Angeles National Forest - Radioing for help?

kb2ztx

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Jul 29, 2012
Messages
793
Location
South West Virginia
For Xmas this year my wife bought me my Garmin Inreach Explorer+ (upgrade from the Mini) and for the $15.00 a month I wont go anywhere without it. I work in the industry also and have access to many radios systems via work, but Id most likely go to my Garmin if I didn't have cell coverage. Its on my backpack so even if I walk in a shelter to do work all I need to do is walk back outside. I got the first as many of the towers I would go to have no cell coverage at all.
 

uman18

Member
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
76
Location
PORT HUENEME,CA
I like to hike, I am also a ham operator. When I go hiking, I take my XTS5000 with FPP. It's preloaded with 2M simplex and repeater frequencies. I also make a note of the ham repeaters in the area before my hike, that I might be able to hit. Worse case during an emergency, I call for help on a ham repeater and another operator hears it. Ham operator calls 9-1-1, 9-1-1 lets the helicopter know I have a ham radio, helicopter can FPP my 2M ham freq and we can talk.

Or I just send the GPS coordinates to the ham operator and they provide them to rescue helicopter. Stay off public safety radio systems, use what you are able to use only.
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
16,592
Location
From the land of sky blue waters!
What is FPP?
Front Panel Programming.

It's a feature on some professional radios that was intended only for federal users. The NTIA permits programming channels on the fly in some applications. On the FCC/non-Federal side, options like FPP are usually not allowed by rule, however many state fire agencies are using it. In the right hands, it's a wonderful tool.

In the wrong hands, it's a mess.

Ham operators who use professional/LMR radios like it since you can make changes on the fly for amateur radio use. While it doesn't fully replace programming via software, it does give you some options.
 

es93546

A Member Twice
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Aug 18, 2020
Messages
593
Location
East of the Sierra Crest-Right Side of CA on Map
Front Panel Programming.

It's a feature on some professional radios that was intended only for federal users. The NTIA permits programming channels on the fly in some applications. On the FCC/non-Federal side, options like FPP are usually not allowed by rule, however many state fire agencies are using it. In the right hands, it's a wonderful tool.

In the wrong hands, it's a mess.

Ham operators who use professional/LMR radios like it since you can make changes on the fly for amateur radio use. While it doesn't fully replace programming via software, it does give you some options.
I'm very experienced the benefits of FPP, which all of the BK handhelds had. We had some mobiles we could do the same with, but not very many. Arriving on a hot fire, checking in and being sent to a hot portion of a fire, getting a copy of the incident comm plan right at the check in location, and programming all the crew's radios with it, was fast. I would get mine programmed per the plan and quickly clone all the rest. My radio had the switch connection and I carried a cloning cable in the glove compartment of my work truck at all times and one in my war bag if I was sent to incidents by aircraft. Fortunately, these radios don't end up in the wrong hands very often, the potential harm that can be done is staggering.
 

avascan522

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Messages
199
Location
California
I know a lot has already been said by many who are clearly intensely passionate about this subject, but I just have this to offer to the OP in regards to his question:

To summarize what everyone has said, you have to do things the old fashioned way if you get lost in the woods with your radio and the only repeater you can reach is USFS.
You have three options:

A. Hike yourself out.
B. Wait to be found (maybe put some sticks together in a big X, since lighting signal fires would be ill-advised.)
C. Die of exposure, starvation, or dehydration.

This is, of course, if you don't have a satellite device of some kind, but what's the fun in that? Not everyone is made of money.

Might as well stay at home ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

jonwienke

More Info Coming Soon!
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jul 18, 2014
Messages
13,465
Location
VA
A radio periodically broadcasting APRS pings on a frequency known to potential rescuers would be a better alternative to B.
 

es93546

A Member Twice
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Aug 18, 2020
Messages
593
Location
East of the Sierra Crest-Right Side of CA on Map
I know a lot has already been said by many who are clearly intensely passionate about this subject, but I just have this to offer to the OP in regards to his question:

To summarize what everyone has said, you have to do things the old fashioned way if you get lost in the woods with your radio and the only repeater you can reach is USFS.
You have three options:

A. Hike yourself out.
B. Wait to be found (maybe put some sticks together in a big X, since lighting signal fires would be ill-advised.)
C. Die of exposure, starvation, or dehydration.

This is, of course, if you don't have a satellite device of some kind, but what's the fun in that? Not everyone is made of money.

