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Author Topic: Non "disaster" emergency situations  (Read 14321 times)
JONHELD
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« on: June 14, 2011, 07:16:39 AM »

I am new to this whole thing (passed my tech exam last night), so please forgive me if this question has been asked before. I did spend a brief amount of time searching.

I am part of an off-road club and I help organize events throughout the northeast. Several of our club members are now moving to 2M as that is becoming more and more popular within the off-road community.

I spent a fair amount of time researching emergency procedures, but everything has to do with a widespread disaster scenario. My query is in regards to an individual injury in a remote area without cell reception. How do I contact local police/EMS on 2M?

I am aware of local repeaters and have already programmed them into my radio along with the “national calling frequency”, but that is subject to who happens to be listening at any given time. Do local police/EMS monitor these on a regular basis similar to CB CH9? Am I on my own? Is there something else I’m missing?

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

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KC2UGV
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2011, 08:24:25 AM »

I am new to this whole thing (passed my tech exam last night), so please forgive me if this question has been asked before. I did spend a brief amount of time searching.

I am part of an off-road club and I help organize events throughout the northeast. Several of our club members are now moving to 2M as that is becoming more and more popular within the off-road community.

I spent a fair amount of time researching emergency procedures, but everything has to do with a widespread disaster scenario. My query is in regards to an individual injury in a remote area without cell reception. How do I contact local police/EMS on 2M?

You probably wont be able to.  Phone patches are gone by the wayside.  However, many operators will be more than happy to relay.

Quote
I am aware of local repeaters and have already programmed them into my radio along with the “national calling frequency”, but that is subject to who happens to be listening at any given time. Do local police/EMS monitor these on a regular basis similar to CB CH9? Am I on my own? Is there something else I’m missing?

Thanks in advance for any assistance.



No, police generally do not monitor amateur repeaters.  I don't think many monitor Ch9 either.

Your best bet:  Don't consider ham radio to be a lifeline.  If you need a life line:
http://www.boatbandit.com/acr-aquafix-406-personal-locator-beacon-w-onboard-gps-4423.aspx

Or, similar item.
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K7RBW
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2011, 09:10:23 AM »

Depending on how prepared you want to be, you could scout out relay sites and position club members along the route. You could do this each time you have an event or plan these positions so people could go there when the need arises. Mtn-top locations are usually pretty enviable locations so you might have people competing for the privilege of being having Mtn-top duty.

Around here, many of the mtn's that are vehicle accesible already have commercial stations on them so you might need to get permission to go up there. The success of that will depend on your diplomacy.

When I was wheelin', we expected to be self-sufficient as a group and would generally deal with problems on our own, including transporting injured vehicles or people to where they could be rescued. That was part of the risk/adventure: avoiding injury to people or vehicles as much as possible and when that failed, dealing with it as necessary.

It all depends on what sort of response time you expect. You should be prepared to deal with whatever happens for at least as long as it'll take help to arrive. At the same time, there are things you can do to help improve the response time, depending on where you are. In any case, it might be that the fastest way to get help is just to send someone back to civilization rather than establish some elaborate radio relay.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2011, 11:12:48 AM »

....I spent a fair amount of time researching emergency procedures, but everything has to do with a widespread disaster scenario. My query is in regards to an individual injury in a remote area without cell reception. How do I contact local police/EMS on 2M?

I am aware of local repeaters and have already programmed them into my radio along with the “national calling frequency”, but that is subject to who happens to be listening at any given time. Do local police/EMS monitor these on a regular basis similar to CB CH9? Am I on my own? Is there something else I’m missing?  ....

No, you aren't missing anything.  You simply cannot rely on two meter ham radio for emergency communications.  The best you can do is to call on each of the repeaters you can reach (or a simplex frequency) and, if answered, request a relay to the proper authorities.  Most hams will do that for you without question.

Phone patches are becoming few and far between.  Although some repeaters do still have them, you have to be a member of the club or organization that hosts that repeater or subscribe to the repeater privilege list to be able to use the phone patch.  To my knowledge, there is only ONE club that advertizes its affiliation to the local police department in New England and actually has a ham radio monitored by the police department under the LiTZ protocol.

