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SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

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SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby gdurkee » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:16 pm

Campers:

Here's a DRAFT!!! information sheet for people carrying SPOTs or other Satellite locator beacons. As noted, carrying these things increases your responsibility to make sure your friends and family know what to do, know your itenerary and that you know when you're in a true emergency.

Comments welcome.

Thanks,

George

*************************

If you have a satellite locator device,
PLEASE READ THIS!

Satellite locator devices, such as SPOT and PLBs, can be important safety tools for wilderness travelers. Increasingly, though, they are used to request emergency help when such help is not justified by the circumstances. Activating the “SOS” or “911” button on your device carries the same responsibility as dialing 911 from your phone. When an emergency beacon is activated, the National Park Service (NPS) or other agencies will respond with several rescuers and often a helicopter. Response times can be longer than 24 hours depending on location, weather, accuracy of the device and other factors. To use these devices appropriately, we strongly urge all users to read the following checklist BEFORE your trip to better understand your responsibilities.
Pre-Trip Responsibilities Checklist
• Read the instructions for your device and carry them in your pack! Understand how it works and what services provided by the manufacturer need to be activated and paid for.
• If your device requires registration, DO SO NOW and provide all the information requested. This will help agencies distinguish true emergencies from false alarms.
• Some devices (e.g. SPOT) have a primary contact in the case of an emergency activation. That person MUST have details about your trip prior to your leaving. DO NOT start your trip until this is done. The contact should know the following:
o Your itinerary: When and where you will start your trip, your intended route, when and where you plan to come out.
o Alternative routes you might take.
o Names and emergency contact information for all members of your party.
o The difference between “Help” and “911”, if using a SPOT device. “Help” does not indicate an emergency requiring an agency response. It goes only to your chosen contacts, and they should know what to do when they receive a HELP signal, e.g. to hike or drive to your location. Absent other information, the NPS will not respond to HELP as an emergency and may not send anyone at all. If you have a life-threatening or other true emergency, use the “911” or “SOS” function.
o How to assist the NPS in accessing your tracking webpage (login and password). Knowing your prior waypoints or tracking information may help the NPS response.
• You are the best judge of whether your problem is a true emergency. Consider self-rescue or help from your friends or other hikers. If you activate the emergency signal, and conditions are safe: STAY THERE! Help will come, though it may take 24 hours or longer. Don’t make it harder for rescue personnel to find you. Stopping the SOS signal or activating the “OK” signal may not cancel a response once the emergency beacon has been pressed. So you must stay near the SOS activation location even if you feel it is no longer an emergency.
• Do not signal 911 unless you feel it is a true emergency. Rescues, especially with helicopters, are risky and expensive and we will do a post-rescue review of all incidents. However, do not be afraid to signal if you feel it is justified. We are absolutely willing to respond, and we would rather overreact than be too late to save you.

Remember, your emergency locator device is only a tool. Activating 911 in the middle of a storm will not assure your survival until help arrives. It is your equipment, knowledge and experience that will contribute most to your survival. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip. In an emergency, NPS rangers will do everything possible to help you, but please use your emergency device responsibly.



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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby rlown » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:54 am

Hi George,

Given it's a "draft", is the plan that these be posted in Yose and Seki at the permitting stations? Might be just as simple to add a question about spot/plb planned usage to the LNT questions, so the permitting folks can point to the board, and say, read that! I find most don't just go over and read the flyers behind the plexiglass. Maybe put it somewhere prominent on the wilderness permit section of both websites.

Otherwise, nice draft.

Russ
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:50 pm

As a SPOT user for two years (it makes my wife feel better when I'm solo), I think the draft is excellent. I agree you should put a PDF on the wilderness page of of SEKI and Yosemite, and also all the other national parks and forests. Also, I would have the ranger hand a copy to anyone carrying one when they pick up their permit. Just like you have to check off all the stuff about campsite locations, waste disposal, etc., people should have to check they've read this if it's applicable. I know this sounds rather patronizing, but I've learned never underestimate the ignorance and stupidity of people traveling in the wilderness.
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:29 am

I would go even further, and have them sign a form in which they understand
and take financial responsibility if they request an evac in a non emergency situation.
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby BrianF » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:46 am

Excellent idea and draft. I agree that this should be part of the info you get and checklist you sign off on when you pick up the permit. I don't think it can be stressed enough that the help button is for real emergencies only (significant injuries, severe illness, lost and overdue, stuck on a cliff) and that just being cold and scared is part of the learning curve.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby homeranch » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:56 am

Great checklist.
I too wonder about those who prefer a ride out to a walk out, and will light off their beacon for no good reason.
I carry one, because I am out alone frequently, it keeps my wife happy. I send her an OK at lunch and at dinner, that gives her a good picture of my location.

A note to those who carry one. If you are going to hit 911, you should be injured enough that you cannot extricate yourself.

It does no good if it is not on you. Like an avalanche beacon, if it is in your pack and you part from from your pack, like on a fall on a snow slope, you are in trouble.

If you are horseback and it is in your saddlebag, and you part from your horse, you are in trouble.

etc.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, elevate your experience and skill levels so that you can cope with problems.
Always consider, "if I get hurt, and the beacon doesn't send a signal (and there are places in canyons or dense forest where it won't) what do I do.

