Sunday, July 26

Mobile Phone and no 999 call?

My July copy of the 'Mountain Rescue' magazine arrived earlier this week, courtesy of a MRT Basecamp subscription taken out at this year's NEC Outdoors Show.

Its always a thought provoking read. Mostly it deals in the technicalities concerning Mountain Rescue Teams, kit concerns, and their approach to situations which most of us pray we will never encounter. But along the way there are ideas (and some very tempting adverts) which can challenge the thinking Outdoor person.

In the latest issue Mark Lewis covers the way mobile networks deal with 999/112 calls. Or more precisely the way that they don't.

If your mobile can't get a network signal from your provider, then a 999 call is impossible.

Its an important feature that used to be available some years ago. Emergency calls from a mobile would try to Roam to other mobile network providers, to get a signal. The same way your UK SIM will Roam for a suitable provider/signal when using a mobile phone abroad.

However, in the UK, this facility for 999 calls was switched off due to the lack of CLI (Caller Line Identification) which meant hoax calls were untraceable.

Presently the only way around this is to use a non-UK simcard which will then search for alternative networks. (So one trick may be to keep a spare non UK SIM in the 1st-aid kit - something cheap, but with a lifetime credit - such as this offering for instance)

Mark reports that OFCOM intend to reinstate 999 Roaming for Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile, Orange & Three by the end of 2009 (More detail on the OFCOM site)

Only problem - the MRT can't call back. A concern as in many cases this is necessary to check details and co-ordinate rescue activity.

Yes you've guessed it. A 999 call from the phone, courtesy of Roaming, but no way back to it if the initial provider signal remains absent.

So a slight success in that the 999 call gets through. But then a brick wall.

OFCOM's minutes from April 2009 don't shed any light as to whether this omission is to be resolved, but do indicate that technical trials are taking some time and the function isn't likely to appear until early 2010.

As a non technical observer, surely some method to switch roaming on/off for a specific mobile telephone number could be quickly made available for a limited period (say 48 hours) following a MRT request, via their local Police contact, to central mobile phone providers?

After all there are many facilities open to the Police and other State Security groups that are pressed into use where mobile phones are concerned. For instance tracing a mobile phone's location via the cell network.

If these complex functional requirements are readily accessible to the Right People Asking, then surely a simple idea, with proper controls, isn't that difficult to achieve?

Now surely it can't be that simple? Or perhaps it is.

Meanwhile the MRT continue to push for 2-way communication.

It may be "good to talk", but for some its bloody essential at times.

Meanwhile - check out the MRT's MRMap site.

"The MRMap software gives Mountain Rescue Search Managers,Team Leaders and Control Room staff the ability to better manage their team bygiving continous GPS positioning, sent over the team radio and shown onto a computerscreen back at base (or even a laptop in a team vehicle!)"

Another simple idea, that might easily save a life one day.

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I think relying on mobile phone to get a signal in the outdoors is a hit & miss affair; especially in real wilderness.

When we were in the Cairngorms we had no signal for most of the 4 days.

Although it pains to say so (mainly because of the extra cost) but a device like the SPOT or some other similar device is probably the only real possible live saver.
SPOTs ok for the alert, but useless to get any return calls. So whilst ideal for the 999, limited in any further use really
That's one reason why I won't buy one, but SWMBO worries when out of contact for a few days.

Wonder if we are get to worried about accidents in the outdoor probably best to try to limit the chances; wonder what they did last century without the technology :-)
The power of prayer?
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