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Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby rlown » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:29 pm

but you don't really know.. heck, i can tell you if I had a SPOT, i probably couldn't hit the button in a situation. you can conjecture all you want. We're out there because we love it. should probably leave it alone.. choose your poison, or your love. they sometime grow on the same stem.



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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby gdurkee » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:29 pm

However, if you are off trail, and in fact doing so at a pretty extreme level like Larry, how is a tracking device supposed to help you? Are we to assume he was in some way incapacitated, but otherwise could have sounded an alarm if so equipped?


So I'm not sure what's not getting across about search and rescue here. Larry's is probably a good one to use as an example. After he talked to someone at the trailhead and gave a couple of ideas of where he might go, he utterly vanished. There was not a single clue or foot print found during the entire search -- about 50 ground searchers and up to 3 helicopters with thousands of hours of cumulative search time. Not one clue. It goes without saying there was a huge emotional toll on those here, his family and the searchers.

It is clues which concentrate the search. They can be physical (a track or camp) or discovered by investigation (interviewing the last person to see him). Tracking devices have the potential to add one more clue: the person's actual location at a certain time. True, if they're only checking in, say, twice a day, you've still got a big area, but you've also got a smaller one than what you would otherwise have without a clue (so to speak...).

Most everyone here knows how huge the search area for Larry was. It matched almost exactly that of Morgenson in '96. No clues there either. So the only point I'm making here is that these things can significantly reduce the search area or even pinpoint the location exactly. That is a huge, huge advantage on a search or a rescue (not the same thing, of course).

So, it appears that Heng, Dankworth and Ybarra all died instantly. But all involved multi-day searches of fairly large areas in extremely dangerous terrain (after all, these guys died there, so now you're sending more people into it...). In answer to your question, then, a location signal would have been a darned good thing to have. Again, it would have reduced risk to the responders and brought quicker resolution to the families and friends.

Next: being incapacitated and unable to push the button. Not sure where this is coming from either. Even if the person is dead, you still have a tracking location reducing the search area -- a major reduction of risk for searchers and consolation to the family if the person is thereby found more quickly.

But the majority -- by a huge margin -- of searches are for people with survivable injuries or who are actually lost who CAN push the button and call for help (as well, of course, as some bogus calls).

And, absolutely, those of you against them can cheerfully accept possibly dying as a risk. But there's no question you're also then accepting the risk of anyone who comes looking for you. I'm not necessarily against that, but strongly pointing out that it's not just about you. There are other considerations to be weighed.

I've never gotten to an injured person and had them say, "no, don't rescue me, I accepted the risk, I'll just die here" (or get better..).

g.
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby rlown » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:35 pm

I've never gotten to an injured person and had them say, "no, don't rescue me, I accepted the risk, I'll just die here" (or get better..).


you won't hear that from them.. they're not dead.
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby Flux » Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:40 pm

rlown wrote:but you don't really know.. heck, i can tell you if I had a SPOT, i probably couldn't hit the button in a situation. you can conjecture all you want. We're out there because we love it. should probably leave it alone.. choose your poison, or your love. they sometime grow on the same stem.


You're correct. I don't know, I can only look at different situations and support my own opinion on owning one of these and using it.

I also don't hike backcountry alone. So I'd have someone there to help me decide to push the button or not or even do it for me.

But I also got one because I would rather have every advantage when it comes to taking care of my friends as well as myself. I'm not a fast hiker, I bonk easy, but I would do whatever it takes. Ankles turn, boulders move, AMS strikes even the fittest. I'll push the easy button every time if it concerns getting the hell out of dodge.

But I get it, facing fear is another reason we head out there. Perhaps I do myself a disservice by having a safety factor. Perhaps my brain feels better but I am no wiser or braver. But at the end of the trip, I just hope I got up a nice class 3 peak and caught a few fish worth talking about. The SPOT wouldn't take from my feeling of serenity at dawn in the mountains nor would it comfort me much when the lightning was cracking a quarter mile a way at 3 in the AM.

gdurkee is not the only SAR person I have heard from who advocates SPOTS and PLB's. One ping, one location and a whole lot of guesswork could be avoided.
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby John Harper » Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:30 pm

rlown wrote:but you don't really know.. heck, i can tell you if I had a SPOT, i probably couldn't hit the button in a situation. you can conjecture all you want. We're out there because we love it. should probably leave it alone.. choose your poison, or your love. they sometime grow on the same stem.


