What he's saying makes sense. Rather than properly prepare themselves for the journey, and gaining skills, people do tend to trust electronics to bail them out. I believe this true in daily life, not just the out doors. As a volunteer in homeland security disaster response, we're seeing millions of dollars in grant monies spent by municipalities on new electronic toys, and practically no training to use any of it. In the end, it's training and skills that keep us out of hot water in the first place. Assurance of a "rescue" is marketable and a line of mainstream people is beginning to form to snatch up that battery powered 'confidence'. Not just hikers.... Beacons are becoming common knowledge among the masses.
1) Aren't climbers required to register at places like Rainier and Hood before attempting a summit? Is this not the best "window of opportunity" for educating folks as to the realities of winter mountaineering? If there were a law requiring climbers to use a beacon, the point of sale could also be authorized to require a mandatory safety class.
2) All of the rescues on Mt. Hood this winter have involved injuries that kept the parties from rescuing themselves.
3) Volunteer rescuers can decline to venture forth if the weather is poor. A rescue isn't an entitlement, it is something humans do because they feel it is the right thing to do (and face it, those of us who are on SAR teams do it because we enjoy what we do - but we're not stupid and we take safety VERY seriously).
4) Research on the use of PLBs in Alaska showed that many many lives were saved and virtually none of the calls for help were frivolous. I don't think you can compare beacons to cell phones, radios or sat phones... people do seem to abuse those more because it is "easy" to talk to someone else and call in a rescue, and you get instant feedback to know the cavalry is coming. OTOH, when you set off a beacon you don't know if anyone is actually getting your signal. It seems like pulling the cord would be an absolute last resort.
YMMV. Viewer discretion is advised.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Helmet laws are a whole other discussion. The cost to society as a whole due to traumatic brain injuries from bike accidents was one of the driving forces behind helmet laws. I always wore one and it came in handy when I got hit by a car. I wear one cycling too.
Many ski resorts now require helmets for children. When I got mine (after a friend of mine got a mild concussion snowboarding), I thought I would be the only one, but I started to see more and more of them. I think the fact that the pros and Olympic skiers wear them helped make them more accepted.
As already said, gizmos are no substitute for skills. They can help, but skills may keep you out of danger in the first place, and that is Whittaker's point-people who know how to carry enough gear, avoid bad weather, stay off sketchy routes, etc. don't need rescuing.
The first guy to set off a PLB once they were legalized a couple of years ago was exactly the kind of person Whittaker was talking about. I think he was canoeing in upstate NY in winter, got caught in bad weather, set off the PLB, got rescued, then went back the next week to get his gear and set it off again when he didn't feel like hiking out. He was arrested the second time for setting it off in a non-emergency. He was treating the rescuers like a taxi service and they didn't like that one bit.
There is an old thread on this somewhere.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
You're right about helmet laws being a whole other discussion and I apologize for opening that can of worms, but that wasn't my intention. I thought the analogy was sound. Sometime it would be interesting to compare real data on head injuries between states with and without helmet laws. Like I said, though, I would never get on a motorcycle without one even if they weren't required. Perhaps I should have gone with the seat belt analogy (I don't think they should be mandatory, either)...
Similarly, if I were climbing Mt Hood in winter I would probably bring a PLB along as a precaution. I tend to think the majority of people that engage in this activity would have sense enough to not let the presence of a PLB affect their preparation for the climb. If they don't, well I tend to look at that as natural selection in action.
There HAVE been studies done on the rates of injury with relation to mandated helmet use. A few states in the west enacted laws, repealed them, then reenacted them after head injury numbers climbed again with the drop in helmet use. I don't have citations on hand, but found that information when I was doing research on human behavior related to the use of safety devices. I posted lots of links in a different thread... I'll dig that up and link it here.
Edited by midnightsun03 (03/09/0711:29 AM)
YMMV. Viewer discretion is advised.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Paddy, that wasn't quite what I meant really, but the two do have a lot in common. The problem with data like you suggest is this-data collection will probably work for vehicle accidents since they get reported if serious enough and anyone is injured
For a sport like skiing, however, accident reports will show, most likely, only those where no helmet was worn and an injury occurred and those where a helmet was worn and an injury still occurred.
