Mis-use of Satellite Messengers (inReach, SPOT) - ClubTread Community

User Tag List

 16Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-20-2016, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
 
oplopanax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada.
Interest: mountaineering, backcountry skiing (telemark), rock climbing, search and rescue volunteer
Posts: 226
Default Mis-use of Satellite Messengers (inReach, SPOT)

This post probably isn't about what you think - people calling for help when they don't need it or are too lazy.

This is about a particular use of Satellite Emergency Messaging Devices like SPOT and inReach that stems from a combination of unreasonable expectations, not understanding the technology and bad user interface.

The scenario is when someone goes on a trip and tells their loved ones to expect an "I'm OK" message from them every night. After a few nights if the "I'm OK" doesn't arrive the family calls SAR. We head out and "rescue" someone who is downright surprised to see us, claiming that they had been dutifully pressing the button every night.

Here's the issue. The SEND devices do not work as advertised. They take a lot longer to send the message than most people think. When you're in a valley, or in tall canopy it can take as long as 20 minutes. In cloudy or rainy conditions it could take longer.

Here's the second issue, and this is party opinion. Not receiving the "I'm OK" and activating SAR is not how these devices were intended to be used. There's a lot of reasons why a message may or may not be received and there's most likely no reason to worry. This sets up a kind of "no news is bad news" scenario, or what I like to call "Negative Option Rescue" in which SAR gets called and has no choice but to respond "just in case" wasting time and resources.

For more info on specific cases including two I was personally involved in see my blog
http://blog.oplopanax.ca/2016/01/mal...te-messengers/

For the most recent case of this see this news article
http://infotel.ca/newsitem/armstrong...t30788/kelowna

These devices are supposed to save time and resources and I fear they are doing the opposite. So far I've responded
to four SEND-based calls and only two were "real".

Please tell your friends and networks who use SEND devices to
1) understand how the device works
2) understand the limitations
3) think before setting in place a "negative option rescue" scenario
alpalmer, dougz, Steventy and 1 others like this.

--
Mountaineer, SAR Volunteer and author of TrueNorth Geospatial http://www.TrueNorthGeospatial.com
oplopanax is offline  
Quote
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-20-2016, 07:14 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: , BC, Canada.
Posts: 2,463
Default

Agreed. Stuff happens. Electronic gizmos fail. SPOT is great for alerting when there is an emergency but it's not really reliable enough to warrant an emergency call-out if an OK message is not received.

In certain cases, it may make sense to use a lack of check-ins as a sign that people are in danger. If that is the case, I would suggest using multiple different systems and preferably at least one system with two-way communication like a satellite phone.
Steventy is offline  
post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-20-2016, 08:12 PM
Off the Beaten Path
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Burnaby, BC, Canada.
Interest: Rock and Ice Climbing, mountaineering, AT skiing, xc skiing, backpacking, hiking...
Posts: 724
Default

The SPOT devices are absolutely unreliable when it comes to their messaging services. As the person operating the device you have NO WAY of knowing if your message was received....Seems totally pointless to provide this service when it is not reliable.

I use the Inreach and it allows for two way text messaging and so far at least has been 100% reliable. IT lets you know when your message has been successfully sent.

A stated by the author of this post you should let the people at home know that they should not rely on these devices to send messages (especially the SPOT) and that both devices have a rescue button that do work.
burndug is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 05:19 AM
Headed for the Mountains
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada.
Posts: 360
Default

Very useful to let people know this, hopefully some will read this thread and take note. It must be incredibly annoying and/or frustrating.

I presume some of the misuse of InReach must be due to point (1) "understand how the device works". As burndug mentions the InReach beeps when your message has been sent. I never turn the unit off until I've heard that beep and checked that the message has gone (there's a visual indicator too). I usually prop it against something with the antenna pointing at the sky while I do my nightly chores (bear hang, clean teeth, whatever) that's usually enough time for it to have transmitted. If I'm out of range to hear the beep I just check the visual indicator. Like burndug I find it a really good unit.

