I was camping in rural New York. Some time after 10pm, a loud alarm started blaring. It was coming from several miles away, and I had no clue what it meant. There was no cell service, and the campground was empty. Was I stranded in some sort of emergency? The siren wound up again after a few minutes, then stopped. A few more minutes went by, and I heard it a third time. I wasn’t expecting any bad weather, and it was otherwise a quiet, clear night.
I’d noted the nearest repeaters and started plugging that info into my radio. A few minutes later, I activated the repeater, threw out my call sign and asked if anyone in range could tell me what was going on. In seconds, a local responded to my call, and filled me in: they were signaling the volunteer fire department.
Safe when stranded
It seems minor looking back now, but at the time, I had no clue what was coming may way. And, thankfully I had ham radio to help me out.
Keeping an amateur radio with you on any kind of camping, backpacking, or road trip can be a huge help. Cell phones don’t have service everywhere, and your ham radio can provide a crucial communications link when you need it.
Many rural areas have ham radio repeaters, even in places where your cell phone doesn’t have coverage. Those repeaters can give you a way to reach people nearby when your cellphone doesn’t have service. Cell phone apps like radioreference (which provides information about local repeaters) even work when you can’t connect to the network.
Without any nearby infrastructure
Even if you’re in a spot where there are no repeaters, you still have options. Ham radios work without the need for any other infrastructure, unlike the internet or a call phone. Hams know to listen to the ‘simplex calling frequency’ (on VHF that’s 146.520 MHz) which is specifically designated for calling to other hams without a repeater.
All the VHF radios we sell also have the capability of tuning in NOAA weather frequencies, which can help notify you of any impending severe weather, and major emergencies. Those frequencies are 162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550 MHz.
According to the National Weather Service, those frequencies are “considered an ‘All-Hazards’ public warning system, and will alert the listening public to non-weather emergencies…which include technological accidents (e.g., chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies), AMBER alerts (for abducted children), and terrorist attacks.”
Ham radio has capabilities that can help ensure that you don’t get left stranded.