As some of you may know, I’ve been working on an up to date and accurate listing of repeaters in the East Tennessee area. That project is still in the works and getting closer to being complete. While gathering data for my list, I’ve done numerous searches online and have been on countless websites.
One of the things that I’ve ran across several times now is the “Wilderness Protocol.” As I’m sitting here tonight looking through an ARRL Repeater Directory, I see something about it again, and that’s the inspiration to write this post.
Here is what the Repeater Directory has to say…“The Wilderness Protocol is a suggestion that those outside of repeater range should monitor standard simplex channels at specific times in case others have priority calls. The primary frequency is 146.52 MHz, with 52.525, 223.5, 446.0 and 1294.5 MHz serving as secondary frequencies. This system was conceived to facilitate communications between hams that were hiking or backpacking in uninhabited areas, outside repeater range. However, the Wilderness Protocol should not be viewed as something just for hikers. It can (and should) be used by everyone anywhere repeater coverage is unavailable. The protocol only becomes effective when many people use it.” “The Wilderness Protocol recommends that those stations able to do so should monitor the primary (and secondary if possible) frequency every three hours starting at 7 am, local time for 5 minutes (7:00-7:05 am, 10:00-10:05 am, ….). Additionally, those stations that have sufficient power resources should monitor for 5 minutes at the top of every hour, or even continuously.”
What this all boils down to, is that it’s a recommendation that we all monitor the designated calling frequencies. Last summer while on my cross country road trip (over 4,400 miles), I had my Yaesu 857 in the car with me. For the vast majority of the trip it stayed on 146.520 MHz. Sure, I wasn’t hiking that distance, but as the Repeater Directory says, this isn’t just about hiking.
The calling channels are there for just as their name says, to place calls to other amateurs. We may be in an unfamiliar area and not know the frequencies or the required tones to access local repeaters if we need directions or have some type of emergency. If more hams simply monitored the calling channel(s), amateur radio could be MUCH more useful when it’s needed.
Back to my road trip… Because of prior planning and knowing that I’d be without cell phone coverage for much of the time I was travelling across Wyoming, I did some research weeks before the trip about what repeaters were out there. I had a list of the frequencies, tones and the mile markers where they have coverage. However, there were still gaps in coverage where I relied on 146.520 simplex and the hope that if we needed anything, someone somewhere would be monitoring.
Out of 79 hours in the vehicle driving with probably 65 of those hours monitoring 146.520, I heard one conversation on it between two hams in Wyoming who were so close, they preferred not to tie up a repeater. While inside Yellowstone, I saw several amateur radio license plates and almost every one of these vehicles had at least one antenna, but every CQ I put out on 146.520 was met with dead silence.
Back home to East Tennessee, I keep 146.520, 446.000 and several of the common simplex frequencies from each band in my radios scan list. Unless I’m talking to someone, my radio is in scan and monitoring those frequencies. Same for my truck’s radio. I have heard stations traveling on I-40 calling on simplex and answered them. Thankfully none of the calls were for emergencies, but I know I enjoy when someone answers my call. I’m sure those hams were grateful also.
I know there are a few hams that like to carry on conversations on 146.520, making it undesirable to listen to. Those still seem to be few and far between.
All of that was just to make a suggestion… Whatever radios you may have, check to make sure you have these frequencies programmed in and keep an ear on them when you can. You never know when someone may be passing through and just looking for someone to talk to, or when someone may be in need of some type of assistance and the calling channels are the only frequency they know because they’re not from the area.
It’s a simple act that may make a big difference someday.