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Know the Wilderness Protocol

One of the great features of Amateur Radio is it gives amateur radio operators the ability to provide mutual assistance to one another. This aid can come in the form of providing direct assistance and / or passing emergency communications to authorities. There are two common procedures or protocols currently in place for mutual assistance on VHF & UHF FM frequencies. The amateur radio Wilderness Protocol defines frequencies and times to send and monitor for emergency and priority communications. The LiTZ Protocol defines a method of sending a tone to notify others of emergency or priority communications. It is important for all amateur radio operators to be familiar with both protocols in order to summons or provide help to others when needed. The protocols are more effective when more people use them.

Expedition Leaders – to assist in the Wilderness Radio Protocol, nets created for operations should use V8 to monitor the Wilderness FM Radio Frequency.


Note – Emergency communications can be transmitted on any frequency at any time. The Wilderness Protocol and LiTZ Protocol are in place to aid communications when no response is received.

Monitoring The Wilderness Protocol

The purpose of this initiative is to offer amateur radio stations outside repeater range an opportunity to be heard when it is needed the most!

The Wilderness Protocol suggests radio operators (Amateur service) should monitor standard simplex channels at specific times in case of Emergency or Priority Calls.

Amateur Radio
Wilderness Protocol
Monitoring Frequencies



2 Meter FM 146.520
6 Meter FM 52.525
222 Band FM 223.500
440 Band FM 446.000
23 Centimeters FM 1294.500

Amateur Radio
Wilderness Protocol
Monitoring Times

24 Hr AM / PM
0100 – 0105 1:00am – 1:05am
0400 – 0405 4:00am – 4:05am
0700 – 0705 7:00am – 7:05am
1000 – 1005 10:00am – 10:05am
1300 – 1305 1:00pm – 1:05pm
1600 – 1605 4:00pm – 4:05pm
1900 – 1905 7:00pm – 7:05pm
2200 – 2205 10:00pm – 10:05pm

The primary frequency monitored is 146.520 MHz, secondarily or alternatively 52.525 MHz, 223.500 MHz, 446.000 MHz and 1294.500 MHz respectively. The idea is to allow communications between hams that are hiking, backpacking or camping in uninhabited areas, outside repeater range an alternative opportunity to be heard.

NOTE – This is NOT just for hikers, back packers, campers or similar situations. It is for ANYONE to use at ANYTIME, that you need assistance!

Recommended Use of “Wilderness Protocol”

MONITOR FREQUENCIES – Monitor the Primary Frequency – 146.520 MHz and any or all of the Secondary Frequencies – 52.525 MHz, 223.500 MHz, 446.000 MHz , 1294.500 MHz.

MONITOR TIMING – Monitor every 3 hours from 7:00 am (0700 Hrs) until 5 (five) minutes past the hour 7:05am (0705 Hrs). Monitoring times: 7:00am – 7:05am, 10:00am – 10:05am, 1:00pm – 1:05pm, 4:00pm – 4:05pm, 7:00pm – 7:05pm, 10:00pm – 10:05pm, 1:00am – 1:05am, 4:00am – 4:05am.

ALTERNATE TIMING – Monitor every 3 hours as suggested above, however monitor 5 minutes before the hour till 5 minutes past the hour. In case users watch is incorrect.

ENHANCED MONITORING – Fixed stations or portable stations with enough battery power listen every hour at the top of the hour. Continuous monitoring is also an effective option.

SCANNING MONITOR – Consider entering 146.520 MHz, 52.525 MHz, 223.500 MHz, 446.000 MHz and 1294.500 MHz in to your scanner radio, or extended scanning monitor radio.

INFORMING OTHERS – Remind others of this protocol at meetings, on nets and in the field.

CALLING FREQUENCY – 146.520 MHz is a calling frequency. Make your calls, and then move off the frequency so others can use the frequency. Suggested frequencies to move to 146.550 MHz, 146.430 MHz, etc. Suggested use 4 minutes after the hour. This timing would help those in trouble not be covered up.

USE THE LiTZ (LONG TONE ZERO – On Touch Tone Pad) – Begin calls for assistance with 10 or more seconds of Tone with the LiTZ (Long Tone Zero) signal.

REMEMBER – These are Calling Frequencies, and standard calling should only start at 4 minutes after the hour preceded by listening for 30 seconds. Listen First then Call CQ with short transmissions, then carefully listen. Listen First is always a best practice.

History of the Wilderness Protocol

by Michael Potaczala, KC4NUS,
Orange County ARES, Florida

Recently, I found a book by fellow Floridian Reid Tillery, KG4YFE. An avid hiker and camper, he has a section in his book about radio use for those traveling in wild areas. Part of it covered the “Wilderness Protocol for Amateur Radio.”

In February 1994 QST, William Alsup, N6XMW, put forth this idea: a set of VHF and UHF frequencies and a basic schedule for monitoring the frequencies for contact from Amateur Radio operators in wilderness areas.

The primary frequency band proposed was two-meters with secondary frequencies on six-meters, 1.25-meters, 70-centimeters, and 23-centimeters. I expect by no coincidence, the simplex frequencies N6XMW suggested are also the National Simplex Calling frequencies or the Primary Simplex frequency for the bands in his proposal. The
frequencies for the Wilderness Protocol are 52.525 MHz, 146.520 MHz, 223.500 MHz, 446.000 MHz and, 1294.500 MHz.

The proposed schedule for monitoring the frequencies is every three hours on the hour starting at 7 AM local time until 7 PM local time. For those radio amateurs with more time or a scanner, monitoring more
often is encouraged. The basic schedule gives someone who is out of cellular service range and not able to contact a repeater a specific time when someone should be listening to get word to the proper authorities in the event of an emergency situation.

The base monitoring time is 5 minutes. I also found suggestions to start monitoring 5 minutes before the hour every other time so that minor differences on the clock of monitoring hams and hams in the woods would not cause them to miss each other. Making daily contact with a hiker to know an extended hike is going without incident, or to pass routine traffic to and from family was another suggested use for hams with opportunity to monitor the Wilderness Protocol frequencies regularly.

It occurred to me that having hams following the Wilderness Protocol can be of use to more than hikers and campers. Throughout the country hams are on the road traveling for business and pleasure. While cellular phones have become a common belt-looped appliance, there are many locations where “no signal” is the only message they will display. Vehicle accidents, mechanical failures, and worse can happen along any stretch of road.

So whether you are near a national forest, a large wooded park, or on the outer edge of suburbia, monitoring at least the primary two-meter frequency of the Amateur Radio Wilderness Protocol may provide needed
assistance to someone in dire straits. I encourage all ARES groups to include the Wilderness Protocol in their local membership manuals and to recommend to their membership to monitor the associated frequencies as regularly as they want their membership to be monitoring their local ARES repeaters.