What gets left out are those where a helmet was worn, an accident happens and no injury occurred-I've had several of those and no reason to report to anyone, other than my friend I was skiing with who saw me crash. I count those as crashes where a helmet helped, but no one knows that but me. I have no idea how hurt I would have been sans helmet, but for sure worse than a simple bang to the back of the head.
With beacons, different story-setting one off will generate a response because it's an active device, not a passive device like a helmet. The answer to that is question everyone rescued and ask them if they would have done what they did without a beacon. Then again, will they be honest about it?
Whittaker talks about being stranded for 5 days on Mt. Rainier. How many other people would have set off their beacon after only a day or two? My guess is most, because most Mt. Rainier climbers are not of Jim Whittaker's caliber.
A beacon, (PLB type), might have saved that PCT hiker who died a few years ago above Palm Springs. He wasn't that far off the trail, but no one could find him. A beacon would have not only narrowed down the search area, but let people know he was lost in the first place. Food for thought.
Edited by TomD (03/09/0703:20 PM)
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
I understand Whittaker's point, but don't completely agree. I don't think motorcyclists drive more recklessly with a helmet on, nor do motorists with a seatbelt on. I think another analogy would be fighter pilots flying differently with an ejector seat. Some might, but I think they're the exception rather than the rule.
As for people setting off their PLB's before they really need help, my pride would intervene. I would hate to get into a situation where I needed rescue. I don't think I would set the beacon off until I had grave concern about my ability to get out of the situation.
As always, though, I don't know if it's possible to know how you'll act in a situation until you actually are in it. You can train for it and be prepared, but you don't really know until it's for real.
According to the editorial the proposed law is for winter months. Mantadory for those months only. While I agree with many who suggest that the use of the PLB is going to reduce the skill set going up during those months and that the currect or better way to do such a climb is to be PREPARED, there are many that won't take the precautions and will try to do a "fast and light ascent". This action in December cost 3 lives, thousands of dollars to the tax payers, significant time off and loss in pay to the SAR members, families and employers, and the emotional and financial cost to the families involved and the rescuers. Training and responsibility is the answer, but legislating that has proven to be impossible.
I have a PLB and take it with me on solo and all back country trips whether I am with someone else or not. The purpose: My last resort. If I don't pull the cord, then I am dead, not just inconvenieced because of a sprained ankle, but dead. I am not getting out of this without help even if I hunker down and wait out the blizzard or storm or give my ankle an extra day to heal, that won't make a difference. My skills have been aquired over 37 years of outdoor adventure from basic backpacking to climbing to canyoneering to mountaineering. and the first aid training to go with it. Yet I choose to carry a PLB for my family and myself. I have never needed it, nor has a situation come up that I would consider pulling the cord and calling for help. But a simple fall in '94 broke both bones in my R leg, toes were pointing at 4:00, ankle was shattered and I was not going anywhere. If that had happened in the back country alone or with others who knows what the outcome would have been.
I personnally am for some stronger requirements during the winter months on such climbs and making people take more responsability for themselves in their planning and potential rescue. Even if the climbers themselves don't want to be rescued their families will call in a missing person report and "OBTW they are on ______ mountain. Can you go find them please."
Make the PLB a required item to obtain a permit during those months and have a big deposit and small rental fee. If you use it, its yours. The folks that want to climb will take the proper precautions and be prepared so they don't have to pull the cord, unless they absolutely have to. The rest will simply say no thanks, I will wait till spring, summer or fall. Once again its the small few who don't and will not prepare properly that screw it up for the rest of us who do. Jim
What's that new PLRB that just came out? It has a lower cost than others and the ability to communicate with e-mail.
I think the ability to send a messages to the effect of, "We're all OK. Stranded by bad weather. Will return when storm subsides." would not only allay the fears of loved ones but cut down on unnecessary S&R efforts when a party is "overdue".
This new PLRB offers different levels of communication. That's seems a necesary feature that we'll be seeing in all future PLRBs.
