In reply to MM0HAI:
I have been thinking recently about emergency calls and radio.
In summary, my question is: Is there a land based emergency calling
frequency or system, either on amateur radio or using a separate
service that falls within amateur bands and as such can be used with
the equipment we have available. If not, should there be?
No and no.
The systems already exist, give worldwide coverage, don’t require skill to use and are traceable to the owner. Satellite EPIRB systems (emergency position indicating radio beacons) are the answer. They work as long as you have a reasonably clear view of the sky. The latest ones include GPS recievers that can send your position when you hit the help button.
The downside is the free to use systems, you pay for the beacon but once bought there are no use charges, are only supported for maritime use in the UK. If you want to use one here you need a commercial PLB (personal locator beacon). These need to be bought and a yearly subscription has to be paid. The costs are cheap if you value your well being and are going somewhere where you might not be missed for a few days.
I’ve been looking at the SPOT system. The basic spot PLB is 149Eu and 1 year’s subs is 99Eu. That gives you the ability to send emergency messages, help request messages and also a “checkin/I’m OK” message. Your position is determined from the inbuilt GPS and this is sent on an L band uplink. Your position is saved for later retrieval and an SMS/email is sent to upto 10 contacts. There’s an APRS feature as well where you can be tracked on a Google map. The next level up is 179Eu + 99Eu/year. This has the additional ability of sending custom messages as well as the other facilities.
The best SPOT model is not yet availble but will be real soon. That connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to send 41 char custom messages or select from a number of preset messages. Again uplinked via satellite.
I didn’t know that units with custom messaging existed and that the usage costs where so cheap. The 99Eu yearly sub lets you send 200 SMS messages per year but an infinite number of emails. I’m tempted to punt for one now so I can use it with my SMS SOTA spotting system. Ever since I first saw Napoleon Solo twist his pen sized radio and say “Open channel D” I’ve wanted a universal ‘works-anywhere’ radio link. About 235GBP will get me that. The only reason stopping me buying one now is the Bluetooth device is so much more useable.