Top of the Hill
Boots and Blisters
Who's Who and New
On the Right Track
PACE Committee Report
Business as Usual
|Top of the Hill||by Mike Dugger|
I proposed at the last meeting that we adopt standards with measurable criteria to which we would then train. Specifically, I proposed that we require our members to periodically demonstrate their physical fitness, orienteering ability, and litter packing and hauling ability. We decided at a previous meeting to require state certification of all our active members by 12/97, and all new prospectives within one year of joining. The state certification process provides documentation that we have sufficient knowledge in basic skills (gear & clothing, safety, search techniques, communications, map and compass) to perform search and rescue. My argument for requiring our own standard for fitness, orienteering and litter operations was that these skills are needed for the service we claim we can provide, but are not covered by basic certification (fitness, litter ops) or should be covered in greater detail and more frequently that in state certification (orienteering).
After our recent mission at the Santa Fe ski area (970105), I believe more strongly than ever that this is the way we should operate. Our assignment involved continuous walking for 16 hours, mostly in snowshoes, in snow over three feet deep at times, and at elevations between 9,000 and 11,000 feet. Since the mission was outside our district, we were not as familiar with off-trail areas as the local teams. This assignment required every ounce of energy, every bit of gear, and everything we knew about map and compass to get out safely. I have trained and searched with enough of our members to know that very few members of our team could have completed this assignment without requiring another mission to rescue the searchers. Most importantly, the demands of this assignment were not evident until we were committed to a course of action. I was concerned for my own safety and that of the team. Fortunately the weather was cooperative, we had no injuries, and found the "easiest" route using our orienteering skills. This mission could easily have turned out differently. In short, this was serious and were fortunate we knew this certification stuff!
Recent experience demonstrates the need for fitness and orienteering, but what about litter packing and hauling? Imagine the following scenario: An active member on the team for over a year responds to a mission where a litter evacuation is required. It has been raining, and the trail is narrow forcing litter tenders to walk on the sides of the trail. The member above slips on a wet rock and falls, taking his side of the litter down with him. The subject with a broken leg suffers additional pain and nerve damage from his injuries. Although the subject is grateful for the rescue, his insurance company elects to sue the state, CSAR, and the members participating in the litter evacuation. The state has the deepest pockets here, but when asked why CSAR was sent to do the litter evacuation, the field coordinator will say that we have done them before, we have a litter, and we advertise that we can do litter evacuations. CSAR will be asked to show how we train members to package and haul a litter. We have sign in sheets, but no documentation of what was taught or how we knew the attendees had learned anything. By recreating our training, and by testimony of many of our members, we convince the jury that we have a good training program and did the best we could to prepare members for litter operations. But guess what - we only require attending 2 trainings in six months, not any specific trainings. The member who fell was busy when we had litter training, and did not attend. Although his slip was purely accidental, we did not require that he know how to haul a litter, and this can be viewed as negligent. We're all responsible. Ask yourself if this scenario sounds plausible. I think you'll agree that it is. While it is true that we all accept more risk for liability by participating in SAR that by sitting at home on the couch, it is foolish to do nothing to minimize that risk. As a member of the litter team above, are you willing to jeopardize your house, car, and earning potential because one of your team mates did not attend a litter training? That is more risk than any of us should have to bear.
|Boots and Blisters||by Larry Mervine|
Clue awareness and mantracking are also very important to a ground team, but will be taught at other trainings.
Search techniques are very important and we will train on this again sometime this year.
|Hike of the Month||Domingo Baca and TWA Canyon||0900, May 31/June 1, 1997|
|Trailhead:||Elena Gallegos parking lot|
|R.T. Distance: @7.0 miles||Elevation Min/Max: 6400/9000|
|Hiking Time @4.0 hours||Hazards: Thorns, stickers, cactus|
|Topos: Forest Service map of the Sandias|
|Business as Usual||by John Mindock|
We also make regularly-scheduled more or less backups of all our computer files to an Iomega ZIP megadisk.
|Who's Who and New||by Bob Ulibarri|
|Coming Attractions||by Chuck Girven|
May 17th at Oak Flat PSAR presentation to Independent Order of Foresters 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Bob Schwartz will be the member spotlight for the June newsletter.
|Public Relations||by Chuck Girven|
|On the Right Track||by Mary Berry|
|Member Spotlight: Mary Berry|
In 1980, I was lucky enough to be accepted to vet school at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. I have MANY fond memories and a few recollections of nightmares during my 4 years there. I learned a few things about llamas (the only way to spit bigger than them is to use a garden hose on full force), and Big Horned Owls (it sure is nice to release them in the wild when their fracture is healed). During school, Bruce and I managed to keep our long distance relationship going, and in my senior year, we got married.