FWIW I don't send an 'I'm ok' message for the very reasons that are brought up in the OP.
seboyle is offline  
post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 09:18 AM
Off the Beaten Path
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: ALBANY, OR, USA.
Interest: SEA KAYAKING HIKING FISHING
Posts: 801
Default

just my opinion, but if people really need the highest level of confidence that someone is "okay", they should carry a satellite phone and talk to their loved ones as appropriate. I have always thought that devices such as SPOT, deLorme are a convenience for "I'm okay" status updates but I can see how others might want something more certain.
alpalmer is offline  
post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 05:56 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
xj6response's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.
Posts: 2,159
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by alpalmer View Post
just my opinion, but if people really need the highest level of confidence that someone is "okay", they should carry a satellite phone and talk to their loved ones as appropriate.
yeah, makes sense. I'd take it out a bit more and say if someone really wants that contact back to civilization then forget the SPOT-like devices and go with a Sat phone but if not then go with a beacon. I have the latter, FastFind PLB, that i'd only deploy in a true rescue-required situation. I also carry a 7w ICOM VHF radio (licenced) with all RR, FS, LD. Marine and many other frequencies programmed into it.

Things are tough enough for SAR, excessive communication is making it worse.
alpalmer likes this.

________________________________
xj6response is offline  
post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 07:47 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
dougz's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Mackenzie, BC, Canada.
Interest: hiking, skiing, camping, SAR, Canadian Rangers (army reserve)
Posts: 1,515
Default

Yes this has happened to us quite a few times, too.. Latest was when an American kayaking on Williston on his way to the Bering Sea(!) failed to check in when he told his wife approximately when to expect a call, and his concerned wife got a hold of the RCMP, who activated us. We found him safe, surprised to see us, and ticked at his wife to have caused all the fuss. He had been forced to delay travel to the nearest checkpoint with a land line (Tsay Keh) because the river was running too high. Anyways, in cases like his (well-prepared, confident, independent, but with caring individuals worrying about you in hazardous terrain and no means of reliable communication) you would think he would invest in a smart phone! Maybe next time he has an adventure in the US and is given a bill for his 'rescue' he will find a sat phone a bargain in comparison..

Trip plans are very, very well advised.. But if you deviate from said plan, can't communicate this, and have set up too rigid a check-in schedule, things get complicated fast.
oplopanax and alpalmer like this.

Who needs a signature? Mine is always: Last edited by dougz; Today at 03:27 PM

Last edited by dougz; 05-28-2016 at 10:02 PM.
dougz is offline  
post #8 of (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 10:22 PM
Off the Beaten Path
 
kellymcdonald78's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Backpacking, Skiing, Space History
Posts: 723
Default

I will say I find the Gen3 SPOT to be considerably more reliable than the Gen2. I've never had an issue with an OK getting through and the tracker option has only missed a handful of traces. That being said its important to be clear with loved ones at home concerning how you want them to respond in the event of a missed check in
alpalmer likes this.
kellymcdonald78 is offline  
post #9 of (permalink) Old 05-22-2016, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
 
oplopanax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada.
Interest: mountaineering, backcountry skiing (telemark), rock climbing, search and rescue volunteer
Posts: 226
Default

I'd be interested in keeping track of the incidents where this happens Doug, if you have the time to send the details to me. It would be awesome to get enough data to compare the times where the person required rescue to those the person just failed to send "I'm OK"

I think we've clearly identified a rescue response pattern here.
dougz likes this.

--
Mountaineer, SAR Volunteer and author of TrueNorth Geospatial http://www.TrueNorthGeospatial.com
oplopanax is offline  
post #10 of (permalink) Old 05-22-2016, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
 
oplopanax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada.
Interest: mountaineering, backcountry skiing (telemark), rock climbing, search and rescue volunteer
Posts: 226
Default

PLB (personal locator beacons) are more reliable in many ways, not the least being they have no other use than to call for rescue, thus the batteries are always fresh. Single use user interfaces!

--
Mountaineer, SAR Volunteer and author of TrueNorth Geospatial http://www.TrueNorthGeospatial.com
oplopanax is offline  
post #11 of (permalink) Old 05-22-2016, 10:51 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: , BC, Canada.
Posts: 2,463
Default

With any luck, this is just a short-term problem with some of the early devices. The newer devices already seem more reliable and many of them are two-way so that the person in the woods will know if their message has been received by the family.


Here is another way someone could look at it using a larger collection of older data:
Go back through decades of search files and assume every one of the subjects was carrying a beacon that could send "OK" and "Need Help" and that they intend to send an "OK" once/day.

Question 1:
Historically, how often does this scenario come up:
Something happened to the subject that caused them to require assistance AND would have prevented them from using their beacon (so they can't send OK and they also can't send "Need Help.")
Examples might be:
- The subject is buried in an avalanche
- The subject has their backpack stolen by a bear while they are swimming in a lake
- The subject has a non-fatal fall and a bunch of their gear was damaged

Question 2:
Of those scenarios, how often would a rapid response (responding before the subject had planned on returning,) have made a difference?
Examples of situations where a rapid response would not make a difference are: avalanche, fall of cliff, grizzly bear attack, drowning, etc.
djlassmann likes this.
Steventy is offline  
post #12 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
 
oplopanax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada.
Interest: mountaineering, backcountry skiing (telemark), rock climbing, search and rescue volunteer
Posts: 226
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steventy View Post
With any luck, this is just a short-term problem with some of the early devices. The newer devices already seem more reliable and many of them are two-way so that the person in the woods will know if their message has been received by the family.


Here is another way someone could look at it using a larger collection of older data:
Go back through decades of search files and assume every one of the subjects was carrying a beacon that could send "OK" and "Need Help" and that they intend to send an "OK" once/day.

Question 1:
Historically, how often does this scenario come up:
Something happened to the subject that caused them to require assistance AND would have prevented them from using their beacon (so they can't send OK and they also can't send "Need Help.")
Examples might be:
- The subject is buried in an avalanche
- The subject has their backpack stolen by a bear while they are swimming in a lake
- The subject has a non-fatal fall and a bunch of their gear was damaged

Question 2:
Of those scenarios, how often would a rapid response (responding before the subject had planned on returning,) have made a difference?
Examples of situations where a rapid response would not make a difference are: avalanche, fall of cliff, grizzly bear attack, drowning, etc.
It appears to me that there are three things -
1) misunderstanding how the devices work or what their capabilities are, fed by terrible marketing that over state the devices capabilities in the first place,
2) terrible user interfaces that are do not make it easy for the user to understand what it happening.
3) mis-use of the device with "negative option rescue" (my term for "Hit OK Or I'll call SAR).

While the UIs are getting better, the marketing and user expectations are not, and neither is their understanding of how the devices work. The service will not get better because this generation of technology just has limitations based on physics.

As for your scenarios, agreed, those are the reasons SAR people actually respond. However, in my experience those scenarios are very rare - so rare that I have trouble recalling a single rescue of that kind. My feeling is that the most situations that would prevent someone from hitting the SOS may well be fatal long before SAR arrives.

What I'd like to see changed, and the purpose of the article, is that user expectations and knowledge must increase, and if the various companies making this gear won't take on that task, we as a community have to.

--
Mountaineer, SAR Volunteer and author of TrueNorth Geospatial http://www.TrueNorthGeospatial.com
oplopanax is offline  
post #13 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
 
oplopanax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada.
Interest: mountaineering, backcountry skiing (telemark), rock climbing, search and rescue volunteer
Posts: 226
Default

The other thing to consider is that SAR's response is never "quick".

Even when rescuers are standing around near the helipad it can take over an hour to locate and extricate someone in good weather. I've actually logged those times while on a search - we located a subject we'd taken 8 hours to find and from the moment I called for helicopter rescue to the moment he was out of harms way way about 70 minutes.

If we're not at the helipad, add another 90 minutes and that's a best case scenario. An average response would be more like 4 hours if weather and daylight is not an issue.

--
Mountaineer, SAR Volunteer and author of TrueNorth Geospatial http://www.TrueNorthGeospatial.com
oplopanax is offline  
post #14 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2016, 11:44 AM
Off the Beaten Path
 
kellymcdonald78's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Backpacking, Skiing, Space History
Posts: 723
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by oplopanax View Post
The other thing to consider is that SAR's response is never "quick".

Even when rescuers are standing around near the helipad it can take over an hour to locate and extricate someone in good weather. I've actually logged those times while on a search - we located a subject we'd taken 8 hours to find and from the moment I called for helicopter rescue to the moment he was out of harms way way about 70 minutes.

If we're not at the helipad, add another 90 minutes and that's a best case scenario. An average response would be more like 4 hours if weather and daylight is not an issue.
Yup, most people don't realize that pressing the SOS button is not like calling 911 for an ambulance. The helicopter wont be there in 10 min.
kellymcdonald78 is offline  
post #15 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2016, 11:51 AM
High on the Mountain Top
 
Kid Charlemagne's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: BC
Posts: 1,486
Default

I used to be a SPOT user, but after having the device fail in the field, I couldn't be asked to purchase a new one. VHF or smoke signals for me.
xj6response likes this.

Peaks, not geeks.
Kid Charlemagne is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome
 

Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.6.1