Forum Index > Trail Talk > SPOT activation leads to SAR on PCT
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car68
Out on the skids



Joined: 04 May 2007
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car68
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Out on the skids
PostMon Aug 18, 2008 8:26 am 
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Last night around 5 PM we had our first SAR from a SPOT activation.  A guy was on the PCT and sent out a help message.  The GPS was all over the place but one hit put him on the PCT near Deception Lake.  The SAR folks found the guy around daybreak.  He tells them no it was an accident that I sent the message and he tried to send an okay. I don't have all the details yet and will post when I do.

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I'm the guy 911 calls.
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captain jack
Serving suggestion



Joined: 25 May 2004
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Serving suggestion
PostMon Aug 18, 2008 8:40 am 
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Whats it cost for you guys to fly ?
I'm thinking around 2 grand an hour.
Couple of hours, plus gas for the ground team, send the guy a bill for 5k, see how much he likes his SPOT now. hihi.gif
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car68
Out on the skids



Joined: 04 May 2007
Posts: 239 | TRs
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Out on the skids
PostMon Aug 18, 2008 8:51 am 
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We didn't fly, ground teams found him.  So it wasn't too costly.

FYI the flight costs about $500.00 an hour.  Add crew costs and it goes up.   The Huey is usually crewed by 4 or 5 for rescue work.

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I'm the guy 911 calls.
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Good Ag
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PostMon Aug 18, 2008 6:46 pm 
SPOT Activation
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Just curious about  which help request was sent via SPOT.  Was it the 911 or the Help request?  I have a SPOT and was wondering how the Emergency Response Center notification worked.  It only notifies the Center if you hit 911.  The other emails your personal contacts.
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bobbi
stillaGUAMish



Joined: 13 Jul 2006
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stillaGUAMish
PostMon Aug 18, 2008 7:05 pm 
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Mark here:

We have been testing a few SPOTs for while now. They work pretty well as long as you know the limitations.  Won't work indoors, really heavy canopy etc.

You have two messages that you can say whatever you want- BUT you have to set them up before you leave on the website.
1. 'OK' (can actually say anything).
2. 'HELP" (also can say anything you want)
Both have a separate list of people  to text and/or email to.

Then the '911' message. This goes to the 'Spot' people and you can put a message to them. I have one saying if it is in the Park to contact the Park  Dispatch.

The 'Track' mode works well, but not particularly intuitive on how to get it into track. You can share the last 24 hours of tracks and messages on a website now, pretty nice for friends and family. It turns off after 24 hours.
So I would recommend turning off track and sending an 'OK' message when yo have stopped for the night. Then turn it off for the night.

One VERY important point;
You must have the Spot 'on its back' to work. The instructions are not clear on that. The antenna is right under the 'Spot' logo (I took one apart) and needs to be pointed to the sky to work best. I wouldn't bother with the belt loop at all. It will work in some cases but not nearly as well as having it flat.
Of course it always has to be looking up at any time to work- it won't work at all face down.
Mark

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"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
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reststep
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PostMon Aug 18, 2008 7:22 pm 
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Hi Mark

Thanks for the info.

Question: How easy is it to say accidentally press a button and send out the 911 call?  Do you have to press a combination of buttons?  If it was stuffed in your pack it seems like it might be possible for buttons to get pressed accidentally.

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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bobbi
stillaGUAMish



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stillaGUAMish
PostMon Aug 18, 2008 7:31 pm 
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reststep wrote:
Hi Mark

Question: How easy is it to say accidentally press a button and send out the 911 call?  Do you have to press a combination of buttons?  If it was stuffed in your pack it seems like it might be possible for buttons to get pressed accidentally.

The 911 button has a slight lip around it and is indented more than the other buttons. While it is a possibility to press it in a pack or something, since it should be facing up (buttons up) and nothing on top of it then it is not all that likely.
I've used it in the top pocket in a pack and it worked fine. I've also tried it between the seats on the helicopter (plexi straight up) and in a plastic tailbag on my Ducati. All worked just fine.

the best bet would be to come up with a little Velcro strap to tie it inside the top of your pack- so it can't shift around and loose signal (or press a button). So far nobody here that has used it has pressed a button by accident.
It would be nice if there was a cover that you had to remove or something though.

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bobbi ૐ

"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
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reststep
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PostMon Aug 18, 2008 8:02 pm 
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Thanks Mark.

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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Good Ag
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PostMon Aug 18, 2008 9:51 pm 
SPOT Activation
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Thanks,

We've used the SPOT a fair amount to send "okay "messages.  I'm more interested in knowing if the 911 button was used and ,if so, what the response from the contact center was.  Was it timely and did they have the correct information?  Basically, is it worth paying for that service?  Hopefully, I never need that option, but it would be good to have some data on how they perform.
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Snow_Knot
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PostTue Aug 19, 2008 1:19 am 
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I was listening into the radio traffic (HAM) sounds like the ESAR kids were trying to chase him north on the trail from the lake. Im not Anti SPOT, I just wish they could make it more like ONSTAR with 2-way communications between the hiker, and the call center. Some one to tell the person activating the SPOT to STOP!. We had a SPOT activation a few weeks back on Glacier. The guy had a working cellphone, and able to get out with it. If he had a Phase II phone, we could have gotten his location just by him calling into 9-1-1, and been able to talk direct to him for better info. I look forward to future generations of upgraded units so we dont have to send out ground teams with limited to no information on false activations.