Bruce and I got a Bluetick Coonhound, "Beauregard", as our first pet and soon met up with Bill Bailey, a local Bloodhound SAR "character". He got me hooked on dog training. Bill was generally hard to get along with, rest his soul, and Bruce and I decided to leave his team. We had met with a few others who were wanting to start a SAR team, so Cibola SAR was born. Getting started with 6 people was tough and I served as every officer of the team several times before we got big enough to spread the responsibility around.
When "Beau" died, I got "J.C." who has great man-trailing bloodlines. I certified him mission-ready in 1993, in accordance with a simple man-trailing test that the team used. He is overdue for a re-certification, with the new team test standard. Not yet having my full plate running over, I joined the Urban SAR team in 1993, and started training another dog for disaster search. I have been through 2 dogs that turned out to be unsuitable for that type of work, and now have high hopes that "Dusty", my yellow Lab pup, will be up to the challenge. We should know by this Christmas.
When I joined Urban SAR, I came to realize how much Cibola SAR has taught me. I've been lucky to be associated with such a great group of people, and am proud to be one of it's co-founders.
|NMESC Notes||by Mickey Jojola|
|PACE Committee Report||by John Mindock|
|So You Want to Buy a Radio?||by Mike Dugger|
Let's start with types of radios. There are two basic kinds of handy talkies: crystal or synthesized. As the name implies, crystal radios contain a piece crystalline quartz that is tuned to vibrate at a specific frequency when excited with a voltage (quartz is piezoelectric, i.e. it changes shape very slightly when a voltage is applied to it, so it can be made to vibrate at its resonant frequency by applying a time-varying voltage). For each frequency on which the radio operates, crystal radios have one crystal for the transmitter and one for the receiver. Multiple frequencies are commonly used on search and rescue missions. When many teams are in the field, it is good practice to keep tactical inter-team communications off of the state SAR frequency (155.160 MHz). Therefore, even if you have a crystal radio you will want to have the capability to communicate on several frequencies, such as 155.160 MHz, the CSAR team frequency, and possibly the team frequencies for a few other teams that we work with regularly. Team SAR frequencies are also generally in the range of 155-156 MHz. If all you ever want to do is communicate on the state SAR frequency and several SAR team frequencies, a crystal radio is a cheap and very durable solution to the communications problem.
The primary disadvantage of crystal radios is that it is not trivial to change the frequencies on which the radio operates. The operating frequencies can certainly be changed, but a new pair of receive and transmit crystals must be installed in the radio (about $50 for the pair). This is certainly not a field operation, and should usually be done by a qualified technician. Synthesized radios get around the need to insert crystals to change a radio's operating frequency. They contain a variable frequency oscillator, which is really nothing more than a tuned circuit of inductors and capacitors whose resonant frequency can be changed by changing the values of inductance and capacitance for components of the circuit. Depending on the type of radio, synthesized radios may be fully field programmable via front keypad, via special software and a cable to connect the radio to a personal computer, or via direct modification of internal circuitry by a qualified technician. The cost of a synthesized radio usually goes up as the ease of programming increases. If you ever plan to become a licensed amateur radio operator and use your handy talkie on the amateur radio bands, a synthesized radio is a must. Amateur radio frequencies are becoming more popular on search and rescue missions because repeaters allow the range of handy talkies to be greatly extended, and provide better coverage in canyons, across mountains, etc. It is of course possible to use a crystal radio for communication via repeater, but there are so many different repeaters around the state that may be used on a SAR mission, it becomes economically impractical to use a crystal radio when all these frequencies are accessible with a synthesized radio.
What type of synthesized radio is best? Sorry, you're on your own there. But it is a good idea to talk to people, particularly licensed HAMs, about their experience with different types of radios and general information about the reputation of various brands. Let's discuss frequency range. The circuitry in handy talkies is designed to operate best over a particular range of frequencies. Therefore a radio designed for operation on the 2 meter (144-148 MHz) amateur radio band cannot receive or transmit on the 70 centimeter (420-450 MHz) band, unless it is a dual band radio. Since SAR frequencies are in the range of 155-156 MHz, radios designed to operate on the 2 meter amateur band may be able to operate at search and rescue frequencies. Look for a radio that will transmit on 144-148 MHz, receive on 140-174 MHz, and is "FCC type accepted." The "type accepted" statement means that the quality of circuit components and design of the circuit is such that the radio operates at a narrow bandwidth. This means that when the radio is set to transmit on a particular frequency, it transmits in an acceptably (to the FCC) narrow band, and its transmission does not splatter over into other frequencies and cause interference. The FCC type accepted criterion is critical if you are considering modifying a 2 meter HAM radio to operate at 155-156 MHz. It is important to note that commercial radios, by virtue of their design, can operate legally at 144-148 MHz as well as 155-156 MHz without modification. However, these radios can be quite expensive (~$800 new) and the practice of modifying 2 meter type accepted radios to operate at 155-156 MHz is common. My queries to the regulations section of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) on whether it is legal to operate a modified FCC type accepted radio at 155-156 MHz have come back with answers from different people at both extremes - "clearly illegal," and "no problem." At best, one can therefore say the practice is questionable. You should do some research on this topic and make your own decision about what type of radio to purchase.
