Communication is performed by amateur radio operators. They bring the skills and equipment necessary to perform this responsibility. Communication between the trail heads and high camp is done on 2-meter frequencies.The communication people also have the responsibility of communicating with the Sheriff’s Office. Public service radios are provided for this purpose. They check in with dispatch on a regular basis for a “code 4” check.
It is important that the communicator have a good working 2-meter handheld with at least two gain antennas and enough battery power to last a weekend. Communication is a critical part of TERT’s success.
Note that TERT is supported by members of UCARES (Utah County Amateur Radio Emergency Services). The communicators are encouraged to check into the nets held on Tuesdays at 2100 on 147.34 (+) and become active in ARES. During the TERT season, TERT is a regular part of net business. They are also supported by the Sheriff’s Communication Auxilliary Team (SCAT).
T.E.R.T COMMUNICATIONS TIPS
1. Team leader is in charge.
Check with the team leader to find out what is expected for communications. Some leaders do the dispatch checks from on top. Many leaders have the Aspen Grove TH do it. Some prefer to gather some basic statistics to pass along just in case they are asked, such as the weather or hiker volume. What happens when the reverse autopatch rings? Who is going to answer it? These things are best decided and discussed at the beginning of the weekend.
2. Don’t do code 4 checks during an emergency!
What is the purpose of a code 4 check? The answer is to remind dispatch that we are on the mountain and on duty. When SAR is on the mountain or LifeFlight on scene, they obviously know that you are out here! When you call a code-4 check during this time it only serves to confuse dispatch and make us look stupid.
3. Talking to dispatch- let them lead the conversation.
Sometimes they have time to talk and will ask questions. Other times, they are busy and cannot chit chat. Remember that when we call, we are calling 9-1-1. The first impression is that someone is having an emergency. Dispatchers do not always recognize the incoming ANI information as an incoming call from TERT. Your first words should be something like- “This is 1J540. No Emergency. I am calling to report that we are code-4 on the mountain.”
4. Use clear speech.
Limit your use of codes- especially if you are not very familiar with them. Just speak. Clear speech is the NORM. The Federal Government has mandated that we ALL use clear speech in public safety. This is for interagency operability and is a NIMS standard.
5. Be ready.
When the patch rings, get prepared to write things down. Have Paper and pencil nearby. When dispatch is giving you a call, they are wanting to hand off the information and get someone responding. They have additional calls coming in and the name of the game is to get the monkey off their backs because more are on the way. An effective way to accomplish this is to have a team member designated as the scribe. He/she retrieves their pencil/paper while the other team member manipulates the radio and receives the phone call. Additionally, check with the team leader to determine what additional info they may need before terminating the call. This is why I like to have high camp answer all incoming calls.
6. Work out important details PRIOR to terminating the call.
Find out who the SO point of contact will be and establish a communications plan. Define what channels will be used for the emergency. This is not the time for guessing. Designate a contact person and a frequency. AIR 1? VHF Highband Statewide? TERT F1? Cell phone? Also, If possible, the TERT point of contact should not be directly involved with patient care. **Also obtain the cell# of the reporting party (RP).** This is vital to determining the exact location of the patient/victim.
7. Keep the frequency clear.
During an extended rescue, take all secondary traffic to TERT 2 or other simplex frequency. Often we have hikers come on frequency (not knowing we are on a call) and want to chat. When they find out we’re handling a call, they want to ask questions. Take it somewhere else so that the frequency can be clear for priority traffic.
8. Patient Privacy
Do not broadcast someone’s first and last name over the radio and then give their medical condition/history. This is not professional. Additionally, never give a name and DOB over the air. Use a cell phone instead. Think identity theft!
9. Relaying. Hot spots. Cell Dead Zones. SAR communication.
Mountain communication can be difficult. Learn where you can effectively talk to each trailhead and where cell phones work. Do this BEFORE the emergency. The rockslide (glacier) is a dead zone. You must relay communications in/out of there. The shelter works well for this. TIMP basin is another hole. Relay from the rim (sometimes X2). If you have someone already on summit, utilize them. SAR uses VHF/800 MHz repeaters linked while enroute. They then switch to VHF simplex (same propagation as 2Meters). Some SAR are also hams and will come onto TERT1 frequency. Once they start hiking (particularly from Timpooneke) you will not be able to talk to them. This all depends, of course, on where you are on the mountain in relation to them.