What is the responsibility of Locater Beacon owner? Not that long ago, a couple from New Bruswick, British Columbia activated their beacon when they climbed a steep trail and could not get back down. A helicopter lowered them 200 feet to secure footing. In September 2009, a hiker from Placer County was panning for gold in New York Canyon when he became dehydrated and used his rescue beacon to call for help. Later the same day, Mono County sheriff’s deputies asked the National Guard for a high-altitude helicopter and a hoist for a treacherous rescue of two beacon-equipped hikers stranded at Convict Lake. The next day they hiked out on foot.
Obviously behavior like this is irresponsible. As I discussed Thursday, I see at least three areas where I, as a new SPOT messenger owner, can be more responsible. First, I must be properly prepared and conditioned for the activities I engage in. Two, I must calm down and assess any emergency situation before reaching for my SPOT Messenger. Three, I can’t substitute my SPOT for the development of good self rescue skills.
I bought a SPOT Messenger because I realize that their are numerous ways I can get into trouble in the backcountry. No matter what I do, there are some dangers that are outside of my control. These risks can be minimized with Proper preparation.
Preparation comes in many different forms. Research, gear, skill, physical condition and experience all play a role in our preparation. It is my responsibility to make sure I am adapt in all these areas before venturing outdoors.
Before I go on a trip I must research the type of terrain and weather that could be encountered, as well as water sources available (among other things). If during research I realize any of these factors are more then my skill, experience, or available gear can handle, I have the responsibility to NOT go. A SPOT, or similar locator beacon, is not a substitute for this level of preparation.
This is the mistake made by the fathers and sons team I mentioned Thursday. After being cited for “creating a hazardous condition” for rescue teams, the leader admitted he would have never undertaken the grueling hike without a personal locator beacon. He was substituting technology for preparation.
Calmly Assess Emergencies:
Even the adequately prepared can still find themselves in trouble. If I find myself in a bind, my first responsibility is to calmly assess my situation. What seems like a crisis at first may not be an actual emergency.
As a general rule a person can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. The real question is: when in that survival process is it appropriate call for help? If I am not hurt, or in danger, I believe it is my duty to at least try and self rescue before calling for help. After all, every time a Search and Rescue team is deployed, they put themselves in danger. This brings me to my third point.
Develop Self Rescue Skills:
Good self rescue skills should be part of anyone’s preparation stage. There are certain things you really need to know how to do before heading to the backcountry. Included in these are map and compass skills, fire building, how to locate water, build shelter, and more. If I can safely do these things as I attempt to exit my situation, I have the responsibility to try.
With all that said, I also have a responsibility to my friends and family. If I still find myself in trouble after calmly assessing my situation, I owe it to the people I love to call for help before its too late. Assuming the danger is real, SAR crews desire nothing more than to safely reunite you with your family. The balance between the responsibilities cannot be taken lightly.
|SAR advertisement stating: “We’ll Get You Out”|
All of these assume a certain degree of common sense. Many of the people in the above situations believed they were in danger when they actually weren’t. As cruel as it may sound, these people had no business being in the backcountry to begin with. They would do better to rely on a guide or experienced friend, rather then a locator beacon, to keep them safe.
But maybe you dissagree? What do you believe a Locator Beacon’s owner responsibility is? I would love to hear your opinions.
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