Author Topic: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol  (Read 10480 times)

Offline Tactical Badger

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Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« on: August 10, 2009, 08:34:07 AM »
This was a new one on me.  I stumbled across it this morning while thumbing through an A.R.E.S. Field Guide.

Basically, it is the practice of monitoring the National Simplex Frequencies for five minutes at the top of every hour to listen for distress calls.

A couple of articles I found about it.

http://n5fdl.com/davids-blog/2009/6/1/wilderness-protocol-for-outdoor-adventure.html

http://k4jwm.wikidot.com/wilderness-protocol

If you're a member of ARRL, you can do a search on past QST articles and find the oirginal proposal for the idea back in 1994.

I like this idea a lot.  It makes sense to incorporate it into any Comm's Protocol you might have with your friends or family or a MAG.

I don't know if it just didn't catch on, but I stumbled across it comepletely by accident.  It seems like something that should get publicized and encouraged.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 08:36:34 AM by Tactical Badger »

Offline Beetle

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 01:23:11 PM »
  It's a great idea, kind of like monitoring channel 9 on the CB.

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2009, 01:45:46 PM »
Yeah.  Except...it's not that icky 11 Meter stuff. ;D

Offline firetoad

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2009, 01:49:55 PM »
Good stuff!  Thanks TB! 

I was not aware of this protocol.

Offline ColdHaven

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2009, 05:28:15 PM »
Unless I missed it I noticed that there is not a monitored frequency for GMRS or FRS which some hikers carry and use.

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2009, 12:32:21 AM »
Cool links TB.

+1 to you sir.

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2009, 12:36:13 AM »
Unless I missed it I noticed that there is not a monitored frequency for GMRS or FRS which some hikers carry and use.

Here ya go CH....
GMRS & FRS Frequencies.

Offline Steve W

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2009, 06:02:17 AM »
This was a new one on me.  I stumbled across it this morning while thumbing through an A.R.E.S. Field Guide.

Basically, it is the practice of monitoring the National Simplex Frequencies for five minutes at the top of every hour to listen for distress calls.

...............

I don't know if it just didn't catch on, but I stumbled across it comepletely by accident.  It seems like something that should get publicized and encouraged.

Proposals for Emergency Frequencies have yet to achieve enough of a "critical mass" to be useful.

There is the 5.167.5 Mhz (SSB Only): Alaska emergency calling frequency as the main exception.

Many Emcomm Trainers ask their people, as a matter of good operating practice, to monitor 146.52 Mhz, the National VHF Calling Frequency, but little mention is made of the Wilderness Protocol.

Unless the Wilderness Protocol has widespread adoption it will a gamble whether it will pay to either monitor it, or expect a response if in an emergency.

In an emergency it might be better to plan to interrupt a known active net frequency than call blind on a proposed set of frequencies.

Offline ColdHaven

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2009, 07:58:49 AM »
Here ya go CH....
GMRS & FRS Frequencies.

Thanks for the link, but I don' t think I asked my question clearly. What I was meaning was, that of the listed frequencies mentioned for this Wilderness Protocol, none of them were a frequency used on GMRS or FRS frequencies which hikers and campers use. Doing some research I found that there have been some suggested emergency channels for GMRS/FRS, but none that have been universally accepted.

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2009, 09:05:51 AM »
Proposals for Emergency Frequencies have yet to achieve enough of a "critical mass" to be useful.

Which is why I would like to see a movement to get the word out and hopefully this idea will gain some traction towards being implemented in more organizations.

b]Many Emcomm Trainers ask their people, as a matter of good operating practice, to monitor 146.52 Mhz, the National VHF Calling Frequency, but little mention is made of the Wilderness Protocol. [/b]

I think it needs to be a more "grassroots" kind of effort to get the word out.

Unless the Wilderness Protocol has widespread adoption it will a gamble whether it will pay to either monitor it, or expect a response if in an emergency.

