Spot device protocols | High Sierra Topix  

Spot device protocols

Share your advice and personal experiences, post a gear review or ask any questions you may have pertaining to outdoor gear and equipment.
User avatar

Spot device protocols

Postby oleander » Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:02 pm

We are bringing a (borrowed) Spot device into the wilderness for the first time.

We are trying to come up with some protocols for what our emergency people back home should do if they do/do not get certain messages from the Spot.

Our emergency people will be receiving an "I'm okay" message at 7 pm every evening. And we expect to turn on tracking while we're moving every day; so they will track our movements as well.

The issue that has us hung up is:

What if, suddenly, our contacts are getting NOTHING from our Spot device? No "I'm okay;" no tracking; no SOS. Just silence.

Let's say this suddenly happens when we are off-trail, 3 days from a trailhead.

If the issue is that our Spot device has stopped working - got banged up, batteries destroyed, we dropped it and it floated away - but we are perfectly healthy - and we have told our emergency people to call in the troops if they stop getting communications from out Spot: Now we have initiated a pointless SAR for us even though we are perfectly fine. Not cool.

Let's say on the other hand that we fall down a cliff. The Spot gets destroyed and we break our legs. We need rescue, but cannot make the SOS call on the Spot because it's dead. But we've told our emergency contacts NOT to call in the troops "just because the Spot has stopped communicating." Now it is going to be about 4 days - 24 hours after the intended end of our hiking segment - before our contacts realize there is actually something wrong, and call for help.

Where do you fall on this dilemma? Is there some middle ground?

I will note that will be carrying spare lithium batteries with us.

Ah - technology. (Bangs head against desk.)

- Elizabeth



User avatar
oleander
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 325
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 10:15 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby Mike McGuire » Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:30 pm

Would you go on this trip if your didn't have a SPOT? If "no", then you shouldn't go with it because it's not professional grade emergency equipment. If you go to the REI web site and read the reviews of the SPOT device, you will see that there have been some reliability issues.You would need something better (and a lot more expensive) like an EPIRB. On the other hand, if you follow the instructions, put fresh lithium batteries in it, have spares, don't use it for pounding tent stakes, tie it to your pack so you don't lose it, etc, a SPOT will work fine. If it does quit during the trip, your contacts will just have to go back to worrying about you the way they used to; but it will not be the occasion for them blowing the S&R whistle. If you are not using the royal "we" with respect to the size of your group (meaning a solo trip), there will be someone to go for help if something bad happens and the SPOT quits working.

Mike
User avatar
Mike McGuire
Founding Member
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu May 11, 2006 7:54 pm
Location: Portola Valley CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby tim » Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:46 pm

It's a pretty robust device - hard to break even if you dropped it (maybe not 100ft but from a pack would be fine). The protocol should be the same as if you weren't carrying it, ie call out SAR if you are overdue. Only if you send an emergency message should anyone do anything different. The OK messages are nice to have but not essential.

Having said that, my SPOT has been very reliable. I'm trying out an inReach this summer. I like it even more but it does mean I need to be careful to preserve my iPhone battery in order to send and receive messages.
User avatar
tim
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 496
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:36 pm
Location: Bay Area
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby ManOfTooManySports » Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:23 pm

There was a really good discussion on what information should be provided, which we are now following. That may help you make some decisions. viewtopic.php?f=34&t=6565&start=60

That said, last year we had a snack with a ranger who was hanging out at a trail junction asking if hikers had seen some people. He was there because his boss said he had to be there because some mom called in a panic when she didn't get an "Ok" text from her son's Spot.
User avatar
ManOfTooManySports
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 142
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:58 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby kpeter » Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:53 pm

Well, I can tell you how I use my device.

First, I don't do tracking. It depletes batteries rather quickly. Instead I send an "OK" signal as I pass each major landmark.

I don't send an "OK" signal at a given time each day, but my wife knows that there will be one expected in the evening and that the last one of the day will always be from my tent site. I'd hate to panic someone because I was cooking dinner or setting up the tent and forgot to send the SPOT signal at a given hour.

If I send a "HELP" signal (not the 911 signal) that indicates to my wife that I have run into something that will delay my exit for one day but that I am taking care of things on my own. A sprain, for example, might have slowed me down, or perhaps I am waiting for a stream to go down so it is safe to cross. If, however, the "HELP" signal comes from the trailhead it means I have car trouble and she needs to drive to the trailhead to pick me up.

If I should lose the SPOT or it becomes inoperative for some reason, she won't notifiy SAR unless one of two conditions is met: 1) I am overdue by 24 hours or 2) she has not had a signal in 72 hours. Basically, if I lose the device I have three days to get to civilization and contact her. I never take trips in which I would be more than 3 days away from a way to contact her. Yes, I do make a commitment to scrub the trip if I lose the SPOT. But that is the price I pay for going solo. I don't think I would do that if I were in a group.