Might as well stay at home ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Actually, staying in one place, i.e. option 2 is recommended in nearly every document about getting lost, traveling in wildland areas, etc.. It is the basis of the "Hug a Tree" campaign for young children. Signal fires have sometimes cost a few million to tens of millions to put out. It is better to use rocks to spell out "help." Sticks are not visible enough. A SPOT device costs about $200-225. A network service plan costs about $25/year. This is less than the equipment a person should be carrying when backcountry skiing, which includes a shovel, avalanche beacon, probes, avalanche assessment tools, a minimum 3 day avalanche training class, clothing layers, boots, skis, poles, goggles and anything I've forgotten now that I'm old and have limited mobility. The SPOT device also has map features and GPS that are useful all the time, not just for emergencies. Hiking costs far less than many other activities. I think of my $3200 carbon fiber road bicycle when I started to get serious about cycling as a exercise. I think about the cost of a pickup and just a shell camper, a RV, a boat, ham radio equipment, downhill skiing, boats for fishing or water skiing, fly fishing, snowmobiles, motorcycles, ATV/UTV's etc. Getting the best equipment for day hiking and backpacking is not cheap, but the startup costs are far lower than those other activities. If a person is able to afford the best and most durable equipment it can last decades without replacement. SPOT devices can save lives, not only your own, but the lives of people you might come across while hiking. That SPOT device in those circumstances is priceless.

I also recommend people carrying some type of fabric that contrasts with the ground and vegetation in the area a person is going hiking in. I carry an emergency poncho that is blaze orange. That doesn't work well in the slickrock country of southern Utah and northern Arizona where the predominant rock and soil is a reddish and orange color, so I also have a bright blue space blanket for those circumstances. I almost always carry a wool sweater and full Gore-Tex gear (parka and pants) on nearly every day hike and all overnight hikes. I carry the layer I know I absolutely don't need on a hike, that way I have what I need when things happen and they do if you are outside enough. I also carry a compass with a mirror for sighting the direction while looking through the "sight." It makes a great signaling mirror for aircraft. If a person does not know how to use a compass and map, they should not be hiking. Check the "ten essentials" for outdoor travel and always include those in a pack, along with other items depending on the location and climate.
 
Last edited:

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
16,592
Location
From the land of sky blue waters!
That SPOT device in those circumstances is priceless.
I carry a Garmin.
And I agree 100%. People that go out in to the wilderness unprepared not only risk their own lives, but those of the rescuers. A ham radio, be it $25 or $2500, isn't the correct tool. Use what you have in a true emergency, but failing to prepare isn't a good reason.
 

es93546

A Member Twice
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Aug 18, 2020
Messages
593
Location
East of the Sierra Crest-Right Side of CA on Map
I carry a Garmin.
And I agree 100%. People that go out in to the wilderness unprepared not only risk their own lives, but those of the rescuers. A ham radio, be it $25 or $2500, isn't the correct tool. Use what you have in a true emergency, but failing to prepare isn't a good reason.
I used to deal with unprepared people nearly daily. However, keep in mind that we all lacked skills at some point of our lives. Unprepared people are pushing the envelope too fast, too far and are out of their element. Those of us who have skill now have pushed the envelope at times, but in a more prepared way. In my case I was in the Boy Scouts of America as a cub, scout, explorer and camp staff where I learned a lot about backpacking as my troops and the explorer post I was in were into backpacking and car camping as well, with a minimum of one outing per month. This after having meetings every week where training for these outings took center stage. Later I was a assistant Scoutmaster for over 10 years. Those who missed those opportunities can find a club of some kind in cities that teach these skills. I'm fortunate to have attended a forestry school at a good university that included about as much map and compass training as you can get. I have some graduate units in air photo interpretation as well. I also have something in my genetics that gives me a pretty good internal compass and I count myself as very lucky on that.

As a U.S. Forest Service employee it was rewarding (to say the least) to work with the public and help them in the field. This is where I got the chance to be an educator. I've set up so many tents that didn't belong to me that I've long ago lost count. I've made repairs to equipment in the backcountry. I've even taught a bit of topo map interpretation along with some basic compass skills in the backcountry when I was invited to join around campfires of others. I've helped many with blisters and ill fitting boots. It was a privilege. Most of these folks were prepared for sunny weather with temps above 40 degrees. It is when it snows 12" (or more in one case) in the backcountry in August that is gets interesting. When it storms and gets cold is when skills are tested. It is when a trail junction sign is missing or misinterpreted that things get interesting. It is when people try to take shortcuts that things happen. It is when the equipment is too cheap or not suited for the activity that gets people in trouble. It is when vehicles break down on roads that don't get more than a couple of cars a month that result in disaster. It is when people haven't changed a tire on their car in years, then find the lug nut wrench is missing or that the jack doesn't work anymore. Or worse, they haven't checked the air in their spare in years either.