I don't see the down side to monitoring the frequencies.  Yes, the odds are pretty long that you will actually hear a distress call on Amateur Radio simplex frequencies.  But, if that happens to be the only means of communications the person that needs help has...I know I would like to have that option available to me if I was in trouble.

b]In an emergency it might be better to plan to interrupt a known active net frequency than call blind on a proposed set of frequencies.[/b]

The whole idea of the Wilderness Protocol was to enable a person would can not reach a repeater, and therefore a Net, to be able to make contact with another amateur radio operator.  Yes, this is more applicable in wilderness areas.  But, once again, if it was the only option I had to make contact during an emergency...in any location...I would be really happy to know that there were a group of people listening to a given frequency at a given time when I needed help.

Offline Steve W

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2009, 09:20:18 AM »
Which is why I would like to see a movement to get the word out and hopefully this idea will gain some traction towards being implemented in more organizations.

I think it needs to be a more "grassroots" kind of effort to get the word out.

I don't see the down side to monitoring the frequencies.  Yes, the odds are pretty long that you will actually hear a distress call on Amateur Radio simplex frequencies.  But, if that happens to be the only means of communications the person that needs help has...I know I would like to have that option available to me if I was in trouble.

The whole idea of the Wilderness Protocol was to enable a person would can not reach a repeater, and therefore a Net, to be able to make contact with another amateur radio operator.  Yes, this is more applicable in wilderness areas.  But, once again, if it was the only option I had to make contact during an emergency...in any location...I would be really happy to know that there were a group of people listening to a given frequency at a given time when I needed help.


If in Fifteen Years of being knocked around by the Amateur Radio community as a whole an idea hasn't gone anywhere, perhaps it needs rethinking.

That said, perhaps we can provide the catalyst to brighten the idea enough to be useful and adopted.

Until that change happens I certainly agree that adding these frequencies to scanned frequencies is a good idea.  Easy, no cost and could save a life.

Not very certain if coaching to blind transmit on these possibly unmonitored frequencies is a good idea though, specially if battery life is at a premium.

Pondering that if in truly remote areas wouldn't a portable HF rig or ELT be a better carry?





Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2009, 09:51:08 AM »
I hear ya'.  Maybe the Preparedness crowd is the place to start with getting the ball rolling.

Yes, I would agree...an HF rig would be much better suited to having with you in the wilderness.  But, the same logic as the Wilderness Protocol could be applied to HF freq's.  Like you said, if battery life is critical, then you'd want to know that someone was actually listening for your call.

And, as the author's of the articles pointed out, it doesn't just have to be about getting help when you're out in the wilderness.  It just seems logical to me that if this protocol were in place, you could count on someone hearing your call no matter where you were.  I know everyone thinks that cell phones are the panacea when it comes to getting help quickly.  But, they don't always work.  I know my HT will take a dunking and still work where my cell phone won't.  My cell phone is dependent on a whole lot of technology all being in place and in working order to function.  My HT does not.

Maybe it needs to be renamed the Emergency Protocol.  It's a system that could provide emergency communications no matter where you are, no matter if the "grid" is up or not.

leftcoastrightmind

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2009, 08:28:09 AM »
Unless I missed it I noticed that there is not a monitored frequency for GMRS or FRS which some hikers carry and use.

If you are in the wilderness ans all you have is the "Hikers" GMRS or FRS radio....you are SOL.  THose radios don't even have a full 5 watts to transmit.  However if You have an older Motorola commecial handheld , you can tune it up to what ever freq's you want and have the advantage of the full 5 watts.  Still not much better but something is better than nothing.

Offline ColdHaven

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2009, 08:33:32 AM »
If you are in the wilderness ans all you have is the "Hikers" GMRS or FRS radio....you are SOL.  THose radios don't even have a full 5 watts to transmit.  However if You have an older Motorola commecial handheld , you can tune it up to what ever freq's you want and have the advantage of the full 5 watts.  Still not much better but something is better than nothing.

Thats why Joy and I are strongly considering getting a HAM license and getting HAM handhelds at the very least.

Offline scoutmaster

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2009, 10:19:37 AM »
I was not even in the wilderness, during the East Coast black out. I was out in a car in a major city's suburbs.  When the power went out I had a cell phone, I had what was so post to be a top of the line Microwave linked  genny backed up mobil radio system provided from where I worked,  We had access to the twisted pair, (old  wired phones). They all failed. All of them. I pulled a VHF mobil and a mag mount antenna out of my brief case and was able to contact my XYL at home.

