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Serious Problems with SPOT

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Serious Problems with SPOT

Postby rightstar76 » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:31 am

Just read about this on another list:
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7969437
Apparently, when search and rescue contacted the company SPOT uses to find out the user’s GPS, it ran into all sorts of problems and it took forever to get the information. The hiker pressed the Help button by accident, but that’s not the issue here. If it had been for real and the company had not given out the GPS, it could have been tragic. After reading this, I am not going to buy SPOT. For now if I decide to spend the money, it will be a PLB.



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Re: Serious Problems with SPOT

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Aug 22, 2008 4:01 am

Looks like the guy hit the help button, not the 911 button. A Help message sends coordinates to your support list. His wife should have been able to give the SAR team the coordinates.
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Re: Serious Problems with SPOT

Postby nazdarovye » Fri Aug 22, 2008 10:26 am

The Other Tom wrote:Looks like the guy hit the help button, not the 911 button. A Help message sends coordinates to your support list. His wife should have been able to give the SAR team the coordinates.


Did you read the full thread that was linked to here? That really wasn't the issue; among other things, the SAR folks were not given information by SPOT for 2 1/2 hours. Locations were also inaccurate.

I was one of the SPOT testers for backpackinglight - we found it highly unreliable and also to have an extremely poor and confusing UI (highlighted in this particular incident, by the way). Position reports, even under an open sky, were quite unreliable, and highly influenced by the exact position and orientation of the unit.

Interesting idea, very poor execution. I wouldn't trust my life with it, and we all agreed at the end of the test that we wouldn't even donate the units to, for example, a scout troop, much less use them ourselves.
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Re: Serious Problems with SPOT

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:33 pm

No, I didn't read every post, just the first few. Not sure about SPOT not giving SAR the coordinates for a help call. Again, his wife should have been able to provide SAR with the info, so there was no reason to contact SPOT for a help call. Not giving them for a 911 call would be, in my opinion, inexcusable. It's my understanding that SPOT will contact the nearest SAR in the event of a 911 call, but not a help call.
As to the reliability, I've used mine many times and the location has been, well...spot on. I always check the link (google maps) when I get back. Maybe they've upgraded them since your test :dontknow
One thing I have noticed, though, is that it takes about 30 min. to link up with the satellite. So the message isn't sent instantaneously.
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Re: Serious Problems with SPOT

Postby Baffman » Sat Aug 30, 2008 3:10 pm

You know, I have a SPOT and I know how to use it. My wife knows what to do if I hit HELP. I read all of these posts and all of the others too. What happened here is that he didn't know how to use it (how to cancel a HELP or 911), she panicked, lack of communication between his wife and others, he was irresponsible in not insuring the buttons were not accidentally pressed, and I could go on. When she received the HELP message, it gave her the GPS coordinates!!!

I've used my SPOT on 3 trips now. The GPS coordinates have been accurate. Sometimes it can't get a good signal, but hey, my GPS unit has trouble sometimes too! Duh. I used the tracking feature and my wife and family enjoyed being able to follow along. SPOT is a useful tool if you know how to use it. It has already saved lives and I know that some (all??, I doubt it) of the NPS rangers carry them while in the backcountry.

Maybe a satellite phone is better, but they aren't cheap and I imagine they're heavier. I am a defender of SPOT so far. It has worked well for me and I've heard first hand accounts of it saving lives in the backcountry. Of the rangers I have spoken to about this device, their concern is that someone will get a blister or get tired and decide they want to be rescued.

So if you have one, learn how to use it. It looks simple enough, but you have to read the instruction manual. There are only 4 buttons, but 3 of them have two functions depending on how long you hold the button down. Different colored LED light flashes mean different things. You really have to inform your HELP team what to do in the event they receive a help call. First thing for them to do is all be on the same page.

Sure are a lot of haters of this unit out there. Maybe if they had experience with a unit (and knew how to use it) before bashing it and the SPOT company, they'd have a slightly different view of it.

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