scouts-l Mail Archive for August of 2000: Re: walkie talkie
Bob Amick (amick@SPOT.COLORADO.EDU
Mon Aug 28 2000 - 10:43:28 CDT
The use of portable radios at summer camp probably is
not essential, but if they are used judiciously and
not frivolously, they can be very helpful in coordinating
activities and finding "misplaced" Scouts and leaders if
the occasion arises (and it often does). In the interests
of aesthetics, earphones and/or headsets are available to avoid the annoying
The use of portable and mobile radios on trips and
high adventures is however, essential in my opinion and experience. We
have used them on numerous occasions for a variety
of trips (e.g., Canyonlands/Arches National Park, Green River
Whitewater canoe trips, etc.) and found them to be invaluable
for coordination and for emergent purposes. "Murphy's Law" seems
to always be present on such trips and the unexpected invariably
occurs, so dealing with situations via radio can really make
a huge difference in saving time, and coordinating resources.
The bottom line is health and safety, and that takes precedence
over any "aesthetics" of the backcountry. Scout leaders should ensure
the best possible experience for the youth, and often
radios will make the delivery of that experience much better
and certainly much safer in many instances.
Most of all having radios to deal with emergent situations is
really critical, both from the standpoint of coordinating a
response in a timely manner, and if the capability exists,
to contact emergency responders if need be. Two meter "no code
technician" licenses are now easily obtained and most useful
for such purposes. A network of ham radio repeaters is widespread
and often covers wilderness areas that are not well served by
cellular telephone sites due to their remoteness and sparse population.
If you have a serious medical emergency in the backcountry, access
to emergency responders can be much faster than sending a "runner"
out many miles to get help. In critical cases, this can be the
difference between life and death if the "golden hour" of response
for acute trauma is essential. Although a knowledge of "wilderness first
aid" is important, there are some medical and trauma situations that
are simply beyond the scope of wilderness first aid training and require
definitive medical care to be delivered very quickly.
Radios in combination with GPS units can facilitate a rapid response by
aeromedical helicopter units and have been used on many occasions for just
such purposes. Higher power portables (five watt) and mobiles (45+ watts)
are available for use either on amateur radio or on VHF and UHF itinerant
business channels and can be easily licensed. Many vendors such as Kenwood
offer high quality, low-cost radios for such purposes. Our Summer Camp
a large number of such radios to coordinate routine and emergent staff
operations during camp. A typical range for such radios is up to 20 or
more miles line of sight, and somewhat less if obstructions are present.
The use of "gain" type antennas with portables and mobiles will also
extend range capability.
I appreciate the aesthetics of not having high tech stuff
in the wilderness experience; However, I have to strongly disagree with
restricting access by portable radio for coordination and especially for
rapid access to emergency responders if the need arises. As the
old saying goes, "plan for the worst and expect the best and you
will probably not be disappointed."
A more in-depth discussion of these ideas is contained in
a document I wrote some years ago that now is available on
the MacScouter website:
Bob Amick, EMT-B, Advisor
Venturing Crew/Sea Scout Ship 72, Boulder, CO
Longs Peak Council Venturing/Exploring Committee