In France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, spontaneous initiatives promote the use of 0.5-W FM PMR446 handsets (which can be used by anyone in most of Europe without a licence) as a net to coordinate people in mountain activities and provide a way to reach out for help when mobile phone coverage is missing and there is no way to dial 112. In France, Spain, and Portugal, it is Channel 7 with CTCSS tone 7 (446.08125 MHz, 85.4 Hz); in Italy, it is Channel 8 with CTCSS 12 (446.09375 MHz, 100 Hz).
We hams in SOTA activities are in an excellent position to help. We can attach a small PMR446 set tuned to the appropriate channel and CTCSS to our backpack; we can even periodically report our position for everyone to listen. We know well how to do radio, and we will often be high and in reach (I have had comfortable (line-of-sight) contacts with people 60 km away from me using compliant PMR446 handhelds). If someone has an accident in a ravine or low area where 112 cannot be reached, we can be their link to emergency services.
But on the other hand, many people have PMR446 sets. If we get in trouble and cannot dial 112, we might be lucky and reach someone who can.
I’d love to hear from you about this idea.
Mikel EA5IYL (also 30FRS023 and 30RKB357 when in PMR446)
Not if you want to stay legal I think. We should not condone the use of uncertified radios to TX on PMR446. Also I wouldn’t want to see more amateur band TX-capable radios in the hands of unlicensed individuals. Nice fully legal PMR446 kit is available of course but I doubt any can TX on amateur bands.
I don’t see much PMR446 in use in the UK in the hills.
But… with my Mountain Rescue “hat” on, anything that helps to improve rapid communication of an incident is always useful, even if it does allow some people to cry for help a bit too easily when they could fix it themselves.
One point from across the pond is that we are allowed to use any frequency in the event of an emergency. Get the ball rolling, get emergency services on the way and clear.
Another point is, at least stateside is the wilderness protocol, where an injured party can conserve battery power by transmitting @ 07:00 and every three hours of daylight. It’s up to others to listen at those times, esecially if you know a party is missing.
That being said, it seems there is always someone monitoring call frequencies. If there’s an emergency, someone is there!
Whatever is within our means to assist, and remain safe, we should practice.
Thank you all for your response. I like Xisco’s (EC6BG’s) initiative to give PMR446 sets to friends, sometimes in hopes that this will spark their interest in ham radio. In my local radio club ACRACB I am the person responsible for PMR446 “pre-ham” activities. We allow PMR446 users to participate in some awards, and, in fact, I am the one who goes up to high places around the city to give points: 20 km or 30 km contacts aren’t uncommon. Xisco, who knows if we could make a PMR446 contact between Mallorca and Alacant this summer when tropospheric ducting is on!
There are PMR446 sets which are not too heavy to carry and would add some 100 g to your SOTA load.
As G4TJC, I don’t condone the use of non-PMR446-compliant sets in PMR446 (another story is if they are ham-band-compliant, which probably aren’t). The cool thing about PMR446 is that it establishes a level field: everyone has 500 mW, non-detachable antennas, and has to be mobile. Given those rules, you can use them for short-range personal or business communications (the original intent of the restrictions) or go to high places and reach really far. I hope it always stays that way!
The UK OfCom document pointed to by MW0WML seems to be a bit more relaxed in that it would allow the use of non-strictly-PMR446 equipment under PMR446 conditions. This would not work in Spain according to interfaces IR-4 and IR-97.
I’d go to trusted stores and buy sets of known, prestigious brands, but they might not be cheap. Large sports stores also carry nice sets. I’d look for the ones with readable screens, CTCSS tones, and larger antennas (the ¼-wave is 17 cm).
P.S. (Slightly off-topic) Incidentally, some fancier PMR446 sets also have LPD433 capability. This means they can transmit in the ISM part of our 70 cm band (433.050–434.790 MHz), but with a maximum of 10 mW. The legal status of LPD433 varies a bit from country to country, but it seems that the 434.050–434.790 MHz subband (LPD433 channels 40 to 69) is recommended by CEPT to be made available to anyone for unlicensed voice communications in Europe (see https://docdb.cept.org/download/2464, page 8); in Spain, interface IR-266 establishes a similar usage.
It’s clear that anything with a removable antenna or ERP > 0.5 W is non-compliant. See the “Interface Document”. I don’t understand how certain vendors can advertise their radios as “legal” despite clearly not fulfilling those requirements. It’s a mystery to me.
…And how many people are going to come knocking on your door to see if the antenna comes off? Yes, none!! OFCOM doesn’t know its ass from it’s elbow! Priorities lie with which minority have been offended by some celebrity making an off the cuff slur on the box!!!
I can’t say I have either, but that doesn’t mean someone invoked the protocol at 13:00, without stating, “this is a wilderness protocol”.
It’s a good rule for those heading to the backwoods to know – if they carry a radio. I don’t know of a single operator that would ignore a plea for assistance at any time. That’s why we’re Operators!