Urgent Messaging

When you need to use ARRUMBA, there are a few important things to keep in mind. 

You cannot be sure anyone will hear your first message, or even your tenth one.  Listeners come and go during the day and night.  They may not even see any reason to answer you if they do hear you, assuming someone else will, or because they are driving and haven’t the time.  So, keep your messages short and fact-filled, to save your battery power.  Then repeat them patiently, every few minutes. 

Recall that your signals behave like a lighthouse.  Get to the best sending point you can.  Usually that will mean the highest point, although sometimes just getting out of the radio-shadow of a hill or depression will be adequate.

Plan your message.  Start with your call sign, repeating it once or twice.  Then calmly state your situation.  You might say “I have a broken ankle and cannot walk out”, or “I’ve been delayed but am in no distress, and my cellphone is dead”.  Next, state who should be notified, and how.  Then, give your position as exactly as you can.  End with your call sign again, and then just listen for a couple of minutes.  If no response, shut off your HT, and try again in a few minutes, maybe from a better position if you can. (There is a reason for giving all the essentials even before you confirm a contact. A scanner listener cannot call you back, but he/she can pass on the emergency information by telephone. Similarly, another busy ham may not want to take the time to chit-chat, but hearing of your difficulty will likely change that.)

Giving your position is extremely important if you might need help to come to you.  No one can get to you if they don’t know where to find you.  A short verbal description can help: “north of Lake Hennessey, about 3 miles”, or “I am on the Palisades Trail, halfway across”.  But far, far better is your exact position, using latitude and longitude.

You do not even need to know what latitude and longitude are, or how to read a map.  All you need is your cellphone – even if it has no signal.  As long as it has power, that “useless” phone is listening to the GPS satellites circling the globe overhead.  You probably already have an app on the phone that can use them to give you your coordinates.

For example, use Google Maps.  Open the app, and touch the little blue spot that indicates you at the middle of the map.  Then, hold your finger on that indicator of your position, and presto, your exact coordinates appear at the top of the screen.  You will see two long numbers, something like 38.327049, -122.289123.  Remember them; write them down, in case your phone battery dies.  Those two numbers are all anyone needs to know your exact position within a few feet!

Other apps will do the same thing for you, perhaps even more conveniently.  There is no need to pay for one.  I have one called “My GPS Location”, that not only presents my coordinates as soon as I activate it, but also my altitude above sea level.  

So don’t give up on your cellphone just because it won’t let you call anyone. 

In fact, here’s another tip.  Don’t give up on your “obsolete” cellphone at all, even when you get a new one!  Most of those old phones will still run apps, as long as you keep the battery charged.  Keep one of those charged up and in an extra pocket, and you will be sitting pretty, even when your main cellphone dies.  (You can even still use it as a camera, too).

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