How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT? | High Sierra Topix  

How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

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

How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby pez_leon » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:41 pm

I just picked up a SPOT device and I think I'm ready to use it responsibly. As I'm writing itineraries and plans for my emergency contacts, I'm challenged to think of what I'd want them to do in a "help" situation. I'm sure many of you have thought this through and I'd wonder what you come up with.
Just to make sure we're all on the same page, the current model of the SPOT Satellite GPS messenger offers four messaging functions: OK, Customized Message, Help, and SOS. The key difference between Help and SOS is that the help message is sent to a set of user-defined contacts, while the SOS message is sent directly to the authorities. Here's what I've planned for each message:

OK - I'm OK and checking in.

Customized Message - Everything is fine, but I'm deviating slightly from my planned itinerary. Track my next "OK" messages to see where I go. I probably indicated this change as a possibility on the plan I gave you.

Help - Here is where I'm not sure what to do. I'm trying to imagine scenarios in which I'd want to call contacts for help but not the authorities. The most likely one that I can think of is that I need to abort the trip and bail out to the nearest trailhead, from which I'll need a ride. Right now, the message my contacts get is "This is James. Something is not going according to plan with my trip. Please consult the plan I gave you." The plan would tell them to track further messages until they can see what trailhead I'm heading for, then drive up to it to meet me. Any better ideas?

Thanks!

James

--



User avatar
pez_leon
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:31 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby pez_leon » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:19 pm

Two additional notes:
1) Any SPOT users who haven't done so already should read gdurkee's excellent post here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5103 .


2) Right now my instructions for contacts receiving the "help" message do not include calling the authorities. It has crossed my mind that in some situations, I'd like my contacts to call the rangers and let them know that I'm experiencing a difficult but non-life-threatening issue. Examples could include: Walking out on a broken/sprained ankle; or quickly descending because of concerns over the very early stages of altitude sickness. If I did include instructions to call rangers, I'd tell my contacts to emphasize that I have chosen not to push the "SOS" button and am not asking for a rescue. The idea with the call is that rangers like to be kept abreast of developing potential situations and that I probably wouldn't mind having their help, if they're able to give it. However, I wouldn't want them to take on the risks (and costs) associated with a full scale SAR. Any thoughts on this?

Thanks,

James
User avatar
pez_leon
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:31 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby rlown » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:22 pm

you might not press it for yourself. It might be for someone else on the trail.
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5347
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby artrock23 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:14 pm

I've only got a general idea of how the SPOT device works. Is it true that along with the the device itself, one also needs to pay a yearly fee for service?

Also, as a minor observation, shouldn't this thread be in the Gear forum? ;)
User avatar
artrock23
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 95
Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:18 pm
Location: Laguna Beach, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby thegib » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:20 am

I've never used the help button and I think about that too. You could, if you've let your recipients very clearly know, use it to explain you'll be a day late -as sometimes happens. Then they could call your work for you. : )
User avatar
thegib
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:37 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:54 am

My Help message is "I'm delayed, but able to hike out." My wife understands this means either a weather caused delay or a non-life-threatening injury that means I won't be exiting on the scheduled date. She then can follow my progress with any subsequent OK messages. I've never used the Help button.

In terms of using the SOS/Panic button for someone else, there was an S&R for a missing person when I did a trip on 2009. I met an S&R crew at Hutchinson Meadow on my second morning out. I told them I was carrying a SPOT and asked if I should hit the SOS if I came across the missing hiker. They were pretty emphatic saying "NO" since that would start a second separate search for me. I'm curious what other S&R professionals on this site think about that advice.
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: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby thegib » Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:36 am

Echo the above post.
User avatar
thegib
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:37 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby rlown » Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:24 pm

If I had a SPOT, or was hiking with someone with a SPOT, or came across someone injured on the trail, regardless of a search for that person, I'd press the 911.

I'm not seeing the problem of two searches ending with one good set of coordinates for closing both cases. Esp, if in the same area of the original search. Isn't that obvious to SAR when there's a search ongoing and then a SPOT goes off?