The LiTZ protocol is simply an attention getting transmission followed by a voice call.  LiTZ--Long Tone Zero--is done by keying your transceiver and pressing the 'zero' button on the keypad to send a DTMF tone over the air for at least five seconds.  (Note that you will have to follow your particular transceiver procedure to transmit touch tone transmissions.)  If someone responds to the LiTZ signal, you then tell them of the emergency and where help is needed.  This protocol is best used on local repeaters.

Another protocol used is the wilderness protocol.  This is used mainly on the national calling frequency of each band--for two meters, it is 146.52.  Anyone following this protocol is urged to monitor the calling frequency at the top of every hour for five to ten minutes.  People who need assistance should transmit a LiTZ tone or a general call for anyone (CQ call), and when answered, report their emergency and where help is needed.

Now, the caveat.  Not too many people monitor repeaters or the national calling frequency with much regularity anymore.  Since other modes of emergency communications have come out, these protocols are used less and less.  They should NOT be relied on for a genuine emergency.

And finally--the part that may get me shot.   Grin  It may be much better to either rent or buy a satellite phone for those outings and have it carried by a responsible member of the group on the outing.  That is one mode of emergency communications that will, almost certainly, be there when it is really needed.    
« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 11:16:27 AM by K1CJS » Logged
K7RBW
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2011, 05:42:06 PM »

And finally--the part that may get me shot.   Grin  It may be much better to either rent or buy a satellite phone for those outings and have it carried by a responsible member of the group on the outing.  That is one mode of emergency communications that will, almost certainly, be there when it is really needed.    

It's pretty sad that using the right tool for the job is seen as risky Sad

If you need a SPOT or an EPIRB, then that's what you should use. (IMNSHO)
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K1CJS
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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2011, 06:37:42 PM »

No, not risky.  I was just trying to inject a little humor into the situation.  Didn't you notice the smiley?
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W5LZ
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« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2011, 07:01:30 AM »

Emergencies come in all kinds of 'flavors'.  What may be an emergency to me doesn't necessarily consist of an emergency to others.  If it involves "life or limb" then you can safely figure it's an emergency.  During an emergency there are a lot of "rule breakings" that are forgiven.  The quick-n-dirty way of thinking about it is that 'anything goes' in that type of situation.  Use what you got available to you.  the idea is to get the request for help to the right place in a timely manner.  I just don't think amateur radio is a very reliable method of notifying the proper people.  It can certainly work, but don't count on it, you know?
Not a very satisfying way of thinking about it, but it's realistic.
Good luck.
 -Paul
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2011, 08:06:05 AM »

If it involves "life or limb" then you can safely figure it's an emergency.  During an emergency there are a lot of "rule breakings" that are forgiven.  The quick-n-dirty way of thinking about it is that 'anything goes' in that type of situation.  Use what you got available to you.
This is true. You can break in on police or military frequencies if need be, when there's life or limb on the line. You could also break in on satellite phone service, if you had the know-how.
In the past, you could even try using your amateur radio to transmit on the EPIRB frequencies of 121.5 and 406 MHz to get help; however, since there are so many false alarms from EPIRBS being incorrectly tested, or malfunctioning, a signal on 121.5 or 406 MHz will probably be ignored by the satellite as interference if it doesn't include the correct digital identifier.
Here in Norway, we have a safety radio system for forest workers and other outback people (Sikringsradio). In Alaska they have special emergency frequencies.
An EPIRB and a sat phone would indeed be ideal - but don't toss away your CB and amateur equipment either. Authorities may take some time to reach your location. In the mean time, you may reach people on CB and amateur frequencies/repeaters who are close by and can offer help.
As mentioned by K7RBW you could also set up relay positions in advance. You could perhaps partner with the local amateur radio club and treat it like a public service event. Perhaps they would appreciate the training.
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JONHELD
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« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2011, 11:20:42 AM »

You could perhaps partner with the local amateur radio club and treat it like a public service event. Perhaps they would appreciate the training.

