Tag Archives: Bushwalking

Bushwalking Rescue: Emergency Evacuation by Helicopter

Have you ever needed a helicopter rescue? Ever raised the alarm using your (personal locator beacon) PLB or marine EPIRB? What can you do to make the landing or winching site safer? How can you attract attention and give signals to a circling aircraft? What information do you need to provide?

Well I’m fortunate and have never needed a helicopter rescue, neither has anyone in any of my groups. Nor have I ever had to raise the alarm using my PLB (personal locator beacon) or EPIRB, but I have walked in lots of areas in Tasmania where this is a regular occurrence, either due to poor weather, bushfire or injury.

On occasions, I have seen a helicopter circling and wondered whether someone is in trouble. On one occasion I was approached on a track by Parks and Wildlife staff who had been in radio contact with a rescue helicopter which had been circling and were trying to locate a person who had set off an EPIRB (emergency beacon) and then left the spot, tuning off their beacon when they left.

On most of my walks into isolated areas I have taken an EPIRB ( no longer licensed), now replaced by a PLB. Walking in the Gammon Ranges and further north I have taken a VHF radio for communication with nearby homesteads. Along the south coast and south west coast of Tasmania,  I have taken a marine radio for communication with passing fishing boats. Of course I always have my signalling mirror and mobile phone with me!

Alerting Rescue Services

Modern technology has provided us with several devices

NB Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife has PLBs for hire

    Alert Detection

    Radio distress beacons operate on 406 MHz with a 121.5 MHz transmission feature being used for final stage homing.
    NOTE: After 1 Feb 2010, old analogue EPIRBs and PLBs operating on 121.5 MHz are no longer licenced for use.
    The technology of distress beacons is so advanced that the location of the boat, aircraft or individual in distress can be calculated to a search area of as little as 110m with a digital 406 MHz beacon, if encoded with GPS.
    A digital 406 MHz beacon can relay much more information than simply the distress location.  When registered properly with AMSA, 406 MHz distress beacon can provide the RCC Australia with information such as the registration details of the aircraft, vessel or vehicle as well as emergency contact names and contact numbers.   This may allow further information to be gathered relating to the type of craft, survival gear carried and the number of people on board etc.  REGISTRATION IS FREE.
    After defining the search area, aircraft or other rescue craft rely on homing equipment to locate the beacon’s exact position.
    It is important that once a beacon is switched on in a distress situation you should not switch it off until rescue has been affected or you are advised to by the rescue authority. ”  Australian Marine Safety Authority

      Traditional methods include

      • lighting signal fires: three fires in a triangle for an emergency.  Have green vegetation handy to create smoke.
      • signaling with a mirror:  lightweight signaling mirrors with a hole in the middle to assist location are cheap
      • laying out markers and recognised symbols

      Ground to Air Signals

      • V require assistance
      • X require medical assistance
      • SOS: repetition of 3 signals, separated by a minute

      The following universal signals  are for strip signals, recommended to be built from rocks or tree branches or dug in the ground and are designed to be seen from the air. Make your signal big ( 6 -10m  by 1 m, with at least 3 m between symbols) so that it can be seen from a distance, and select a highly visible location.

      Wilderness Survival Forum

      N – No, Negative
      Y,  or A – Yes, Affirmative
      A square – require map and compass

      Preparing the landing area

      • Chopper can only descend vertically 15 metres
      • Select landing spot with clear approach and exit into the wind, clear 25m diam landing spot with a further 5m no more than 60 cm high, no more than 10% slope.
      • Mark landing area with a large H
      • Streamers or smoke to mark wind direction
      • Clear the landing spot of loose debris. Eye protection should be worn.
      • Approach helicopter from front & lower side on slope only when signaled.

      Abandoning Camp

      If you have to abandon camp, leave clear direction markers to show where you have gone and continue to mark the track, so you know if you have doubled back.


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      How do You Organise Your Food for a Multi-day Hike?

      Do you organise your food by ingredient, by type of meal or by day ? Which method do you find is best?

      There seems to be little consensus about the best way to organise your food within your pack on a multi-day hike.

      Some people keep similar ingredients together and use them in more than I meal. This allows larger containers and hence less packaging, but also risks losing the lot if a large container splits or breaks. It is  a bit like carrying a pantry in your pack and most people I’ve seen arrange the items on the ground around their stove as they begin meal preparation.

      Others keep all their breakfasts, lunches and dinners separately. They will have all their breakfast bars or muesli in the one bag, keep their salami,  cheese and biscuits in another, their scroggin in one large bag, and keep their dinners in another. 

      Others prefer to pack each day’s food separately in a labeled plastic snap lock bag.

      The advantage of this is that you can take a day’s food from deep in your pack, while still in your tent, and store it in the lid of your pack  for the day. You don’t need to undo your dry bag to get to your meals, and if its raining hard, the inside of your pack is not exposed to the weather. The zip -lock bag is waterproof and if you lose one then you have only lost one day’s food. At the end of the day, you have a bag to store your rubbish. In addition, it means that you can’t eat more than a day’s food at a time, so you always have that emergency food supply available. As you label each bag with the day of intended consumption, you can vary the contents so that the first day and last days are lighter and perhaps the emergency bag only contains high energy food. This level of organisation, which is done before you leave home, helps you ration your food evenly over a multi-day hike. It allows me pack my food more compactly with less likelihood of breakages.

      The disadvantage is that there is significantly more packaging,

      Which do you prefer?

