Emergency use of HT while Backpacking

Discussion in 'On the Road' started by N6SRT, Jun 4, 2015.

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  1. AI7PM

    AI7PM Ham Member QRZ Page

    A while back the FCC clarified this miss-quoted rule.

    Your question was referred to me because it concerns the Commission’s amateur radio rules.

    Section 97.105(b) answers your question: “A station may only be operated in the manner and to the extent permitted by the privileges authorized for the class of operator license held by the control operator.” Control operator privileges are specified in Section 97.301.

    Part 97 does not contain any “privileges authorized” for amateur radio operators that include Part 90 or Part 95 frequencies. Part 90 and 95 both require the use of certificated equipment. See Section 90.203 and 95.409. Use of modified amateur radio transceivers on Part 90 or 95 frequencies violate the rules because modified amateur radio equipment is not certified for either Part 90 or 95 radio services.

    As you note, “The rules are clear that in order to use Part 90 or 95 spectrum, the operator must have the correct licensing and certified radios to use those services.” The debate you are referring to, therefore, comes down to “How can we get around the rules?” The answer is, “You can’t.” We will be happy to relieve you of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and your amateur radio license if you transmit on channels you are not licensed to transmit on.


    Wireless Telecommunications Bureau"


    §2.405 Operation during emergency.
    The licensee of any station (except amateur, standard broadcast, FM broadcast, noncommercial educational FM broadcast, or television broadcast) may, during a period of emergency in which normal communication facilities are disrupted as a result of hurricane, flood, earthquake, or similar disaster, utilize such station for emergency communication service in communicating in a manner other than that specified in the instrument of authorization

    Comentary--2.405 says the rule that allows operation in an emergency specifically does NOT apply to amateurs.

    There is NOTHING in Part 90 that gives amateurs the privileges to operate on those frequencies.
    There is also NOTHING in Part 97 that gives amateurs permission to operate under any other rule parts.
    Claims that this single rule in Part 97 gives access to any/all spectrum for use in a real or perceived emergency is taking a -whole-lot-of- liberties with the meaning, and completely ignoring 2.405.

  2. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, the rule that everyone seems to think gives them a reason to get their radio ready to transmit out of band "just in case" is this one:

    §97.403 Safety of life and protection of property.
    No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.

    As I mentioned previously, after 40 years of being a ham, I've never had occasion to take advantage of this rule. And I certainly wouldn't get my radio all ready to transmit out of band for the reason I mentioned earlier. There have been times when I accidentally bumped the mike button, accidentally left it on vox when unattended, etc., and I would up transmitting inadvertently. If that happens on the ham bands (or even on some random frequency), it's not really a big deal. But if I do it on a frequency assigned to someone else, especially if I have the PL tones all set up, I'll probably have some splainin' to do.

    As you can see from the rule, there are a number of conditions. For example, normal communications can't be available. If you make no effort to determine whether you can contact another amateur, then you really can't say that normal communications are unavailable. Also, your definition of "immediate safety of life" might be different from the person who makes the ultimate decision.

    If you have a radio capable of transmitting out of band, then I guess it doesn't really hurt to write down the relevant frequencies and tones. But programming them into the radio beforehand seems like a really bad idea.
    KG7ZEV likes this.
  3. K9OHV

    K9OHV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Why not just become a SAR? That gives you the OK/ability to "talk" on the freq to get the help you need. In which case it would be more like calling your buddies for help. If you like the outdoors, you should become one.

    We could use you...

  4. K9OHV

    K9OHV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Edit time expired. I wanted to include this too:

    I am a believer in the spirit of the law instead of the letter in this case. I think prosecution for use of the frequencies is more for the person that interferes with and not the one actually calling for resources in time of need. I believe the regulations are worded that way to discourage would be troublemakers. This would explain two different sections of code one that says you cant, and the other section that says, or suggests, you could if its really really necessary.

    I don't know, perhaps i'm completely off.