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"Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
Well, I think so, Brain, but "apply North Pole" to what?
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car68
Out on the skids



Joined: 04 May 2007
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Out on the skids
PostTue Aug 19, 2008 9:09 am 
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Here is what we know so far.

"The subject was a 66 yr old male, who was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  The subject inadvertently hit the “help” button on the device.  This is one of three buttons, all depressed within the device, that you would push for assistance.
Here is what we learned…
The help key sends a message that the subject needs immediate assistance.  That message goes to the subscribers’ member group via e-mail.   This does not go to 911 unless the subscriber actually hits the 911 key.  The subcriber members then called 911 to start the SAR.
The subject realized his error and tried to correct it by sending an “I am okay” message, which only his wife received.  At this point the wife was so upset she completed discounted the “okay” and was pushing for an immediate search.  None of the other family members who received the distress call received the “ I am okay “ call.
Our Duty Officer spent nearly 2 ½ hrs on the phone with the company because they declined to give him tracking information, claiming they could not do that with out a password and login information.  Now, the deputy was able to figure out the login with the wife’s assistance but not the password.  The company finally agreed to give the deputy a temporary password, but said that password would only be sent to the subscriber’s e-mail.  Yes, that is correct, that very subscriber is our missing and possibly injured subject.  The wife was able to get on line and access her husbands account to get the temporary password.  Now, with that information the company gave the coordinates, which turned out to be inaccurate.  I am working on determining how far off the coordinates were…"

More to follow as I learn more.

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I'm the guy 911 calls.
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Hulksmash
Cleaning up.



Joined: 20 Apr 2008
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Cleaning up.
PostTue Aug 19, 2008 10:06 am 
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Quote:
Our Duty Officer spent nearly 2 ½ hrs on the phone with the company because they declined to give him tracking information, claiming they could not do that with out a password and login information.

WHAT!!!!  That's Bull S#@% If this had been a real emergency tracking daty could have been extremly valuable information.  2 1/2 hours could be an eternity in a life threatining situation.  That policy must change!
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Dayhike Mike
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Bad MFKer
PostTue Aug 19, 2008 10:08 am 
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The SPOT is a poorly planned product that has no place in the market.

On the other hand, I can assure you that my sat phone will never make accidental calls to 911 requesting an extraction on my behalf.  moon.gif

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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Josh Cowart
hiker/fisherman



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hiker/fisherman
PostTue Aug 19, 2008 10:16 am 
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yep

im looking into a sat phone.

seems like the best choice to me
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car68
Out on the skids



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car68
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Out on the skids
PostTue Aug 19, 2008 11:08 am 
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And yet more info from the deputy who ran the search.

"SPOT GPS was part of the problem on this one as was a little info from the RP.  Team 6 had a trail block on the PCT right above Trap lake where (name deleted) walked into them, he was fine with no problems.  He had stopped at Deception lakes and placed his pack down.  Something in his pack pushed the on button on the device and then something else pressed and held the help button down which activated that function.  This sent a distress email and text message to his brother and wife.  The brother called in the distress call from The Dalles Or, he is with SAR in Oregon.

No knowing anything about this device I did not have a clue what it was or how it worked.  It also didn’t help that the RP kept calling it Snopes GPS system until about 2 hours into it he said that it was actually SPOT.  We were able to access the website and figure out what it was about.

We then tried to get into the system to try and figure out what his activity had been since he started, he started on the PCT Aug. 1st and was headed to Canada, hoping to be there in a month.  They could not or would not access his account for us without a login and password which only he knew.  I grilled his wife for a while but she had no clue what it could have been.  Back and forth with a  customer service rep in Toronto who was calling California trying to get us access to his account.  This took about 2.5 hrs to finally figure out what his login was, we then got a temporary password issued to him by clicking on the forgot password button which then sent an email to his email account, luckily the wife had access to that.  She had to call the company to figure out the email which had the temporary password in there.  We were finally able to get access to his tracking history which then revealed that he had hit HELP twice and then after that hit OK twice within a 2.5 hr period.  At this point team 1 was almost to Deception lakes.

The wife did not tell us that she had received the two OK’s until I asked her.  I was dealing primarily with the brother as the RP leaving the wife alone.

The long and short of it is the device works well for intended purpose, the pings that he was sending were right on the PCT the whole way, so it is accurate.  The design flaws are the little buttons are way too easy to accidentally push and start an activation, the customer service is absolutely horrible to say the least, I am going to make some calls and find out what happened and how to make it better.  This is a one way communication device and can not receive messages and can only activate pre-set up messages, his HELP message was (can not proceed need help)

First time dealing with this device for us at KCSO, Sno county has had one as well as Chelan county.  One of the teams came across a hiker with the same device and one of the Sno county guys had the device as well and educated us about too.

A few things went awry, as I will call it, but overall I think it went OK considering.  We are looking into this system and what we need to be aware of for the next one.  State SAR is going to be contacting the company as well to find out some stuff as well."

Thats pretty much the whole story from our point of view.

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I'm the guy 911 calls.
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