SAR members representing West Valley SAR, Cave and Technical Rescue Team, San Gorgonio SAR, SB Mountain SAR, Morongo Basin SAR, and Wrightwood SAR completed the 2016 Rope Rescue Operators Course. Congratulations to the 14 rescuers as they continue to expand their responsibilities and continue to serve the citizens of San Bernardino County and the state.
After many months of waiting, I was finally able to get my hands on a pair of GoTenna devices to field test. These devices are VHF radio transceivers that pair via Bluetooth that enable two phones to pass text messages without requiring any cell service. The required phone app allows for text messages, pinging connectivity between devices, and the swapping of location using the phone's onboard GPS to fix position. There are also downloadable base maps to display position data.
The pairing process was quick and easy with the Android phones used in the test, and the software and hardware performed without any difficulty. The interface is similar to most of the available messaging apps. Although, only text can be sent, so there is no photo sharing or other file sending available.
While testing one person attached the device to his pack according to the suggestion of the manufacturer, and the other person placed it in his pocket and started off on his mountain bike. We communicated via 5 W VHF radios with rubber duck antennas to compare the coverage. Obviously, as long as the GoTenna was in the bike rider's pocket, the connection was severly compromised. Periodically the rider would stop, remove the device, and attempt to communicate. This was done until we could no longer maintain a reliable connection. As expected, the most reliable communication came with optimized antenna location. If both ends of the communication held their devices high, and vertically polarized, the likelihood of a reliable connection increased.
In the environment tested (shown on the map to the right) the furthest that we could maintain a connection was approximately 0.6 mi. This was challenging RF terrain, however. The blue shading on the map is a line of site layer, so we were able to maintain some modicum of communication outside of this region. By comparison, the 5W VHF radio allowed reliable communication greater than 1 mile in this same terrain.
We were operating in the MURS band with the voice radios. A bit of testing shows that the GoTenna may be operating on MURS channel 1 (151.82 MHz), so we avoided this channel, and used MURS channel 5 (154.60). We noticed that if you were transmitting with the 5W radio on channel 5, it would interfere with the GoTenna messages. This may be something to consider since much of our SAR work is in the neighborhood of this portion of the spectrum.
Given the additional overhead of having to pair a smartphone to the device, and the limited range, the GoTenna doesn't seem to provide any significant communications advantage over, or in addition to, the typical portable radio. Still, this is the first generation of such a device, and for those of us who are attracted to all things RF, it is most intriguing.
Check out this link to see if any of your gear is on the list.
Due to lack of snow, the Basic Mountaineering Course field date for January 9 and 10 has been changed to January 30 and 31. Please sign up for the event by emailing Sonny Lawrence at his sbsar account.
The field session for the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) will be held on January 30 and 31, 2016. The location is Snow Valley Mountain Resort. This is located 6 miles east of Running Springs on highway 18. GPS is WGS 84; 34.223375°,-117.037423°. All vehicles should carry tire chains. Four wheel drive preferred. Enter into the main parking lot. Explain to the attendant you are participating in the sheriff’s BMC. Proceed to the far west end of the parking lot, near the exit. Wise participants will arrive Friday night and sleep in the car or off into the bushes in order to acclimatize. We begin at 0700 sharp Saturday morning. Be ready to hike at that time with pack fully loaded. The course will end late Sunday afternoon. Please be sensitive to the location we will be operating in. Bring your own WAG BAG for human waste disposal. Only individuals who have pre-registered with Sonny Lawrence are allowed to attend.
Twas the night before Christmas and twenty below, The forecast was calling for 3 feet of snow.
We had all snuggled in to our beds for the night Knowing Santa would leave gifts that we’d find at first light.
We snored and we dreamed until two forty-five That was the time that the phones came alive.
Are you available for a search the caller did ask If so please hurry, we’ll give you a task.
A small child is missing was all we were told It’s unlikely she’ll survive alone in the cold.
The searchers got ready, all grabbing their packs Filled with spare clothes ,water and snacks.
They made their way to the point last seen In hope of finding clues of where the subject had been.
The command post was on-site and search managers too They planned and they mapped, they knew what to do.
Hasty teams were sent to all known walking trails, Search dogs were requested in case all else fails.
The trackers were out, looking for sign With a bit of good luck the child they would find.
The CP had a copy of the Lost Person Behaviour book That told how far she may have traveled and the best places to look.
More searchers were called from a neighboring team With the extra eyes the subject was sure to be seen.
A call came in that some tracks had been found Do we follow the prints or call for a hound?
At last we now have a direction of travel This piece of the puzzle we now can un-ravel.
Teams were re-directed to do some jump tracking We were getting close, we’d better get cracking.
The searchers were now moving at the speed of light They’d bring the wee one home and out of the night.
In the beam of their headlamps they couldn’t see far But there was an old cabin and its door was ajar.
Inside they found her curled up in a ball To the command post they relayed the most wonderful call.
We have her they said, she’s alive and well The news brought the parents back from that living hell.
We’ll stretcher her out the searchers did say Send another team to help light the way.
Have EMS waiting to make sure she’s all right And we’ll have her home before morning light.
The teams had accomplished what they set out to do Located the subject and brought her home too.
No greater gift could have been given that day Then to get back a child that had gone astray.
The searchers had left their homes in the night To help a fellow man and do what was right.
Once at home on that Christmas morn Loved ones were hugged and good will was born.
To receive is nice but it’s better to give, These things we do “so that others may live”.
---Submitted by Pearl Heft. Author Unknown
The BMC field date scheduled for December has been cancelled due to lack of snow. Hence the first field date now will be January 9, 10. A second field date of February 20, 21 has been set. Please email Sonny Lawrence at his SBSAR address to reserve a spot on one of those dates.
As a thank you to all fire and police personnel in our community, Knott’s Berry Farm will offer free theme park admission for fire and law personnel and one guest from November 30 through January 31, 2016,. From November 30, 2015 through January 3, 2016 up to six additional tickets can be purchased for only $30 each. January 4 - 31 up to six additional tickets can be purchased for only $25 each. Fire or law enforcement ID is required.