Now that seems like the most logical appraoch. I will reach out to them. Thanks.
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W3LK
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« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2011, 01:40:45 PM »


This is true. You can break in on police or military frequencies if need be, when there's life or limb on the line. You could also break in on satellite phone service, if you had the know-how.

Be very careful with the above information. While it is technically true, and the FCC probably will not punish you for such actions, the licensee of whatever service you commandeer may very well prosecute you for unlawful use of their frequency and/or interference.

If you ever do it, be darn sure SOMEONE'S LIFE IS IN IMMINENT DANGER - and that there is absolutely no other communications method available to you.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2011, 06:07:19 PM »

No other agency will prosecute you either if the situation was truly life threatening (and if they did, they'd lose in court), but yeah don't interrupt the police frequencies to report trivial issues. The sat phone example is tricky, because if you interrupt it to call in about one person in mortal danger, perhaps you could interfere with several other emergency calls affecting more people. At least try to listen before transmitting.
With more and more trunked and encrypted communications, this is becoming more of an academic issue.

Another thing, is that if you need to be rescued from a situation that you caused yourself, you might have to pay for the rescue effort. So insurance might be a good idea. It's a bit out of the scope of this thread, but if you're going on an expedition far in the outback, it's something to look into.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2011, 06:26:05 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
K7RBW
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« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2011, 06:16:26 AM »

With most commercial, public service, and military communications going digital, in some form or another, it seems rather unlikely that you'd be able to interrupt and effectively communicate with them, without actually having one of their radios.
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JONHELD
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2011, 07:11:51 AM »

So I reached out to several HAM clubs that are somewhat local to the event area. Got zero responses. Reached out to local HAM clubs in my area to see when and where I could have a VE test administered. Sent over 50 emails. Got zero responses. Do I smell?

I found my name in the FCC database today. KD2AKI as of this morning. I will say that my first week or so trying to get some practical knowledge and to use this radio correctly and within the rules has been somewhat distasteful. I mean I realize that it's cool to discuss the finer points of different types of technology and to geek out over antenna design and all that, but I'm really trying to use this stuff in a practical way for a purpose other than "because I can" and I'm finding that most folks aren't interested in that.

I was in my local HAM shop and was discussing some interesting topics with the owner. This was before I took my exam. I told him that I was going to use my 2M setup for trail comms during events because I had read that 2M was vastly superior to CB. I was interested in trying to get more of my fellow club members involved in 2M. His response was, "That's not what HAM radio is about. HAM radio is about reaching out and contacting other HAMS." I was totally taken aback by this statement. A radio is a means of communication. It is a tool. Why wouldn't I use it for whatever means I see fit?

Maybe it's me.
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KS4VT
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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2011, 10:30:49 AM »

We have local saying for those who get their ham radio license for a specific purpose, like CERT, your situation, or cause the boss thinks it is a good idea.  That term is called "licensing by assignment".  The majority of those individuals have no real interest in the radio hobby and typicially the only time they use the radio is for a specific function or situation, like during a disaster.  What we have found locally is that those who have this mindset cannot operate their equipment when it is really needed.  Sort of like owning a fire arm for self-defense but you never have been to the range with it and have no idea how to reload it.

If in fact you are part of a club and what I mean by that it is 501c3, or some other organization, is that you look to utilize Part 90 VHF equipment where the organization holds the license and not the individual.  When you have that you can look for the ability to put up a Part 90 repeater in the area where you go off-roading for internal communications between the vehicles and there is no limitation as to usage,etc.

As to your troubles with the local ham clubs, having them participate in a large event once or twice a year shouldn't be difficult, but you need to go get involved with them and find out who the operators are face to face.  I'm not suprised that you received no responses to your query.
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JONHELD
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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2011, 12:16:55 PM »

Doesn't this seem a bit silly? It has to be all encompassing or nothing at all?
I have been involved in the off road community for the last 20 years. Some folks like to break their trucks on rocks. Some like to just set up camp with their families and hang out. All are equally welcome and there is no peer pressure to be or do anything more than what you're comfortable with.

So because I'm not immersed and using my radio every day, I won't know how to use it? I've been an engineer for the last 30 years. I'm pretty sure I'll figure it out. It's a radio you know.
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