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      The iPhone for Bushwalkers?

      Thanks to Extreme Tolerance

      The iPhone 4.0  has many apps* which could be useful for bushwalkers, but will it ever replace the GPS for navigation? Will it replace your field guides, bird watching logbook and first aid book? Will the iPad with its large screen replace the iPhone in the field?

      The iPhone is very versatile and has enormous potential, especially as a multimedia viewer of locality aware information, as an audio player of podcasts, as an eBook reader, or as a research tool, using its medium quality camera in combination with the GPS to produce geo-tagged photos and to record routes taken and locations.

      Can you imagine a field guide which gives you the options based on your locality or listens to a bird call and brings up the image automatically? Perhaps a field guide that analyses a cropped photo you have just taken and recognises the the plant or animal from the field guide. Every wanted to be able to name a distant mountain range, based on its silhouette, the direction you are looking and your location?  Ever wished you could get instructions for CPR  and monitor your rate and number of compressions given? The iPhone would make an ideal bird watchers log book, with the recording of bird call, zoomed photo, and location all integrated with a bird identification database

      Problems to be overcome before it becomes a versatile can’t-do-without tool for bushwalkers include:

      •     short battery life (chargers?)
      •     not waterproof (waterproof pouches?)
      •     can’t operate wearing gloves
      •     fragile: screen easily breakable (protection?)  

      Apps for the iPhone for outdoors fall into several main categories:

      • weather: tides, surf, snow, avalanche
      • astronomy
      • photography
      • first aid/survival
      • field guides: geology, birds, plants, scats and tracks
      • navigation/geocaching
      • fitness/training
      • utilities: knots, flashlight

      Some examples of useful “apps” for Australians

      See also Some Great Uses of the iPhone for Bushwalkers

      St John Ambulance iPhone apps:

      •    MediProfiles: keeps emergency medical information at your fingertips
      •    Resuscitate:  outlines St John DRABCD plan  and helps you locate a public access defibrillator
      •    First Aid: presents easy-to-read and step-by-step emergency first aid information

      Bit Map By NIXANZ 

      Bit Map is an offline map viewer for your own topographic or specialised maps. Store multiple maps on your iPhone, and switch between them. With Bit Map, you can view your own choice of maps, instead of generic maps chosen by somebody else, making it ideal for specialist maps with details not available on other mapping applications, such as highly detailed topographic maps obtained from your government mapping authority. Your topographic maps can also be viewed while offline with no cellphone or wifi network access, making it ideal for a wide range of outdoor pursuits including bushwalking, hiking, trekking, camping, cycling, touring. more…

      Podcasts and Web Apps (Parks and Wildlife Service,  Tasmania 

      Useful Links

      Camping and Hiking Apps for iPhone
      Top 5 iPhone Hiking Applications I Wouldn’t Mind Seeing (or Using)
      Outdoor iPhone Apps: Guidebooks Go Mobile
      The 25 Best Outdoor iPhone Apps 
      12 iPhone Apps For Exploring the Great Outdoors 
      iPhone Bird Guide Comparison

      * apps = applications: small low cost or free programs which can run on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and can be purchased online 

      View other related iPhone posts
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      Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 3

      Using Some Web 2.0 Technologies to Improve and Retain Club Members (Part 3)

      Blogs (online diaries like this)

      Do you want your Association/Club’s web page to be easily found in a Google search by potential new members?

       One of the best ways is to have new content appearing on your website regularly and what could be easier for your webmaster than having a member’s blog. Even better, good content will encourage others to link to your blog, positioning your website even higher in web searches. The more “followers” your blog has the better so offer the opportunity for people to choose to get automatic updates when you add to your blog.

      Do you want greater ownership and participation from your members?

      A blog encourages interaction between members and it is this interaction that is more important than the content itself in retaining members. Younger members are familiar with and welcome this high level of interaction that is missing from most conventional club websites. Your club leaders should take the opportunity to browse you club blog and to interact with new members

      It is possible have contributions and comments automatically ranked and use this as a guide to what is popular and to respond and provide more of the same.

      Why have a boring website that no one reads?

      Sharing Photos and Videos.

      Improve Club spirit by encouraging members to add photos and videos to your gallery. Organise an annual club photo and/or video competition using free web 2.0 photo sharing sites such as Flickr,  Picassa and YouTube. Don’t just upload members photos to your gallery, but ask them to comment and rate the photos posted. Offer prizes for the best in a variety of categories, using online voting.

      Improve Participation by Improving Communication

      Do you struggle to get “new blood” on your Committee? Have you thought about running Committee meetings online for those who can’t make it due to other commitments? How can members be reminded of Club events in a way that can’t easily be ignored?

       There are many programs around which allow you to chat with others and  to share good quality video and audio free of charge.

      SMS is universal – nearly everyone has a mobile phone; it’s instant – messages are normally delivered in 10 seconds or less; and it’s reacted to by most people, more so than letters, emails or phone calls.

      Why not try some of the ideas above? 

      Don’t expect  to see a rapid uptake as it takes time for inhibitions to be overcome and for web 2.0 technologies to be accepted by those who are only familiar with the old paper copy or fax. Many people are happy to read a blog but feel embarrassed about commenting.

      “Seed” your blog  by asking Committee members to regularly contribute until momentum takes hold.

      Other posts in this series can be found by clicking on the membership tag on the right of this page
      Post Options
      Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 2
      Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 1
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