Amateur radio makes the connection to save lives in Wisconsin and Idaho

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09/09/2022

The following two rescue stories are excellent examples of the importance of amateur radio. The first story happened in Wisconsin and is told by ARRL member Scott Strecker, KG9IV. In his own words, Strecker recounts how he was able to help a ham in distress. Thanks to the Chippewa Valley Amateur Radio Club in Wisconsin, an ARRL affiliate club, for this information.

“It was Friday September 2, 2022 which meant I was working from my home office. I have the VHF radios at a minimum to monitor them in the background. Recently I walked into the Allstar Node with a point I use it to monitor FM38 (Allstar 2495) systems in the south [part] of Wisconsin.

At around 7:45 a.m. I heard the Allstar node go up. An individual in distress was asking for help to get an ambulance to him. It was a ham in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. He had slipped on his bathroom floor and fallen so hard he couldn’t get up, but he happened to have his handheld with him (not all of us). He did not have access [to the] telephone, and he lived alone.

[I called the] Brown Deer Police Call Center. The dispatcher called the fire department and started asking me for more details. I had the dispatcher on speakerphone, and he could hear the hams answering questions. Be on a handheld and [lying] lying, the signal was sometimes noisy. At that time, the other ham and I were using ITU phonetics to get the exact information. All those moments spent practicing on the ARES® nets have made it second nature. The dispatcher was also able to understand the information without me having to repeat it.

It felt good to help. I also realized that it was through my monitoring that I was able to hear his call. If you don’t participate in the weekly ARES LAN, I encourage you to do so when you can.”

In addition to Strecker’s story, newly licensed amateur radio operators Shannon Vore, KK7GVG, and CJ Bouchard, KK7GNG, also shared a rescue story. On September 3, 2022, in the Rocky Mountains of northwest Idaho, they were off for a weekend four-wheeling in their Jeep. The region is an extremely mountainous region with no towns, very few people, no facilities and no mobile phone coverage. The nearest airfield is Horse Haven Trail, an unimproved strip of land that is badly eroded and covered in rocks and debris.

Around 4:30 p.m., Vore and Bouchard were taking a break when an approaching truck notified them of an ATV accident involving two teenage girls. The crash scene was only a few miles away, and when they arrived it was clear the teens were seriously injured. Bouchard was unable to contact several local repeaters, but was eventually able to make contact using a simplex frequency (146.420 MHz) popular with radio amateurs in Coeur d’Alene, 20 miles from the crash site.

While Bouchard and an off-duty emergency medical technician (EMT) administered medical aid to the teenagers, Vore took over radio operations. The call for emergency assistance was picked up by local amateur radio operator John Tappero, K7JNT, who immediately called 911 and requested that the 146.420 MHz frequency be used for emergency traffic only. For nearly 2 hours, Vore and Tappero relayed between the 911 dispatcher, reporting on the condition of the injured and the approaching weather. Life Flight Network was unable to respond due to a severe thunderstorm immediately above the rescue site.

Two EMT teams were sent, but due to the mountains and the storm, they were unable to communicate with the expedition. Tappero continued to provide relay information for all parties until 6:00 p.m. when paramedics arrived. The teenagers were in stable condition and immediately transported to the nearest hospital. Today they are in good condition and recovering.

“It took us about 2 days to relax after the experience,” Vore said. “We are both happy to have our ham radio licenses and to have been able to help.”

Bouchard said they used radios on the General Mobile Radio System (GMRS), but have since upgraded their licenses for more operating privileges. “Because the signals in the area were not good, it was difficult to communicate,” he continued. “So we studied, passed our exams and now look forward to many more amateur radio opportunities.”

Vore and Bouchard are now looking to join a local amateur radio club and get involved with the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Services® (ARES®).

Thank you ARRL Idaho Chapter Manager Dan Marler, K7REX, and Idaho Deputy Section Director Ed Stuckey, AI7H, for their assistance with the Idaho rescue story.

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