Important! Read this! The phone patch uses the Internet (VOIP) as transport via our base camp in Gerlach. The Internet there is provided by Burning Man as a courtesy to the townspeople. As a free, shared resource, sometimes it's slow and unreliable. When this happens, it means our phone patch may not work at all, or voice quality may be garbled. Sadly, this is not something we have any control over. If you really need 100% communications reliability for your trip out to the Black Rock desert, buy a satellite phone. We don't mean to be downers about this -- usually the phone patch works fine -- but we also don't want anyone being disappointed, so we want to be up front about its limitations.
Step 0. Tune your radio to the BRARA UHF repeater, 440.175 MHz, PL 100.0, positive offset. Listen for a few moments to make sure nobody is in the midst of a conversation on the repeater. Give your ID and state your intention to use the phone patch. Resolve any conflict that might arise. Be a good radio citizen.
Step 1. Key up, pause, dial *911 on your HT or DTMF microphone. Unkey.
Tip: when entering touch tones, hold the keys down for extra long, maybe 1/2 to 1 second each, with a 1/2-second pause in between. That increases the chance of your digits being received correctly.
Step 2. You will hear voice instructions played back to you over the repeater, something like: "You have activated the Black Rock Amateur Radio Association Repeater telephone patch. If this is a life-threatening emergency, key up and dial 911 now and you will be connected to emergency services. Otherwise please enter your phone patch access code followed by the pound key."
Tip: you don't need to wait for it to finish with the instructions, you can interrupt it by keying up and entering digits while the message is playing.
Step 3. Obviously, if it's a life threatening emergency, key up and dial 911 and then unkey. But let's hope it's not a life-threatening emergency. :-)
Step 4. Otherwise, to make a regular phone call, key up and enter your phone patch access code, followed by the pound key. Unkey. Don't have a phone patch access code? Getting one is easy, just join the Black Rock Amateur Radio Association!
Step 5. You will then hear something like: "Thank you. Please enter the telephone number you would like to reach." Key up and enter the phone number and unkey.
Tip: You can dial a 1 first or not, doesn't matter, but you must include area code. Only valid US/Canada numbers please, no support for overseas calls. :-)
Step 6. Once you are connected to your party, a few things to keep in mind:
Step 7. When finished, key up and dial *73 to hang up the call. ID again and consider thanking other users for standing-by while you made your call.
The caveat: the telephone connection is a voice-over-IP link using the Gerlach town wifi network and Internet connection. Because of this, the quality of the connection varies considerably, depending on how many people are using the town wifi and Internet. Sometimes it sounds awesome. Other times you may find the connection is "garbled," kind of like a bad cell phone connection. Again, this is a function how loaded the Gerlach Internet connection is, and unfortunately, we have no control over this.
The request: please keep your phone calls brief. The telephone service is funded presently by a donation from one of our Founders; please don't abuse their generosity.