Re: Insurance Question (Convoy) (Communications equipment)
Amick Robert (amick@SPOT.COLORADO.EDU)
Mon, 3 Nov 1997 10:47:24 -0700
Mike's advice is excellent as always. To lessen the need for trying to
maintain visual contact with other members of a touring group, consider
two-way radio communications systems on trips where multiple vehicles are
ferrying Scouts and equipment. A radio in each vehicle would be an ideal
solution, but even a few radios can minimize coordination problems and
help alert members of the touring group to problems, changes in plans,
etc. Additionally, it is fun to get the Scouts involved in helping
coordinate the communications between vehicles.
Citizens band is a low-cost alternative, but often not reliable due to low
power and skip problems.
What works well is VHF or UHF FM business band radio. These units have
five watts of power on portables and up to 100 watts on some mobiles,
although the average is about 30-40 watts and that is more than
sufficient. Generally VHF works better in mountainous or forested terrain
than UHF. Inexpensive portables and mobiles are available from local
electronics stores in the $150- $400 range. Or you can seek out used
equipment which could even be donated. Many businesses and public safety
agencies are converting to 800 mHz trunked radios and often have unused
VHF and UHF equipment in their storage areas which can be inexpensively
converted to business band channels. You may need to get a business band
license to use such channels. Itinerant channels are good to license on
since you can use them anywhere out of your local authorized area.
However you should get a CTCSS (tone controlled squelch) feature to avoid
hearing all the other users on the shared channels.
You can use a portable with an external magnet mount gain type antenna
than just sits on top of a car roof or trunk deck. This will
substantially improve the range or gain of the radio equipment.
Cell phones can also be an alternative but remember than cell site
coverage is not always available in remote areas, and the 800 mHz
frequencies do not work well in mountains or forested areas unless the
cell sites are "line of sight" from the user. Sometimes even moving a few
feet will make the difference in whether you can access a cell site or
not. Moving to higher ground always seems to help, however.
The best alternative is two-meter amateur radio, but of course you and
your scouts need to qualify for a "no code technician" class license which
actually is not difficult at all. Two meter has many repeaters all over
the country and in addition to affording excellent coverage, even in some
wilderness areas, you can relay information to or through local "hams" if
you need advice or assistance.
Once you get to your destination the radios continue to be useful since
they are portable and can be carried on the trip with you, whether a
backpack in a wilderness area, a river canoe trip, or whatever. Just take
extra batteries and conserve on the use of the radios except when
necessary. It is also sometimes fun to contact the folks at home to update
them on the progress of your trip and alert them to changes in plans.
If you have an emergency the radios can make a huge difference in getting
emergency medical services and rescue to an area very quickly without
having to send a "runner" out which may take hours or even days depending
on the remoteness of your trip.
Bob Amick, Explorer Advisor, High Adventure Explorer Post 72, Boulder, CO
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City