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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wilderness Protocol for Emergencies on 146.520 MHz

Since March of 2014 when I became active in SOTA, I have not seen any postings about the Wilderness Protocol for 146.520 MHz simplex. I have found many new hams are not aware of it. So unless I have missed something on the website, perhaps now is a good time for a review. The Wilderness Protocol is basically a schedule for transmitting and receiving on the national calling frequency of 146.520 MHz FM simplex when one is in the backcountry and requires assistance or communication where there is no repeater or cell phone coverage. The protocol works as follows: Beginning at 0700 hours local time until 2200 hours, every three hours (0700, 1000, 1300 etc.) from the top of the hour until five minutes past the hour, one can put out a call on 146.520 MHz if they need assistance. This way one can conserve the battery in an HT. If a search and rescue (SAR) team is looking for someone, knowing when they would be transmitting would be useful. However for the protocol to work, others who are in the backcountry should also listen during the five minute increments to ascertain whether anyone is calling. Even if neither party is in an emergency situation, it is not a bad idea to find out who might be within radio range of you by putting out a general call during the five minute window. In my pre-SOTA backpacking days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, I have put out calls during the protocol times and more than once linked up with another backpacker several peaks over. The Wilderness Protocol is not something I made up. One can do an Internet search and find numerous hits. While the protocol advises making transmissions on the calling frequencies for other VHF and UHF bands, I believe that 146.520 MHz would work best since most everyone has a 2 meter HT. Every time I leave a hiking plan with my XYL (KB6LAS) when I am going on a solo activation, I list that I will be adhering to the Wilderness Protocol. The protocol along with tracks of my APRS beacons and history of activation spots on sotawatch.org give me peace of mind that should a misfortune occur when I am on a SOTA, there would be a way for a SAR team to locate me.
On another topic of 146.520 MHz, there is a lot of 2 meter simplex activity where chasers are looking for activators in Southern California. While I have made my share of contacts on 146.520 MHz when I am on a summit, I try not to dominate the national calling frequency from a high altitude location to the exclusion of everyone else who may not be interested in SOTA. Therefore if I want to make a 2 meter SOTA contact, I may put out a call on 146.520 but then advise that I will be listening on either 146.550 or 146.580 MHz. When I post an alert of an upcoming SOTA, in the notes section I list that I will be monitoring 146.580 MHz. Therefore while I am making HF contacts from the summit, I can have my HT on 146.580 MHz in the background and any chaser or nearby activator looking for an S2S can call me at any time without me having to post a separate spot for 2 meters. It is much easier to listen to a generally quiet 2 meter frequency while on HF than the usual traffic one might hear on 146.520 MHz.
73 de Scott WA9STI
Los Angeles, CA and Eagle River, WI

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