As a follow-up to the concern that Hams are not monitoring or prepared to
help enough, here is an article for your enjoyment!
BTW: Unless there is a concern for injury or death, the local police don't
do anything except wait it out in the parking lot near the trailhead.
The fellow who was hiking was stranded by darkness and was not prepared for
the overnight in the woods.
Happy Thanksgiving & 73,
When "Being Prepared" Matters
On Monday, October 9th several Amateur Radio operators, often called "Ham"
radio operators were chatting on the radio as they made their way home after
a day's work. One of them had taken some time off to go on a late afternoon
hike in the beautiful Ramapo Mountains off of Skyline Drive in Oakland. He
realized that he had overstayed his welcome and was running out of daylight.
At about 7:00 PM he let several of the other hams know that he had some
concerns about making it back to the parking lot before dark and was asking
for some advice on how to proceed.
One of the Amateur Radio operators was Gordon Beattie, callsign "W2TTT", and
a Scoutmaster of an active Boy Scout Troop 139 from St. John the Evangelist
Roman Catholic Church in Bergenfield. Gordon gently inquired about what the
hiker had with him and how he felt. The hiker had nothing more than his
portable Ham radio and his cell phone - no water, no jacket, no map, no GPS,
no flashlight, no buddy. His attitude was good and he had no injuries but
was a bit embarrassed for having gotten into the situation. His clothing
was a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers which was OK, as the temperature was a
comfortable 65 degrees, but as night fell it would be getting a bit chilly.
The hiker was asked about his location and he indicated that he was on the
"RED" trail but was unsure which way was best to reach him from the parking
lot near Skyline Drive. He mentioned that he was near a scenic overlook
above Interstate 287 and the Borough of Oakland.. Gordon suggested that
since the weather was good that he move up the "RED" trail to that location
and "sit tight" pending the arrival of a crew to guide him out. The
location was good for a lone hiker's "well being" with a beautiful view of
the area and the rising and nearly full Moon. In poor weather, the
directions would have been to move down off the ridge and to take shelter.
Another local Radio Amateur, Paul Cornett callsign, W2IP of Fair Lawn was
familiar with the area and came up on the frequency after leaving work and
joined in the dialogue to isolate the hiker's location. Paul determined
that the lookout point on the "RED" trail was accessible from the parking
lot via the "BLUE" trail. He and Gordon decided to meet and "fetch" the
hiker, but a few more things had to be done before heading out. First, the
Oakland and Ringwood Police Departments were notified of the situation and
who would be going to guide out the hiker. In each case, the dispatchers
were helpful and the Ringwood dispatcher took care to notify the State
Forest Rangers in case they were needed. Several members of the Fair Lawn
Radio Club, the Bergen Amateur Radio Association and the Bergen County FM
Association stood by and offered to make calls to the hiker's family members
and advice to Paul and Gordon. They also provided the hiker with assurance
that things were going to be fine.
Gordon also contacted Kevin Flannery, a member of the Boy Scout Troop 139
Committee to let him know that he would be missing from the meeting that
night and to inquire if his 15 year-old Life Scout son Andrew was available
for this trek to bring back the lone hiker. Mr. Flannery was comfortable
with this and handed the phone to his son to get the details. As
background, Andrew is a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, and also an Amateur
Radio operator with the callsign, KC2OAA. Other adults were tied up with
Troop Committee or family matters and the other Junior Assistant
Scoutmaster, Life Scout John Beattie (also a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster
and Amateur Radio operator with the callsign KC2NZC) was delivering his
brother back to the train to college and couldn't make it back in time to
So about 8:15 PM the three trekkers contacted the hiker on the radio from
the trailhead parking lot, re-checked their gear and headed up the "BLUE"
trail in search of the "RED" trail and their lone hiker friend. It was
about an hour later when they tried to signal the hiker with a whistle that
they realized that they were close to reaching him. The hiker confirmed by
radio that he heard the whistle and shortly thereafter, they reached him.
All were happy and a visible sense of relief came over the face of the
hiker. Water was provided, first aid for a set of small scratches was
offered and declined and for a few minutes they collected their thoughts and
enjoyed the view. A radio message letting the Amateur Radio community of
Bergen County know of their success in finding the hiker was made.
Congratulations and thanks were sent in return. Phone calls to the police
were made to inform them of our status and other calls were made to family
members who were not Amateur Radio operators.
About 9:40 PM everyone headed down the trail back to the parking lot and
arriving back at the cars about 10:35 PM. The trail up had been reasonably
rugged, though dry, which made footing sure. Had it been wet and cold, this
would have been a bit "dicey", but conditions were ideal even if the
circumstances less than desirable. The trail down was equally challenging
and caution was taken to ensure that in haste or fatigue, that no injuries
were incurred. After some additional "thank you" handshakes, phone calls
to law enforcement and families, and some water, the hiker left. Paul,
Gordon and Andrew reviewed the operation, preparedness, and contingencies
before heading for home. This is an important step to capture important
items in order to be better prepared in the future.
Some things to consider about being prepared: All three trekkers had packs
ready to go with First Aid kits, radios, GPSs, flashlights, rain gear, a
fleece, gloves, whistle, spare batteries, a spare flashlight, matches, a
fire starter, compass, map, note paper, pencil, notes with info on the
hiker, police department numbers and key cell phone numbers, reflective vest
and water in a few minutes after receiving the call.
While Bergenfield's Troop 139 doesn't routinely train for search and rescue
activities, it is not unexpected that the skills involved in Scouting get
brought together to help others in need. Scouting doesn't just provide a
set of mastered technical skills, but a set of accumulated experiences which
provide the mental toughness to take care of things when needed by others.
Routine Scouting adventures in Troop 139 of camping, cooking, hiking,
swimming, canoeing, rifle shooting, archery, backpacking, climbing and
rappelling, first aid and emergency preparedness are augmented by numerous
academic, religious and service activities. A few years ago, the boys of
the Troop decided that they wanted to improve their service capabilities by
improving their First Aid and Radio Communications skills. Members of the
Fair Lawn Radio Club and the Bergen Amateur Radio Association came to Troop
meetings several times per month for four months to teach an Amateur Radio
licensing course for about an hour each session. This provided many boys
with the Electricity, Electronics and Radio Merit Badges as well as the
opportunity to be issued an Amateur Radio License issued by the Federal
Communications Commission. To date, three Scouts have passed the test and
been issued Federal licenses. Most members of the Troop, both Scouts and
adults have taken an American Heart Association CPR course given by a Troop
parent who is a nurse. First Aid skills are taught to Scouts by experienced
adults, who then in turn, teach the other, less experienced Scouts these
skills. Two other Scouts became Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and
now two Scouts and two adults are taking the Community Emergency Response
Team (CERT) course.
Boy Scout Troop 139 welcomes new Scouts at any time of the year as does Cub
Scout Pack 139.
Contact Scoutmaster Gordon Beattie at 201.314.6964 or email w2ttt@...
The Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club helps out with many public service
operations and maintains a club station at the Fair Lawn Community Center.
Go to www.flarc.org for more information.
The Bergen Amateur Radio Association has many interesting activities
including Transmitter Hunts, Kit Nights, Flea Markets, Public Service
Events, Test Sessions and contest operations in the field.
Go to www.bara.org for more information.