a SAR callout?

It was a fire call. I did SAR for 15 years as a dog handler, but just started with a volunteer fire department. We are a small department with about 5-6 people who tend to make most of the callouts. Apparently we don't usually get these types of SAR calls in the FD. SAR was called, but they didn't get called for about 3 hours into this call. In most areas, I can test my Baofeng and I can hit our HAM repeater with it. I didn't try where we were (it was at home), but I live in an area much like the one shown. But we were having a difficult time even hearing dispatch. I should take one of the guys who I think would be game to hike back up in there one of these days, and see if a person on top of one of the hillocks, and one person down in a ravine is easier to get communication.

Cedar

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Re: Question -- From what we had to deal with the other night
« Reply #29 on: November 18, 2014, 02:21:54 PM »
Maybe in the future... haven't heard of anyone using drones yet. SAT phones work pretty good most of the time. If your really having Comm.'s problems at least in Oregon here is a great resource to use. http://www.mwave.org/