backcountry emergency communication

7:40 p.m. on November 9, 2002 (EST)

a.k.a. Evan C, Evan Crawford

I'm located on the West Coast in Canada (if it matters), and I'm looking finding something for use as emergency communicatoin in the backcountry. I was looking at a marine emergency VHF radio, but would like if possible to have something that works inland as well, and is maybe tunable to frequencies of my choice, instead of just channels (for logging road traffic monitoring), though that would be a bonus really. I was wondering what people use for an emergency communication method in the backcountry?


11:21 a.m. on November 11, 2002 (EST)
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I'm located on the West Coast in Canada (if it matters),

*** It matters, in a big way


... I was wondering what people use for an emergency communication method in the backcountry?

*** Unfortunately, this is something that is highly dependent on exactly where you are and who has jurisdiction for emergency ops in the area you are in at the moment. The answer can be anything from "set a signal fire" to "dial 911 on your cell phone" to "activate your EPRB" (satellite-based "emergency personal radio beacon"), to a dozen other methods.

*** You should probably contact SARBC to discuss the peculiarities of your application. They will be able to inform you of the regulations on radio-based communications in Canada (turns out there are special regs in addition when you get within something like 50 or 100 miles of the Canadian/US borders). The British Columbia Search and Rescue unit has an excellent website. They cover more than just BC.

*** a few comments though - VHF and UHF radios are limited to pretty much line of sight communications. There are repeaters in those bands that extend the effective range, but they are usually limited to use by the particular agency (for example, park rangers, Mounties, business services, ...) HF reaches farther. This includes the HF ham radio bands and the older 40-channel CB band. Aircraft, both private and commercial, generally monitor a couple of designated emergency frequencies (an aircraft radio is needed), and bush pilots monitor a particular CB channel (CB is in the 27 MHz, 11 meter band). The problem with HF is that the antenna needed is very large, typically 1/4 wavelength for any decent range (something like 3 meters long for the CB band, and up to 20 meters for some of the ham bands).

You can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar, and Inmarsat provide service, but these are pretty expensive. Globalstar is in serious financial trouble right now, so you would want to ask a lot of questions of them before spending the money. The Iridium phones are about the size of the old "brick" cell phones, but at least they seem to be financially stable for the next few years. Inmarsat phones are quite large - not the handset, but the box with the electronics and the antenna.

There are lots of options, but unfortunately no simple answers.

10:08 p.m. on November 11, 2002 (EST)

Thanks for that, lots of good places to start researching.


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