Now that we have sorted out what kinds of radios are available, let's discuss options. Some of these options are available for crystal radios as well, but I will focus on programmable (synthesized) radios here, assuming that the user may be operating on amateur radio frequencies as well. There are dozens of bells and whistles that can be purchased for almost any brand of radio, but only a few of these are worth the extra expense for SAR operations.
A couple of different operating power settings is a good idea, to help conserve precious battery life. The radio should be left in the low power setting (which may be 1 or 2 watts) unless problems are encountered with your transmissions being heard. In addition to saving battery life, the use of as low a power as necessary to convey the information is consistent with basic amateur radio operating principles. The higher power setting (perhaps 5 watts) can be used if the extra power is needed in order to be heard. You should always carry a backup battery. Some users prefer to carry a couple of long life batteries (1200 mA.hrs, for example), and others prefer battery pack adapters that can accept regular AA size alkaline batteries.
"PL tone," or CTCSS (continuous tone coded squelch system) programmability is a useful option if you plan to use your radio at times other than during a mission. Some repeaters are closed and require a special subaudible tone to get in, or to access special features such as a patch into the telephone system. Repeaters used in SAR missions are usually put in emergency operating mode, in which the PL tone is disabled. The PL tone may still be required, however, to access the phone patch. This lets you make emergency telephone calls in the field using your handheld radio. Alternatively, the communications specialist or other member of the command staff is usually willing to make an emergency telephone call for you from base camp if necessary. If you are interested in accessing the phone patch, you will also need a DTMF keypad on your radio. This keypad provides the 12 standard tones (0-9, * and #) used by the telephone system to dial phone numbers.
You should purchase a radio capable of storing several operating frequencies (or channels) at a time. You can then change from one frequency to another by simply turning a knob or pressing a button. Opinions on how many channels are necessary vary. Some say an absolute minimum of 15 channels is required. On any mission, even a large one, it is unlikely that more than six separate frequencies will be needed for field personnel (155.160, CSAR plus two other team frequencies, weather, and a repeater; note that the communications specialist at base camp may use several more). However, it is also convenient to program your radio with a larger number of SAR and repeater frequencies and then not have to program your radio as often. This is a matter of personal preference. If you have a field programmable radio and are comfortable doing so, you can buy a radio with fewer channels. I can program 14 channels on my radio. I keep 13 channels programmed with SAR frequencies, weather, and a few common repeaters. I leave one channel open for programming at the start of a mission, if a frequency that I don't already have programmed will be used. This is rare. Also make sure your radio can be set to scan selected channels. If a mission is using 155.160, the CSAR frequency and one repeater, you can set your radio to scan all of these so you don't miss any important traffic.
A speaker microphone is also a good idea. The microphone plugs into your radio, and can be clipped to the shoulder strap of your pack or other convenient location while the radio remains in your pack, a holster or a harness. The radio can then be kept warm (improved battery life), dry and protected while only the microphone is exposed to the elements. It is also a lot more convenient to push a button at your chest and talk, rather than pulling your radio out of its harness. Again, talk to other people and find out what works for them. As a companion to the speaker microphone, it is useful to have a keyboard that can be locked. This way, while your radio is riding in your pack or harness, buttons accidentally pressed won't mess up your radio settings.
That's about all you will need for the overwhelming majority of missions. There are a couple of additional items worth considering, but not really necessary for most of our missions - extra antennas and vehicle-mounted chargers. Besides battery power, the antenna is the next most critical feature of your radio that determines how well you can be heard. The short, flexible "rubber duck" antennas that come standard on most radios are small and convenient, but the transmission efficiency is usually compromised to make the antenna smaller. Consider a backup antenna that you can mount when communications are particularly difficult. There are rigid, telescoping "full wave" antennas that have great transmission efficiency, but can break off (or even worse, cause the antenna mount to break) when bashing through the woods. An alternative is a flexible "1/2 wave" or "5/8 wave" antenna. You can also buy antennas that mount on the roof of your car and connect to your handheld radio, which can greatly improve reception and transmission while you are on the way to a mission. Vehicle mounted chargers are handy for allowing you to use your radio while on the way to a mission, and at the same time maintaining your batteries in a fully charged condition. On the other hand, batteries with 12 hour or more life can be purchased for almost any radio, and a couple of these will get you through most missions.
Communication is a vital part of SAR operations, and every volunteer is encouraged to have a radio. I hope this brief description of radios and options helps you decide what type of equipment is right for you, if and when you are ready to make the investment.
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