I think Mr. Durkee is just pointing out that newer technology exists that may help prevent certain tragedies, and we all need to look at what we have (and have to lose) when going into the mountains alone. You seem to be a wee bit negative about this, but that's your choice as well. I have hardly ever carried a signalling device (maybe a whistle and matches) but if you have a wife and kids (I don't) your perspective will probably change. We all can get overconfident in our abilities, that's when you make mistakes.

John
Last edited by John Harper on Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby Hobbes » Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:43 pm

gdurkee wrote:Larry is probably a good one to use as an example. ... It goes without saying there was a huge emotional toll on those here, his family and the searchers. ... Even if the person is dead, you still have a tracking location reducing the search area -- a major reduction of risk for searchers and consolation to the family if the person is thereby found more quickly.


After considering some of your points, I will grant you that having a SPOT to locate a body provides both comfort to the family & reduces risk to SAR operations.

gdurkee wrote:But the majority -- by a huge margin -- of searches are for people with survivable injuries or who are actually lost who CAN push the button and call for help


I guess this is where I still disagree (with regard to experienced hikers). The High Sierra is a very small region - it's probably one of the smallest ranges in N America. If you're on trail, you will see people - all day long. During peak season, there are multiple ranger stations manned along the PCT/JMT. The whoop-whoop-whoop of a helicopter is a familiar sound to anyone who spends time hiking around.

OTOH, the peaks & eastern crest has some of the most dangerous exposure one can encounter. If you're off trail bouncing along the ridge lines, a fall has a high probability of it being your last. SPOT would serve your first point, but not your second, with regard to the 3 people who fell this year, plus presumably Larry.

What might have saved these people was if they had gone with a partner (or two) along with some rope. Not necessarily to get help and/or provide assistance, but to present a 2nd opinion/sanity check. (And yes, T Heng did have hiking partner(s), but they got separated. He was alone when he fell trying to descend in a storm.)
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby gdurkee » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:10 pm

I guess this is where I still disagree (with regard to experienced hikers). The High Sierra is a very small region - it's probably one of the smallest ranges in N America. If you're on trail, you will see people - all day long. During peak season, there are multiple ranger stations manned along the PCT/JMT. The whoop-whoop-whoop of a helicopter is a familiar sound to anyone who spends time hiking around.


All true, but my point is that both getting word out that you need help or finding someone in that terrain is a major undertaking. Standing in the middle of Lake Basin on a search where you have no idea where the person is is overwhelming. It's truly a needle in a haystack and monumentally depressing. We are incredibly lucky to find anyone out there.

It does help that the Sierra is kinda sorta crowded, but the search effort then has to look up all the permits, find their phone numbers and call each person. This was done on the search for Larry as well as all major SARs. Interviewing is an art and a discipline in itself. But it takes a long time.

Another story? Sure Uncle George, tell us another one!! Well, OK. A few years back, a woman took a bad fall in a really isolated area. She was there for a couple of days before, by almost a miracle, some hikers heard her call for help and she was rescued. She wrote a book about it and I went to see a talk she gave. I asked her how she thought she might have been rescued had the hikers not heard her. She seemed pretty confident that once she didn't come out as expected, a search would have traced her route easily (she left no specific itinerary) because she was "a lone female hiker and people would have remembered her."

Nope. Not even close. There's a fair chance I talked to her on the JMT, but had no memory of her at all. Except by another miracle on the part of SAR, she would have been long dead by the time we would have gotten to interviewing people.

We can -- and are -- getting really loopy on this issue. But the point I want to keep coming back to is the cascade of decisions that should be made when deciding whether to bring a gizmo or not. They work to narrow the search; they work to call immediate help when you're injured; they work to allow you to call for help should you come across someone else injured (this is becoming quite common -- maybe almost half of the emergency calls now).

So, use one or don't. But the rationalizations made in the process should truly reflect the reality of their effectiveness and the risk to all involved of that choice.

g.
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby Hobbes » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:23 pm

gdurkee wrote:We can -- and are -- getting really loopy on this issue. So, use one or don't.


Actually, it's been a good exchange. While I have no plans to carry a tracking device, I'm much more determined to make the extra effort to hook up with a hiking partner. If I can't find someone for a particular hike, then I'll stick to the traditional well worn paths.

My wife freaked out last year when she heard about Heng, because that was my route the next day. I had to call her right before from LP and assure her I would change my plans and take a different path.