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I am not familiar with any PLB that has messaging capability. Spot does, but it is not a true PLB, e.g. it is a proprietary beacon that does not operate off the same satellite system as the PLB. Instead, the signal goes to a private company, not a government agency. My understanding is that the company, in turn contacts rescuers.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
Our sales agency started reping ACR PLBs the first year they were available in 2004. It was daunting task. Most of those who we introduced it to thought as everyone else does, like Jim Whittaker, that people will misuse the PLB and cause chaos with SAR. The cost was also really high (and still is) which made it an inaccessible solution for many people. The weight was high at 17 oz. especially on an item that the buyer will hopefully never have to use. It really didn't help that it looked like a yellow brick. We all believed that when the first land rescue occurred we would start selling them by the millions. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" />
A lot has changed in the past few years. The units have gotten smaller and cheaper for one. We have had 88 land rescues in 2007 involving climbers, backpackers, scouts, rental units, etc. There has been much publicity and discussion in the general media. These things have all helped in getting the word out. We knew that the first few years would be more educating than selling which we did relentlessly (you could call us the Purveyors of Paranoia <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />). We are know really starting to sell them which is exiting to me.
My main emphasis as I clinic and/or discuss the PLB is that it should only be used in times when the person's LIFE, LIMB, or SIGHT are in jeopardy. This is totally up to the user in that some PLB carriers will think their life is in danger sooner than others. However, this is ok according to the FCC. I often get questions on whether or not they will be fined. Some places like Alaska, because of the remote and dangerous terrain, will be billed no matter what in most cases. However, many places in the lower 48 are pretty safe from a big fine. I tell folks that they are far more likely to be billed if they don't have one. As you know, a PLB takes the "search" (expensive part) out of 'search and rescue'.
The technology isn't new. In fact it has been around for at least 15 years. The EPIRB, PLBs used on ocean going vessels (it is law that a ship or boat going out to see must have one on board) has saved 20,000+ lives over the last 15 years. However, the FCC was afraid that they would be abused on land which was the reason why it took 5 years before they were allowed to be sold as land based PLBs. In Alaska, during this five year period, they tested the unit and as a result 50 people owe their lives to this technology. After this test period had concluded, the FCC knew that they had no other choice but to allow it to be sold. There is a stiff fine and possible jail time if misused. There have been a few abusers which have been fined about $1000 and 30 days in prison (the law states if it is misused you could be fined up to $250,000 and thrown in to prison for 6 months, but this is highly unlikely). The first rescue was the guy who's boat had frozen in the ice and was legitimately rescued. He then went back to get his gear after which he set off the PLB again so he could get pictures of the helicopter coming in to "rescue"him for a book he was planning to write. They picked him up and flew him directly to jail along with a hefty fine. He was made an example of (we heard a lot about this incident).
I own one (had to buy it) and carry it on every trip into the backcountry. I've heard too many stories of folks who get into trouble in places you would never think would be a concern. Many of these people are experienced and understand very well the dangers, far better than I do. I drill into those I talk to about it that getting up the mountain is one thing, getting back down is the hard part. This could also mean that going out is exciting and very much worth while, but what is your life worth to your family? Do you want to make sure you get back so you can do this again? So many start out in great anticipation only to have it end tragically for themselves, their family and friends, and those who rely on them (job, etc.). This is really the crux of whether to have one or not. With this technology available, I believe those venturing into the backcountry can't afford not to have one and, ultimately, are selfish if they choose not to carry one. No one can predict what will happen to him/her even in the most sterile of environments in the backcountry. I even carry one in my car if I'm going to a place that may involve bad weather. We've all heard of horrible stories about people stranded with their families. There was a recent one in Utah where a man and his wife were stranded for 10 days in their car before being found. Both made it, but they went through a lot.
We still have a few hold outs, but many are coming around. One of the more interesting is Gary Neptune of Neptune Mountaineering. He was totally against it at first, but has now allowed it's sale in his shop. I truly believe that through these sales, more lives will be saved and much of the tragedy we hear about will be reduced. It's been a privilege to be a part of it all.
Believe, then you will Understand...
I think it would be a very ineresting experiment to institute a policy that required folks who don't want to carry a beacon to sign a rescue waiver. In other words, if you want to be on your own, go ahead - you'll be really on your own, nobody will come for you no matter what. I wonder how many would opt for that rather than carry the beacon?