The big thing that every one does not seem to understand is during a true SHTF or apparently now with the Government proposing a law that lets them shut down the internet, and I would guess cells. You will not be able to depend on anything that depends on any kind of infrastructure support. None  Had it not been for ham radio my wife qnd I would not have talked for hours, My son who was 40 miles away would not have known what to do for the whole three and one half days the grid was down.

it is really not something to guess at, if you want to be able to communicate with family members, or friends Ham radio is the only for sure way you can do that. It could be set up as a second or third back up as mine was. First was cell it was dead, second was wired phones it was out of order, third was Ham radio it worked.  Now with the smaller multi band radios, UHF,VHF and HF I would go with one of those. In fact I have one. I can now be 200 miles from home, to far for VHf and still talk to them at home from my car, any time with out question. it;s the beauty of ham radio there are bands for every need.
If communications is important to you There is no other way, if it is not worth a little work them it is not worth it.
Just my thoughts
SM

Offline Pukwudji

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2009, 10:54:01 AM »
If you could get the states to post on all the state park signs something like "The following radio frequencies are suggested for reporting or listening for emergencies:"  Maybe with some disclaimer that these are or are not monitored by forestry service personnel (ham chanles could be monitored but not responded to by forestry or police employees).

leftcoastrightmind

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2009, 08:24:50 AM »
Anybody may use any equipment available to them in the event of an emergency where life or property is threatened.  That is what the rule says.  So even if you are not a licensed ham, get the gear.  Learn how to use it.  Let's face it, in a SHTF scenario, who cares if you are licensed or not.  No one will come down on you if you are in an emergency.  Gear is cheap on ebay.  150 bucks will typically get you a nice handheld 2m radio.
Just a thought
Jimmy,
KI6LUC

Offline Pukwudji

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2009, 10:27:42 AM »
I think for a few hours of study and $15 for the test there's no reason not to get the license.  And relying on any equipment that you haven't practiced with is just foolish.  Also, thinking you can get away with "learn how to use it" before the SHTF you don't understand Hams.  Many Hams volunteer to assist the FCC with enforcement, including using radio direction finding gear (these are simple antennas and a signal strength meter) to find out where the unauthorized transmissions are coming from.  I've seen people get fined $10,000 for this.  It isn't work it.

Do a little study, get the license, and practice so you know how to use the equipment when the SHTF.

Also, you can often find inexpensive 2m handhelds (referred to as Handy Talkies or HT's) in the $50 range. 

Just remember that these are low power and the signals don't go much over a mile or so in a city environment.  If you have direct line of sight with a repeater from where you are you might get 5 miles.  Look for a $100-150 mobile unit instead.  They have the power to reach out a lot farther.  Of course if you are thinking only of wilderness use, you may never have more than a mile of line-of-sight in the mountains anyway so this might not be a big consideration.  You can, however, pay a little more for your mobile unit (mobile means car stereo size) and get a true dual-band radio which will do repeating.  Then you can park your truck at the top of the hill and leave the radio on so it can retransmit the signal you send from your HT.
-Brian

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2009, 11:15:12 AM »
I have to agree with getting your license and actually using the equipment before you need to.  Passing the test is just the first step to being able to get on the air.  There is a whole lot to learn that isn't on any test.  The majority of the practical knowledge of Amateur radio comes from actually using the equipment.  For example, I don't remember the test having anything about PL tones on it.  And, you'll need to know how to program PL tones to use just about any repeater, at least in my area.

As I recall...the test was primarily about the rules of Amateur radio, not the how-to.

Another example, the test asks about SWR ratios, but it doesn't give you the first clue on how to fix a high SWR ratio.

Get the license, use the equipment, know what you're doing...before TSHTF.

