Amateur Radio Operators Using DMR Assist in NH rescue

From New Hampshire ARRL Members Only list:

“When all else fails, Amateur Radio” proved to be more than just the ARRL tagline on Sunday December 11, 2022.

An elderly New Hampshire man went out for a day hike with his dog yesterday in the Belmont area of central New Hampshire. Things went well, until his cellphone battery died. With the oncoming snow and darkness, a leisurely day hike was quickly turning into a serious health and safety issue for the hiker.

Fortunately for him he is also an amateur radio operator and had his DMR HT with him. With no cell phone capability, he made a call on a DMR NH statewide channel through the Gunstock DMR repeater seeking assistance.

His call was answered by Bill Barber, NE1B who was monitoring the channel. The hiker asked Bill to call his wife as he could not text or get pinged with his dead cell phone. Bill contacted the hiker/ham’s wife, and she was glad to hear that someone was in contact with him.

Unfortunately, he did not know exactly where he was and believed he would have to walk through brush for an hour or more to get to a road.

His wife called in the local police department who began a search along with their FD.

Ham radio was the only communication from about 4:30 to 6:30 PM. Bill called up Rick Zach, K1RJZ, who lives closer to the search area, and he was familiar with the area snow mobile trails and roads. Rick coordinated communication between the responding police units and the lost ham on the NH Statewide talk group.

The police and fire units attempted to assist in the search by activating their sirens in different locations to try to obtain a location on the ham, however, he was not able to hear them.

Another ham, Chuck Cunningham, K1MIZ, was monitoring the events on net watch and noticed that the lost ham had accidentally changed channels.

This information was passed along and 2 meter DMR communication continued until the lost ham walked out to a road and could advise where he was. The search and checkout ended successfully at 6:30 PM.

Thanks to the efforts of Bill, NE1B, Rich, K1RJZ and Chuck, K1MIZ the wayward ham is going to be able to enjoy another Christmas holiday with his family.

Bill listed some very important lessons learned from the incident:

  • Radio batteries last longer on DMR radios than on analog mode
  • Even his wife had trouble on her cell phone coverage at home
  • Monitor your local State DMR channel for helping others nearby
  • You may want to program 146.52 FM next to your State channel for signal strength DFing if and when out of repeater range
  • Some hams still monitor 52!
  • But stay on the primary channel until you know more hams are nearby to DF
  • Hike with DMR. Our network sites cover many areas of New England that do not have any cell service
  • Hike with a flashlight

And I would like to add one more item to the list. My son is one of the leaders of Pemi Search & Rescue and unfortunately responds to too many calls for lost hikers. One very important item that he stresses is that hikers file a “flight plan.” Let someone who is not going on the hike know where you are going, how long you expect to be gone and what communication equipment or capability you have with you. This also applies if you are going out hunting, fishing or boating.

Raul “Skip” Camejo – AC1LC
Public Information Coordinator
ARRL New Hampshire Section