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.
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.