The one consistent, overriding factor in each of the cases we've been citing is this: the hikers were alone. Ergo, go with a partner, or stick to the trails.
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby BrianF » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:41 pm

This is an issue that everyone can make their own choices about and as George so eloquently pointed out the decision doesn't just affect you and your loved ones. Yes, it is safer to go with a partner but many of us choose to go solo. For me, my wilderness experience is more impacted by travelling in a group than carrying a spot.
Consider also a partner scenario without a rescue beacon: Lets say you are in the Ionian Basin (a popular destination among us) descending a steep slope after a day of fishing - a slip, a fall, a broken leg, or worse, your back. Can't move. So Partner does what he can and rushes back to camp to bring food, water, sleeping bag, whatever he can to you laying there on the talus. So then the question is where to go for help? Lets say it is September and not many people out on the trails, Ranger at LeConte and Evolutuion have gone home for the season. So, do you hike out over Lamarck Col, down to Florence Lake, Bishop Pass? A very long day in any direction. Maybe it is already evening by the time the injured party is set up for the night, do you wait for daylight to head out for help? Between first aid, setting the victim up with what they need to survive and hiking out, alerting authorities and them getting a helo crew to the site you will lose at least a day, if not two. If the injuries are significant, Partner has to make a choice between staying or going, a tough decision for a friend to make (or a father, since my occasional partner is my son).
4oz. gizmo could change everything.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:00 pm

Hobbes- you say the high sierra is a small range - compared to what? The Sierra is actually one of the larger ranges in continental USA. We may concentrate our time in the "high sierra" but we have to traverse the "low sierra" to get there! And once off trail, it is every square inch, not just a 2-foot wide path. And lots of people? Not in the shoulder seasons. Even in mid-August, I have been out for six solid days and not seen a single person in some more remote areas.

If you are a trail-only backpacker then I agree the search is not as difficult. But step off the trail, particularly if you do this most of the trip in really rough country, or climb - and it is an entirely different story. Fall shoulder season is the worst, because all it takes is a small snow storm to cover all evidence. And yes, I too, would prefer to be with another person. Over the years my backpacking partners have aged and no longer want to go. Each season, for the last 4-5 years, I do more and more solo. Frankly finding someone who wants to do my crazy agendas and corrdinating schedules is difficult. But I think the responsible thing for me to do, is swollow my pride and get the stupid SPOT and just get on with it.

I have previously objected to SPOT for three reasons - 1) cost, 2) weight and 3) too many people using it as crutch in place of experience. Cost has come down as has weight. Technology has trumped my two main reasons not to use the devise. It still is true that a number of novices will venture where they should not go thinking they can push the button and get "saved". But at least, the rescue will be short to a definite destination. I now reconsider, simply to aid SAR. I would be inclined to use a location only devise. I am of the generation that does not need constant communication, and kids are grown, husband fine with not hearing from me for 10 days. But in am very concerned about putting someone else in danger (SAR persons). The "go missing without a trace" certainly is possible for me, especially as I am a senior citizen and I do mainly off trail travel. I still choke on the cost, but hey, I will get hubby to buy it for me! Even the kids would kick in some $$ for a Christmas present!
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby snusmumriken » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:30 pm

I have up until now not carried a locator device. Considered it at various points but dismissed the idea for various reasons. Now I am rethinking it again.

What I am hearing from George is that people are found faster if they carry a locator device. It saves lives and cuts down on SAR time and resources. Makes total sense.

However this might not be the whole story. I can see three distinct cases where the use of locator devices may actually increase SAR time and resources used.
1. The SOS button is pressed without a true emergency.
2. The device malfunctions, loved ones at home get worried, and the SAR gets called out to search when no actual emergency exists.
3. Carrying the device leads to overconfidence and people attempt routes they otherwise would not feel comfortable doing.

Given that we now have had SPOT and similar devices in common usage for a few years, has anybody looked at statistics on how this has impacted SAR?
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Re: Satellite Emergency Notification Devices: signalling gizmos

Postby Cross Country » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:09 pm

I had something in common with Larry. I disagree very much with Hobbes. I don't like people who pre judge me (that applies to many of the regulars here), nevertheless I've always thought that Wandering Daisey knows what she's talking about. To me, riown is always a voice of reason so I respect his ideas. Flux is right. gdurkee nailed it. To Brian F. I can recommend many places to fish including NOT Ionian Basin. I enter all of this because I don't like to be redundant.
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