Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol

Radio amateurs spending time in the backcountry with their radios are asked to follow The Wilderness Protocol to potentially help someone in an emergency.  Communication capabilities in an emergency situation are extremely important.  Backcountry locations are often without mobile phone service and out of reach of amateur radio repeaters.  

Light-weight low-power amateur radio transceivers (handy-talkies) are easy to carry and provide the possibility of simplex communication in an emergency situation.  However, amateur radio in the backcountry is useful for summoning help only when there is someone listening.  The Wilderness Protocol is described in the ARRL ARES Emergency Resource Manual encourages radio amateurs to listen:
The Wilderness protocol calls for hams in the wilderness to announce their presence on, and to monitor, the national calling frequencies for five minutes beginning at the top of the hour, every three hours from 7 AM to 7 PM while in the back country. A ham in a remote location may be able to relay emergency information through another wilderness ham who has better access to a repeater. National calling frequencies: 52.525, 146.52, 223.50, 446.00, 1294.50 MHz.
The above frequencies are FM simplex calling frequencies in the the US.  It is a good idea to listen on all the prescribed frequencies that your radio is capable of receiving, even if your radio doesn't necessarily transmit on those same frequencies.  You may intercept a call for help and be able to relay it to another station on a frequency your radio does transmit on.

The Wilderness Protocol schedule of listening times are all local times.
  • 7:00 AM to 7:05 AM
  • 10:00 AM to 10:05 AM
  • 1:00 PM to 1:05 PM
  • 4:00 PM to 4:05 PM
  • 7:00 PM to 7:05 PM
California backcountry


It is also a good idea to transmit your call sign once or twice so that others will be alerted to your presence.  Someone experiencing an emergency may hear your transmission and be prompted to respond by asking for your help.
The Wilderness Protocol is simply a recommendation that those outside of repeater range monitor standard simplex channels at specific times in case others have priority or emergency calls. -- FM & Repeaters”, June 1996 QST, p. 85.
As radio amateurs, we can make a difference by using our radios, knowledge, skills, and The Wilderness Protocol.  Now that you know about The Wilderness Protocol, be sure share this information with others including your family, your ham friends, your child's scout troop, your fellow amateur radio club members, and others in your circle.


Good DX and 73, NJ2X


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