With the wonderful experiences and training I've had I would be still be carrying a Spot device with texting capability now, if I still had that mobility. $250 to buy and $25 a year is not a high price to pay for what is provides. However, the down side is some people going further and doing things they should not because they have one. I've been hearing about that since I retired.

There used to be a website that listed the ham frequencies and repeaters for Pacific Crest Trail users. There is a surprising amount of PCT mileage that is covered by ham repeaters. The ham radio I used in the backcountry prior to me having to give it up due to some mobility issues (arthritic knees) was the TH-28A. It has coverage from 144-174 MHz, so that when I was still a USFS employee I could utilize it in emergencies on all federal public lands. It was often the only thing that would work as satellite units hadn't been invented during most of my career and backpacking days.
 

KF6DGN

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
110
Location
Grid Square: DM13
an emergency, I call for help on a ham repeaHam operator calls 9-1-1, 9-1-1 lets the helicopter know I have a ham radio, helicopter can FPP my 2M ham freq and we can talk.

Or I just send the GPS coordinates to the ham operator and they provide them to rescue helicopter. Stay off public safety radio systems, use what you are able to use only.
Question is it legal for non licensed first responder to use amateur frequencies? I doubt the helicopter crew can program their radios, to get to a simplex ham frequencies unless it’s already programmed.
 

PrivatelyJeff

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
819
Location
Kings County, CA
Question is it legal for non licensed first responder to use amateur frequencies? I doubt the helicopter crew can program their radios, to get to a simplex ham frequencies unless it’s already programmed.
AFAIK most rescue aircraft radios are fully front panel programmable. I’ve frequently heard flight crews get told frequencies and tones to punch in. Now as to using ham frequencies without a license, they probably wouldn’t but even if they did, I doubt anyone would care to do anything about it.
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
16,592
Location
From the land of sky blue waters!
Question is it legal for non licensed first responder to use amateur frequencies? I doubt the helicopter crew can program their radios, to get to a simplex ham frequencies unless it’s already programmed.
Non-licensed? No. Licensed? Yes.

For non-federal users, the FCC addresses this in the Part 90 rules:
§90.417 Interstation communication.
(a) Any station licensed under this part may communicate with any other station without restriction as to type, service, or licensee when the communications involved relate directly to the imminent safety-of-life or property.

^^^ this is what amateurs THINK they have, but they do not. The FCC Part 97 rules are not worded like this and do not grant any authorization outside of amateur radio frequencies.




And as PJ said above, the radios used in those aircraft are agile and can be programmed from the front panel, if they have an FM capable radio, which many public safety aircraft do have.
 

KK4JUG

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 13, 2014
Messages
3,634
Location
GA
This thread is very helpful. If I get lost and it become an emergency situation, I'm gonna recall this thread so I can determine whether I can call for help with no fear of going to jail. Or not.

More than likely, I'll take advantage of any resources available to me, be it smoke signals, tin cans and a string, yelling or something electronic and, no offense, guys, you'll be really low on my list of priorities.
 

inigo88

California DB Admin
Database Admin
Joined
Oct 31, 2004
Messages
1,877
Location
San Diego, CA
Fortunately, these radios don't end up in the wrong hands very often, the potential harm that can be done is staggering.
Keep in mind that while this may be true with Bendix-King FPP radios, every cheap Chinese Baofeng HT now features FPP programming and covers both the federal VHF and UHF frequency ranges, for under $100. That genie is out of the bottle and it's not going back in.
 

PaulNDaOC

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Mar 8, 2009
Messages
577
Location
Orange County,Ca
Hello! I was recently speaking with a fellow enthusiast and they said if you are hiking at ANF and you get stuck or need emergency help, you can tune to one of the main input "net" frequencies (admin, law, forest, service) and you can broadcast to them for help.

Naturally, I am extremely skeptical. The legal ramifications of doing this notwithstanding, and assuming you are actually carrying a powerful enough radio, has anyone ever heard of this being a viable method of emergency communication to the FS?

I have not heard of this being allowed, but I am not an avid listener of the ANF radio, nor am I familiar with their systems so I cannot comment for definitively.

Can anyone shed some light?
Thanks!
-SHL
If I am in dire need of help to heck with the legal issues that could arise.
 

KK4JUG

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 13, 2014
Messages
3,634
Location
GA
I s'pose, in a real emergency, it's probably better to ask for forgiveness than permission but I can see it getting out of hand. There are emergencies and then there are emergencies. A broken leg? I'll give you that one. But how 'bout:

"Hello, Forest Service? I'm out of cigarettes. Can y'all bring a couple of packs up here?" or "We need some red wine with our hamburgers. My wife brought white wine."
 
Top