My point was that you tell your family/contact list that it might not just be for you. People at home might worry too much. If it was you, there might be a rescue response. If it was for someone else, there might be a rescue response.

Everyone wins.
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5347
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:22 am

LMBSGV wrote:In terms of using the SOS/Panic button for someone else, there was an S&R for a missing person when I did a trip on 2009. I met an S&R crew at Hutchinson Meadow on my second morning out. I told them I was carrying a SPOT and asked if I should hit the SOS if I came across the missing hiker. They were pretty emphatic saying "NO" since that would start a second separate search for me. I'm curious what other S&R professionals on this site think about that advice.


That would split the resources to cover both searches. It would also double the paperwork.... At the point you were talking to them, they did not know where the guy was, and so yes, they would have to assume it was for you when you hit it and divert resources, continuing the search for the other guy as planned until someone confirmed the find. They would never assume - if they stopped searching for the guy and he died as a result, imagine the outcome.

Finding an injured person while backpacking, I would push the button, not knowing in advance whether there is a search or not. If I knew there was a search on what happened next would depend on where I was - with an idea that the search is out of the area, I'd probably push it. If I knew searchers were afoot in the same area, building a fire (yes, even in a ban), shouting, or using bright colored items to signal, or a mirror, or sending some subgroup of my group out to find a search team, would all be options to try in combination until found. If the guy was in immediate peril I'd risk the wrath and punch it. 911 is 911. the thing is, if you have the first aid training to know that the person is in immediate need, and do nothing, the liability to you is increased. Better to do what you can at the time to get help and then attempt to stabilize him. Having first aid training plus some years of search and rescue training, the expectation for me will be somewhat higher. And just from the standpoint of a good samaritan - the moral thing is to do what you can with what you have. (Yep, I think about liability a lot. I know the random Joe Q Public does not, or thinks about it differently than I do. I get to think about it as a hiking group organizer, in my day job, and as a searcher. It may be the last thing you think about when you're in a situation if you aren't really aware of the tangled web it can be, but the fun part is, once you're called to question... you never go back to ignoring it.)

I registered a personal locator beacon last week and debate this myself. If I come across someone and push the button on their behalf, I'll have to stay with the person til help comes - I'm the registered owner. That may sound obvious but people reason differently out there than they do at home at the computer. There is a reason you read the newspaper article and say "what the heck, why did they do that, I would never do that." I could easily see people finding a guy in dire straits and walking on, because they do that sometimes.

Not entirely sure what the official in-charge folks think about this matter yet. Something tells me my own search team won't care if I light it up for someone else. National parks have their own ways about them and have a lot of federal regs to worry about. More research for me.

As to the original question - I don't have a lot of experience with SPOT other than watching people push OK and occasionally seeing it not work. I think communicating a delay (not a disabled hiker but a slowed one) is a good use of it, if you make it clear to the reporting party at home they have to sit and wait and watch the OK signal instead of calling for help. It would save a lot of taxpayer dollars and help the family to see you're still moving. IF the SPOT signal worked. I can see in that situation a panic at home, if suddenly an OK signal doesn't get through - sometimes it doesn't connect, which is why SEKI has in their recommendations that you not rely on it.

One of the reasons I went with a straight PLB instead of a SPOT - SPOT and InReach have a weaker signal than PLB units do. I don't have anyone at home to sit watching OK signals so the communication is less of a draw, and, when I do send a 911, I want it to be detected and have no doubt about that. The other reason - it's cheaper in the long term than paying SPOT subscriptions.

BTW, I should make it clear - these are my personal opinions, not the official line on these matters. A perfect example of official recommendations is the pdf on the Sequoia-Kings website. Don't rely on electronic devices. Plan ahead. Leave an itinerary. Etc.
User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1758
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby OzSwaggie » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:48 am

Hmmm.

We've hired a SPOT once before and have one booked again for upcoming trip, but this thread has really got me wondering.
Short answer - we didn't use the "HELP" message at all. Reason? - we come from Australia and who's to help?
We used the "I'M OK" message which sent emails to my brother and our own email (to look at when we got home). Some got through, but not all. I don't think we'll do that again this time, so as not to worry anyone with a lack of "OK" messages.
We didn't use the SOS button. Thank goodness.

