Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Emergency Communications in the Backcountry

There have been a lot of newspaper articles recently about the ten essentials and wilderness travel preparation.  Give thought to emergency communications in the backcountry. Consider how you are going to communicate with a Search and Rescue (SAR.) team.

Getting SAR activated is not magic but it does take time to get the volunteers alerted and moving to the subject.

My first recommendation is to take a look at your cell phone.  If you are holding out on getting a new phone reconsider; now.  New cell phones have what is called the E-911 chip that activates when 911 is dialed.  This activation sends the hiker’s position coordinates to the 911 dispatch center based on the phones GPS system; the accuracy is reasonable.   

The E-911 chip has helped to eliminate the hours of backcountry searching and allows SAR volunteers to go straight to the subject.   

Older phones and some carriers my not have this capability.  Check with the cell service provider and take another look if you use those cheap phones (e.g., Tracfone) sold at the box stores. 

Another option is to carry one of the locating beacons such as the SPOT by Global
Telecommunications.  A SPOT beacon retails for around $100 and requires an annual subscription service that costs about $100.  This technology is evolving quickly, is satellite based and has been critical to finding lost and injured hikers every year.  Take the time to search this carefully so that it matches your requirements. 

While electronics are wonderful consider carrying a signal mirror and a quality whistle.  Though relatively inexpensive these two components are key to finding lost hikers each year.  Both are excellent for emergency communications in the backcountry.

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