  5. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Unfortunately for those who believe that an Amateur radio license gives them the ability to use "alternate" frequencies in the event of an emergency, the past has proven that not to be true, inasmuch as some have tried that, gotten help, and then been prosecuted for their use of public service frequencies.

    Looked for references, but having trouble with my google-fu today. Maybe someone else might remember. wasn't there a ham in Southern California who got in trouble for that? Memory seems to say so, but it is faulty at times.

    73 Gary
  6. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you're really and truly backed into a corner where your only options are to let someone (maybe yourself) die, or to misuse the frequency and face prosecution later, the choice is obvious. Do what you need to do, and don't worry about the consequences. They may or may not be serious, but you'll deal with them later.

    But if you want to be sure to keep your license and equipment, don't put yourself into that situation. It's not hard to arrange for reliable legal communications options, and the legal options can easily be more reliable than the questionable ones because you can legally test them in a non-emergency situation. They may get response more quickly, because they'll be coming through proper channels that are less likely to be viewed as a hoax. A PLB is a simple option that you should consider. Ham radio can be very helpful, especially with a little pre-planning.

    Don't forget the low-tech side of things. File a "flight plan" with a trusted friend or relative, giving your planned route, planned arrival time, your vehicle description including license plate, the place you plan to park your vehicle at a trailhead, the color of your tent, backpack, and clothing, and a date/time when you should be considered overdue and the authorities should be notified. If you're carrying any radio gear, make sure the flight plan tells what you have and what frequencies you plan to monitor/use. I'd suggest following the "wilderness protocol" (google it for details). Sign in at every register you encounter, including all trailheads and summits, and provide enough information to help SAR find you if they should have the need. Stop by at any ranger station or visitor center on the way in, to tell them where you plan to hike and to check on trail conditions. When you get back to civilization, check in with your trusted friend to "close your flight plan", so that authorities don't get notified needlessly.
  7. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Personally, if a life or serious injury was the issue, I would not care about any possible fines. Also, a Baofeng is a Part 90 radio that we use in Part 97. I can go 1 mile from my home that overlooks the town & have no legal VHF/UHF communications at all. I could, however hit the BLM office.

  8. KD0ETX

    KD0ETX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would take a raking over the coals in a heartbeat if I thought the person needing help needed help quick. If the ranger was unable to call for help himself, I could make a pretty good case for it, too.

    "Raked over the coals," is a pretty subjective term. Chances are, he was just questioned about his choice and no punishment came about.
  9. AA7EJ

    AA7EJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Word of caution. I got stuck in AZ desert,20 feet from solid ground. We had food and water to last a week . Asked local FD for help (can you send a pickup here?) and after spending night a rescue helicopter arrived! Make sure YOU are in control! Some authorities tend to go overboard!

    73 Shirley
  10. KD8SLQ

    KD8SLQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    A few thoughts:
    1. As others have mentioned, the antenna is the weakest part of most HT's. Get a good rubber duct for normal use and the rollup J-poles that others have mentioned are great for when you need to maximise your signal. I have also seen people build colapsable 1/4 wave ground plane antennas for their HT's.
    2. Batteries. Have a backup battery fully charged. High capacity battery packs (if available) are ideal. Your HT is useless once it goes dead. Consider a AA adaptor as another option, if one is available. Changes are that your will have a number of devices in your group that run on AA's that you can scavenge batteries from if you had to. If you want to get creative, you could also rig up a small solar charger if you wanted.
    3. Consider the Chinese radios. Not only can you get the radio for cheap, you can also get high capacity batteries for them for cheap as well. They are very light, and they can be very good on battery life. For about $70, you can get a Baofeng UV-5R, an high capacity battery and a 16 inch "high gain" rubber duck.
    4. Have a fully charged smart phone on hand, but turned off to preserve the battery. If needed, you may get lucky and find a place with service. At a minimum, you can use it for the GPS to give you your exact location.

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