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PLB Didn't Save his Life

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PLB Didn't Save his Life

Postby rightstar76 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:48 pm

After all the hype PLBs have been getting since SPOT was shown to have problems, here's a case where a PLB didn't save a hiker's life.


I guess we all have to be more careful when hiking alone.

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Re: PLB Didn't Save his Life

Postby gdurkee » Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:36 pm

I really hate to Monday morning quarterback on this one. I'm a little bothered that it took two days to respond to what was called a 911 signal. They tried to get foot & horse into the area, but got turned back but only then used a helicopter. In a 911 situation, I would think that the helicopter would be the first response in that kind of distance and terrain.

In Sequoia Kings, we had something like 5 SPOT (and it's not clear this PLB incident was a SPOT signal) signals. Because of the distance and terrain, SAR Incident Command decided to send a helicopter in each case. The good news is that each justified a helicopter response and was a legitimate call for help (as opposed to a wimpavac...). I think, though, that the SPOT folks are going to have to look at their 911 capability and allow for some better level of detail and/or "cancel -- all is really OK" message.

One of the first SPOT calls in Sequoia Kings was a person going into a river. Another hiker activated his SPOT, but they were subsequently able to get the person out of the river and to safety. There was no way of getting a message about the problem and why it was now OK other than to cancel the SPOT 911 signal. How is the agency to handle something like that?

The problem is the same a a 911 hang-up. The police will respond on the theory that there could be an emergency but the person has either been forced to cancel (by another in an abuse situation) or there's some other questionable reason for canceling. The same is true in a backcountry situation, but the logistics of response are far more difficult.

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