For a long expedition in remote territory a radio is a necessity. They tend to be expensive but are well worth the cost; if you cannot afford the radio, you cannot afford the expedition. Choose a model with the fewest channels available to suit your particular needs. The trouble with multi-channel sets is that people get confused and tend to use the wrong ones. Have a working channel that everyone uses at established schedules. Have a priority channel that you can switch to in an emergency so no one will break into your transmissions. If working with coastguards/forest rangers etc make sure that your radio is compatible and you know the emergency channel (channel 16); knowing the frequency of the World Service is also useful. Keep your radio in a safe place, ideally on a person and not in a pack.
Prearrange a signals plan with scheduled calls morning and evening, especially when working in a large party. A signals plan entails people manning the radio at base and two-way communication is easily made. Make sure that the chosen frequencies will work in the areas you are going to, and that at least two people in the party are familiar with the working of the radio. Every group on the ground must be in radio contact with base. They should be allocated a call sign and frequency, and a schedule of calls to be made.
Discourage groups from talking to each other without going through base. This will cause great confusion if not controlled. Listen out before transmitting otherwise you will interfere with other stations. Everyone has verbal diarrhea when they talk on the radio so write down what you want to say before making contact and have pencil and paper ready to make notes and take instructions. This will help to keep transmissions to a minimum and preserve the batteries.
In the evening give a situation report to base with your location, what you have done and your future intentions. In the morning receive an update on weather conditions, a time check and other information that base can give you. A noon time call can be used to confirm your position.
If you are tackling a dangerous aspect of the expedition you may want to arrange that base listen out for additional calls so that in an emergency you can call for help and get a response immediately.
- Signals will be weak in steep gullies and valley bottoms and good signals will be received on top of high ground or across water.
- A radio is essential for a lengthy expedition. Make sure you stay in regular contact with base.
Rhythm – speak in a calm, even tone
Speed – talk slowly
Volume – speak softly
Pitch – pitch voice higher than normal and use the phonetic alphabet when spelling out place names
- An emergency plan should always be put into operation when two consecutive calls are missed. Even if all is well, if you have not been able to make contact this will be treated by base as an emergency.
- You must return to or stay at the last reported location and await contact. If you are really in trouble base will know where you last were and where you planned to go to, and the rescue mission can follow.