This is important; take a dime, duct tape it over the 911 button so that it does not get pushed accidentally. Last year on a back country trip, I sent my noon OK, and within a half hour a CHP helicopter came right over my camp, circled and left.

I thought, "what the heck? Did I send 911 by mistake?" Since the ship did not land or try to make contact, I assume it was just a coincidence. But soon after that I taped the dime over the button.
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby rlown » Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:22 pm

bumping this as well. Some of George's best work.
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby oleander » Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:42 pm

That is a good start, but I go even further with my Spot contact.

I tell them that sudden loss of tracking information, and/or sudden lack of the daily "I'm okay" message, does not itself imply an emergency and they are not to contact SAR (unless we have indeed sent an SOS). The more likely explanation is a battery problem, loss or damage of the device, or loss of signal owing to terrain. Anyway, our contact is instructed to wait a full 72 HOURS before contacting SAR in such a case. We figure if we lose use of our device in the field, we have 3 days to walk out and call in that we're okay.

I think the above is really important. Your contact will start EXPECTING the daily "I'm okay" and will PANIC if, one day, suddenly, it does not come. This is particularly true if your contact is not a backpacker or is a worrier. You do NOT want your contact to call out the troops on a whim.

As for "itinerary," an issue we often have is that we're getting walk-in permits. We have a first, second and third choice going in. I name all 3 of the possible places we're going; then offer the phone number of the permitting office, explaining that our itinerary will be written down on the permit that is pulled. Of course I also call my contact to tell them which permit we ended up getting. It's just that I ALSO prefer to have that info in written form for them, in advance, in case they jot it down wrong when I call.

Detours: For our itinerary I offer likely places we may go exploring on little side trips, particularly if they are off-trail. Places where people might go looking for us. Just the likely nightly campsite is not enough info. I add stuff like, "possible side trip to Ritter Lakes."

I add the park emergency number or SAR number for the county involved (e.g. Mono County, Inyo County). The Spot management will contact SAR, and it is up to SAR to contact your contact as listed in Spot's system. HOWEVER, if my contact learns of an SOS, I want to encourage that person to actively call up SAR to surprise SAR with the ream of additional information that my contact will have, to help SAR in its search.

OTHER PIECES OF INFO GIVEN TO OUR CONTACT
Car info: Description; license plate
Names, ages, height, hair color, etc.
Recent photo of us in our usual hiking gear
Shoe models/sizes. I figure this might help in identifying our footprints to track.
Equipment info: Type/color of tents, backpacks, pants, how many hiking poles, etc.
Any medical info that really stands out - even though we entered the info in the Spot database already - for instance, one of our common hiking partners is an epileptic.
A reminder not to contact SAR if we have not exited the wilderness on the date expected, but are still sending "I'm okay" messages daily.

If someone comes along on our trip, we add that person, BOTH into the Spot account, AND to the memo that goes to our contact. We also inform our contact of that person's primary emergency contact (spouse, etc.) phone & email.

We explain to our contact that s/he is THE liaison to SAR. If 6 people are on our trip, we don't want 6 (or 12, or 49) spouses, parents and siblings separately contacting SAR and asking meddling questions.

We do not have a need for the "Help" button, so we use it in the following way (and explain this very clearly in advance to our contact): If in the course of our hiking we run across ANOTHER PARTY that is having an emergency, we engage BOTH the "Help" button (first) and then the SOS button (second). Our contact can then explain to SAR that we are not seeking rescue for our own group; rather we are alerting them to an SOS experienced by another group that could be just about anyone.

- Elizabeth
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby Shawn » Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:11 am

If in the course of our hiking we run across ANOTHER PARTY that is having an emergency, we engage BOTH the "Help" button (first) and then the SOS button (second).


That's a good idea.
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:48 am

SEKI has posted the flyer linked below on this page:

http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/backpacking.htm

Scroll down to almost the bottom of the page to "Emergency Locator Device Advisory" and click on it for this:

http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/u ... INAL-3.pdf
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby Rockyroad » Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:41 pm

Shawn wrote:
If in the course of our hiking we run across ANOTHER PARTY that is having an emergency, we engage BOTH the "Help" button (first) and then the SOS button (second).


That's a good idea.


The first trip I took with the SPOT, I was so worried of scaring my wife if I encountered a situation where I would need to engage SOS for another party. After that trip, I set my custom message to say the SOS is for someone else. I like the idea of the combo buttons too.
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Re: SPOT - PLB Responsibility Checklist

Postby cloudlesssky » Tue Jun 17, 2014 4:45 am

oleander wrote:I tell them that sudden loss of tracking information, and/or sudden lack of the daily "I'm okay" message, does not itself imply an emergency and they are not to contact SAR (unless we have indeed sent an SOS). The more likely explanation is a battery problem, loss or damage of the device, or loss of signal owing to terrain. Anyway, our contact is instructed to wait a full 72 HOURS before contacting SAR in such a case. We figure if we lose use of our device in the field, we have 3 days to walk out and call in that we're okay.


Batteries, damage, loss of signal are my big worries with my Spot. And you don't really know if any message is ever received by the satellite. So my instructions are:

"If you lose the Spot signal please assume my Spot has broken or the batteries have died. Neither condition is cause for concern. I will continue on my original itinerary so consult that for routes, dates and planned exits."
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