(The reality is, if we don't emerge at our trailhead on the scheduled day, no-one will know or report us missing, until we don't step off the plane back in Oz... We don't like to worry people back home with the idea that we are doing something dangerous - so that's why we get the SPOT - so we feel like we can raise our own alarm if need be!)

The necessity of giving a contact person's number during SPOT registration - actually they ask for two people - is a problem for us. We don't have any close friends who are outdoorsy, into hiking or familiar with the Sierra Nevada. So if the SPOT will not actually result in an SAR if they cannot phone and speak with someone first, I'm wondering if there's much point carrying it...) (It would be good if you could register your itinerary with SPOT headquarters...)

SPOT gets misused over here too. I've spoken with SAR folk who've had to rescue people who were hungry, or thirsty, or just scared. Without SPOT they'd have worked it out just fine themselves.
User avatar
OzSwaggie
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:19 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:58 am

OzSwaggie wrote:
(The reality is, if we don't emerge at our trailhead on the scheduled day, no-one will know or report us missing, until we don't step off the plane back in Oz... We don't like to worry people back home with the idea that we are doing something dangerous - so that's why we get the SPOT - so we feel like we can raise our own alarm if need be!)... So if the SPOT will not actually result in an SAR if they cannot phone and speak with someone first, I'm wondering if there's much point carrying it...) (It would be good if you could register your itinerary with SPOT headquarters...)



Curious why you think this...

Do you get a permit when you go backpacking? The rangers then know you are out there and have some sort of itinerary for you.

Why do you think leaving an itinerary and telling someone in Australia "if I do not call you by (date) please contact (park or county sheriff office of relevance) and give them all the info I left with you" would not work?

If you press 911 on a SPOT it transmits coordinates. Why would it NOT result in a SAR? That idea baffles me. 9 times out of 10 the itinerary left with the family is not much of anything at all - "my husband is somewhere in Yosemite, I think he said something about Half Dome? and Merced. Something. I dunno. PLEASE FIND HIM. I think he's wearing his hiking boots! and jeans, and white t shirt.... he's carrying a backpack. He had one of those bear thingies...." And yet, we search, usually with the info you put on the permit and a description that when used no one hiking the trails can verify they ever saw you, because they are too busy having fun to pay attention.... And the family gets the description wrong, because they think you took a blue tent and you took a green one, or they misremember the color of the pack - heck, they're too worried to remember the details. If you didn't write 'em down, that is.

When parks say don't rely on the SPOT they are trying to reduce risk by encouraging you to leave the itinerary in addition to using it - it'll maybe work, transmit the coordinates, or maybe not. A lot of the time it does. Sometimes it doesn't. We like details and itineraries best, because they are concrete information, in case the missing party, in a hypothermic daze, press 911 and then wander off leaving the SPOT on a rock... not far from several actual incidents where someone left their pack and all their gear and walked onward.

Too many things *could* happen, but good information is the ultimate backup plan. If you write down all the accurate information on your description, clothing, gear, and itinerary, it won't matter that the caller is totally unfamiliar with the Sierra Nevada. A lot of people who live two hours from Yosemite are just as ignorant about it as the population of Australia.... so even we locals have to be pretty specific about stuff when writing it all down. We started a SAR with no PLB/SPOT info, no real idea of where the guys started because the family who dropped them off could not remember where they left them, and nothing more than the itinerary on the permit. (The guys were fine. Just really delayed.) We obtained more information by checking campsite registrations at trailheads and then coordinated with two other jurisdictions to get organized along the long, winding route through two wilderness areas and a park.

There's not a reason to not leave an itinerary... phones work.
User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1758
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How do you use the "help" message on your SPOT?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:37 pm

Hi Oz,

Don't know if you have read this thread but if you haven't it should give you some
great advice: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... =34&t=6565
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8034
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Next

Return to Outdoor Gear Topix



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests