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Op-Ed, "Cell Phones Prove to be Critical in the Wilderness"

Op Ed to The Bulletin: “Cell Phones Prove to be Critical in the Wilderness”
By Robert Speik, published on September 15, 2000

The Bulletin’s September 7, 2000 front page article: Cell Phones Prove to be Critical in the Wilderness by Leon Pantenburg was excellent as far as it went.

Leon’s article (on cell phones) did not cover the wilderness traveler’s or hunter’s Basic Safety Responsibility that is always emphasized by Sgt. Wayne Inman, coordinator of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Volunteer Unit:

1. Tell a Reliable Person where you are going, what you are going to do and when you will be back. This Person also needs to know where you plan to park your rig and the description and license number, what gear you have, the names and experience level of individuals in your group and that you will call the Reliable Person when you return to town.

Note that the Reliable Person must accept the responsibility to call Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue at 911 with the above information if you do not check in by an agreed-upon specific time. The two young men who lay in agony with broken legs for three days at the foot of a cliff on Mt. Washington had told friends of their plans, but when they did not meet as planned it just never occurred to their friends that they were in trouble.

2. The Second Responsibility of the wilderness traveler or hunter is to be equipped with a daypack and enough extra clothing, water and food to handle an emergency stop for several hours or overnight. This gear is seasonal and should focus on staying hydrated, dry and in one place. If you are lost, mark your location with colored tape and stay still or move around the taped position to warm up; don’t wander aimlessly until you are exhausted. Experienced mountaineers carry a traditional basic “Ten Essentials”.

3. The Third Responsibility is to have a map of the area, a compass corrected for sixteen degree declination and, for today’s serious mountain adventure travelers and hunters, a GPS. A small simple twelve-channel GPS receiver costs about $99.00 locally. No, you can’t get by with GPS alone – you need a map and adjusted compass and some new skills.

4. The Fourth Responsibility is to carry a cell phone. The two young men who fell more than 100 feet from the Mt. Washington climb had left their cell phone behind in the mistaken belief that it would not work in the Wilderness. In our experience, there are very few areas in the Oregon Cascades Wilderness where a cell phone is out of contact. If your adventures take you beyond current cell phone range, consider carrying a simple $100.00 SPOT-2 Satellite Messenger, available everywhere.

Carry an emergency cell phone!
--On Belay, Bob Speik

Copyright © 2000 - 2012 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.



The rest of the story

Deschutes County Sheriffs Search and Rescue Volunteer Coordinator Al Hornish, a 12 year veteran of DCSAR, stated the following in an interview published on January 26, 2012 in the Bend Oregon Source Weekly: "We have grown a lot over the past decade." "The nature of missions has changed as well. There are more Rescues and less Searches, mostly because of the better technology available." Read More. --Robert Speik, 01-26-2012

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, or nearly four months since my fall off Mount Temple. After so much time, there is much to dwell on. The negatives: the pain of so many fractures, the sleeplessness, the drugs and the messed up things they do to you. It’s easy to get stuck in the negative; yet some part of me is drawn there by some morbid fascination.
 How big am I then? Not very. I made a mistake, a pretty small mistake. Or more honestly, I made a series of pretty small mistakes. I almost died for these transgressions. I would have died if it had not been for a cell phone and the chain of events it was able to put into motion. (I’ve owned a cell phone for barely six years.) I might not have died that very day, March 25, 2010, but from where we were, we were a long, long way from the medical care my injuries demanded: a trained trauma surgeon in an Emergency Room. Perhaps I would have lasted one night. Maybe not. It changes my perspective about what a day means. Carpe diem no longer seems some frat-boy cry to party. Today, means everything.  The Steve House Training Blog

Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Deputy Jim Whitcomb, assistant SAR coordinator reports on a recent 911 "false alarm". He notes that the inadvertent activation happened in a pack with an older SPOT-1 device. Whitcomb said it was a first-generation version that’s easier to accidentally set off while in a pack. “It is important to remember that technology can be a great asset, but can just as easily be a liability,” the deputy said in a news release, urging users of such devices to regularly monitor such gear. SAR will respond to all SPOT activations, treating them as an emergency, unless contact can be made with whoever is carrying the device, to confirm otherwise, Whitcomb said. Read More, Robert Speik, 07-22-2012.