In the 90’s the Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) National Training Officer, Mick Tighe, a member of the Lochaber MRT, raised his concerns that SMR and the teams provided a great deal of equipment for the aid of casualties but were still sending some team members out into the mountains without radios! A fund was set up to equip all the teams with enough radios and this was duly done.
With the advent of the digital age a new group was set up to investigate possible replacements of the ageing radios. Teams have now had replacement radios for just over 2 years, and they could be described as all singing and dancing.
In addition to the previous radios normal functions of send and receive, channel change and scanning of other channels the new radios have several extra features. Each radio has a team member’s personal alias, id number, and a list of team members can be added to each radio.
It is possible to have a ‘private’ call between two handsets without the need to use the press to transmit button. This is extremely useful when a team member is handling the stretcher on a lower as it allows for hands free communication with one other team member still on the top.
GPS on the radios automatically broadcasts the position of the handset every 10 minutes or every 1km travelled along with the radio alias and id number. In addition, the location of any handset can be tracked on map software on a computer at the team control.
Text messages can be sent to any individual selected from the radio’s contact list.
A long press of a particular button will terminate any current radio traffic on that channel and set all handsets to receive. This allows for an emergency interrupt of radio traffic, for example when a casualty is located, if immediate assistance is required, or to recall teams in the event of a stand down.
Any handset, but only one at any time, can be set to act as a Digital Repeater. This means that a handset, on SFR, positioned on a hilltop, can receive, and resend messages from radios on the SFR channel in one area to others on SFR channel in another area when an intervening hill or hills prevents the normal communication.
A far cry from the early MR Teams’ lack of communication.