Offline Pukwudji

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #19 on: September 02, 2009, 11:46:19 AM »
SWR is a good topic to think about.  If you don't have a lot of experience with antennas and tuning them you could very easily fry your transmitter.  Contrary to popular belief you can't just roll out a hunk of wire or string it in a tree and use it for a Ham antenna.  There is a very exacting science behind wire resistance, inductance, wire length, and where on the 'antenna' you make your connection.  If you get this wrong you end up with a high SWR.

SWR is Standing Wave Ratio.  Basically you can think of it as a reflection of the signal you are sending down the wire.  As the "signal" is actual electrical wattage if too much of that comes back and hits your transmitter for too long you can cook it.  I've oversimplified this a bit but I wanted to illustrate that not practicing a lot (an hour a year is NOT enough) can have adverse affects.  Also, do you know how much power and at what frequency it takes to actually cause physical harm to a human being?  Thing about that before you ask your kid to "climb up that tree with this antenna and point it toward town while I try to reach help".  RF burns are possible at as little as 50 watts at high frequencies.  At the right power and frequency your antenna can be used to cook hot dogs for dinner.... 

These are just some reasons why getting your license and practicing is very important.

-Brian

leftcoastrightmind

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #20 on: September 02, 2009, 02:20:53 PM »
I think for a few hours of study and $15 for the test there's no reason not to get the license.  And relying on any equipment that you haven't practiced with is just foolish.  Also, thinking you can get away with "learn how to use it" before the SHTF you don't understand Hams.  Many Hams volunteer to assist the FCC with enforcement, including using radio direction finding gear (these are simple antennas and a signal strength meter) to find out where the unauthorized transmissions are coming from.  I've seen people get fined $10,000 for this.  It isn't work it.

Do a little study, get the license, and practice so you know how to use the equipment when the SHTF.

Also, you can often find inexpensive 2m handhelds (referred to as Handy Talkies or HT's) in the $50 range. 

Just remember that these are low power and the signals don't go much over a mile or so in a city environment.  If you have direct line of sight with a repeater from where you are you might get 5 miles.  Look for a $100-150 mobile unit instead.  They have the power to reach out a lot farther.  Of course if you are thinking only of wilderness use, you may never have more than a mile of line-of-sight in the mountains anyway so this might not be a big consideration.  You can, however, pay a little more for your mobile unit (mobile means car stereo size) and get a true dual-band radio which will do repeating.  Then you can park your truck at the top of the hill and leave the radio on so it can retransmit the signal you send from your HT.
-Brian

Actually I do understand hams.  Very well indeed.  You see I am one of those folks.  We do regular "foxhunts" here in Cali on the Monterrey bay.  The intent of the post was to prepare folks for what could come.  I don't think my wife or daughter could give a darn about radio facts and technical jargon they will never learn or use, however the basic operation of a piece of communications equipment is a valuable skill.  I didn't say to start transmitting at will.....at any rate I think I will back out of this for now cuz I am clearly giving out mis information.

Offline Pukwudji

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #21 on: September 02, 2009, 02:50:26 PM »
Don't sweat it.  I don't want to say you were wrong.  The biggest part of the point I wanted to get across is a Ham license is so easy (7 and 8 year olds do it all the time) that just about anyone could do it with minimal time and money investment AND that one should never have to rely on any part of your survival gear that you don't or can't regularly practice with.

Brian

Offline Beetle

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #22 on: September 03, 2009, 02:28:36 AM »
Oregon State SAR is 155.805 and it is monitored during the daytime by State OEM. You might check out your states SAR freq and put it in your radio's.

Offline Pukwudji

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #23 on: September 03, 2009, 07:23:08 AM »
 :(  155.08 is outside of normal Ham bands.  Some radios that have large Rx ranges might be able to monitor but the odds are you won't be able to transmit on that frequency.

-Brian

Offline Beetle

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Re: Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol
« Reply #24 on: September 03, 2009, 12:50:02 PM »
  True that... Some radios are easily "modified" and in a SHTF scenario might come in handy. If you don't want to modify a radio might be worth the investment to buy a radio that can go out of the ham bands for emergency's. Most radios can at least monitor out of ham bands if you don't want to buy another radio. Might give you a heads up to listen in, in an emergency.