Sunday, March 28, 2010

Backroads Safety and Cell Phones

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  Cell phones with external antenna jacks are history.  Please click on this link:  Wilson Sleek Cell Phone Amplifier.  This is my update on current amplifiers.  Things are changing rapidly I will try and update as much as possible.  This update is Feb. 2013.

Do read the article below.  It does introduce and cover safety topics not addressed elsewhere in the blog.  Thanks for reading.

Out on the backroads it is unlikely to see a Forest Service or BLM presence, other than signing.    National and State Parks are just the opposite, with personnel highly visible and more people in the area. This assures that in an emergency situation help will come quickly. While traveling in secluded areas, here are a few things you can do to make it easier for emergency responders like the local Sheriff and EMT's.

First, be prepared with a first aid kit and other necessary items such as blankets, water, energy bars.  If you need emergency help, in many locations, it will be hours before help arrives.  Ask for help from people in the area. 

Emergency responders will NEED to know where you are!  It is difficult to find people on the backroads of our public lands.  You need to know your location and be able to tell 911.  This is an important reason to have a GPS unit with you.  All GPS should have a Latitude and Longitude reading.  Usually found under "where am I".  Find that on your GPS before you need help.  If possible, have someone meet the emergency vehicle and escort it to the emergency location.  That will save time.

If you see a Forest Service or BLM vehicle, get emergency help from them.  With their radios they can contact the Sheriff and make things much easier.  But in most cases, you will have to rely on your cell phone.

Before you travel backroads, program your cell phone so it beeps as you go in and out of service.  You always want to make note of where you last had cell phone service.  That way, in an emergency, you can head straight for the place where you last had a signal.

It is very likely it will be a poor signal once you get there.  Remember, in most cases going up in elevation will get you a better signal.  If you only have a poor signal, turn on the speaker phone and lay the cell phone where it gets reception.  Do NOT move the cell phone.  Moving a phone with a poor signal will cause the signal to go in and out of service. 

An external antenna will increase the stability of your signal and help your cell phone make a connection in remote areas.  Here is the antenna on my truck.  It is a Wilson cellular truck antenna, the most popular brand on the market.  

You will also need an adapter for your phone if it has an external phone jack or a "patch" adapter to wrap around the antenna.  Here is a picture of the adapter and external antenna jack on my cell phone.  There was no mention of the external jack in the manual, but the cell phone provider did know that the phone had one and its location.
Cell phone companies do not like external antennas and amplifiers.  There are currently on-going discussions about limiting their use while providing some mechanism for using them in back country areas.  So do not plug in the antenna unless you have to use it in a remote area.  In areas with good cell phone reception,if you use the antenna you will bleed over into other phone calls. Be kind to other cell phone users or your right to use them in emergencies and remote areas may be taken away from you.

You can purchase the Wilson Trucker Antenna through Amazon.  It is a great price, plus it comes with the mounting bracket.  Don't forget that you need to find the specific cell phone adapter for your phone or order the Velcro phone patch, if your phone does not have an external adapter.

Here is the link for the phone adapters for specific phones.
amazon phone adapter link

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