I don't think the SPOT will break, and I carry extra lithium batteries for it just in case. So long as I am conscious and not in a slot canyon I have confidence in being able to get a signal out. Losing it if far more likely--taking it out, sending a signal, and forgetting to put it back. If that happens you can backtrack a few hours to pick it up. It floats, but I supposed you could drop it somewhere that you couldn't retrieve.

Hope this helps....
User avatar
kpeter
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:11 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby oldranger » Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:16 pm

The only situations my wife or other members of the family would do anything is if I were more than a day overdue or I actually sent a 911 message. They know that while I am pretty careful I am also a spaceshot and sometimes forget to send the ok message at the end of the day. I also went on a trip a few years ago and forgot to review the operating instructions. Consequently I never successfully sent out an OK message. But I was out on time. Sometimes my wife just understands that Mike being Mike is a burden she is stuck with. Oh yes the "send help" function is programmed to get a tow truck because vast areas of eastern oregon have no cell phone coverage.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
User avatar
oldranger
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2164
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:26 am

My arrangement with my wife is similar to KPeter. I send an OK message every morning and evening from the campsite. Often, I'll send a couple of messages an hour or so apart just to be sure. While hiking, I will send one when I stop long enough, such as having lunch or the top of a pass. I used the Help the same way to let my family know I'm delayed, but able to hike out. The delay could be because of weather, a creek/river crossing issue, or a non-emergency injury. I've never had to send a Help message, by the way.

In terms of reliability, I haven't had any problems with the SPOT 2. With the SPOT 1, I had a couple of instances where it said the message was sent, but it never arrived.

It's important to wait long enough for the OK light to turn off so only the ON and Sending Message lights are still blinking. When I do this, the message always goes through. However, that requires staying in the exact same place for at least 15-20 minutes (that's why I tend to send from a campsite).

Also, with the SPOT 2, the Custom Message can be useful. I use it to say I'm slightly changing my itinerary so my family knows when I end up camping at a different place then scheduled, it's just me responding to my surroundings and my feelings. Also, I always go over the itinerary with them before I leave and point out those instances where I may not follow the precise itinerary.

Lastly, it's important to carefully read and follow the instructions. A lot of the negative comments on REI are from people who didn't follow the instructions correctly and blame it on the device.
User avatar
LMBSGV
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 579
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 8:42 pm
Location: San Geronimo, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby oldranger » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:31 pm

I don't understand why if you change your itinerary you need to send a message that says you changed your itinerary. My wife is smart enough (much smarter than me except I can't figure out why she married such a pain in the a--) to figure out if the "I'm ok" message comes from somewhere off the planned route or on a different day that I told her that I changed plans. No alarm unless 911 goes out, even then I have explained given my history that it is more likely the 911 will be used to help someone else and is not for me. I think keeping your system as simple as possible is the best way to aleviate any anxiety for loved ones monitoring your progress.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
User avatar
oldranger
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2164
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:04 pm

I'm still amazed at how technology becomes a "must have" and how we have to deal with it, check lists, protocols and all. I can see the next problem already: Texting while hiking. :D

My protocol is easy. I don't have a spot. I leave a copy of the permit and map of where i might be when. Then in the margin on the paperwork:

"here's the number to call if I'm not home when promised, or I don't call you before 2 days after the exit date".

I think i'd be more inclined to be in Mike McGuire's camp at this point.
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5327
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby ManOfTooManySports » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:40 pm

We give by email to a reliable neighbor or family member a detailed itinerary with potential route changes; detailed descriptions of each of us, our gear, our abilities, our clothing, our car including license plate; cell numbers to leave texts or messages (the phones are in the car); and add a big photo of us, as well. The instructions are that if we don't call our contact by a certain time on a certain date, for him/her to call the proper authority (and we give the names and numbers). We tell them said authority will probably want the detailed info we provide. We give ourselves a pretty good buffer to get out, and figure SAR, etc. will consider the weather and the terrain before calling the Calvary.

I understand the desire and usefulness of SPOT, but this is what works for us.
User avatar
ManOfTooManySports
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 142
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:58 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby dsundrwd » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:27 pm

I like rlown's advice
Last edited by dsundrwd on Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
dsundrwd
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:14 am
Location: Walnut Creek, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Spot device protocols

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:43 pm

I don't understand why if you change your itinerary you need to send a message that says you changed your itinerary.


Because it tells my wife it is my conscious decision and therefore no need to worry.

As for the other comments, you have your understandings with your family and I have mine. I'll stick with mine.
User avatar
LMBSGV
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 579
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 8:42 pm
Location: San Geronimo, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Next

Return to Outdoor Gear Topix



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], mschnaidt and 3 guests