From lost hikers to downed airplanes, since its inception a few years ago, SPOT satellite messenger products have been used in more than 1,500 emergency rescues around the world. That’s according to an announcement today from the company, which cites boaters, pilots, hikers, and skiers among “those saved since the debut of SPOT technology in 2007.”
Of all the rescues, California, Colorado, Utah, Alaska and Florida are the states with the highest number. But adventurers in more than 100 countries, SPOT notes, have used the device to send an emergency signal. Among the “rescue highlights” since 2007 the company cites a Scout troop leader who was crushed by a falling horse in Mount Hood National Forest (and later airlifted to safety by the National Guard); a group of fishermen rescued from a sinking boat by the U.S. Coast Guard 20 miles off the coast of South Carolina; a heli-assist rescue of two stranded climbers on a peak in Yoho National Park, British Columbia; and a backcountry skier who was located and rescued after being trapped at high elevation in Norway during a severe winter storm.
SPOT devices work by providing a satellite connection almost anywhere around the planet. Various message types — from an “I’m OK” note to an SOS/911 emergency call — can be issued with the push of a button. In a life-threatening emergency, SPOT users activate the SOS button and the device sends a communiqué with their GPS location to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center. From there, GEOS verifies the incident and notifies the appropriate authorities, including Search and Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Highway Patrol, State Emergency Management centers, or international agencies. “SPOT devices can take the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue,’” said Russell Gubele of the Mountain Wave Search and Rescue near Mount Hood, Ore.
Gubele continued, “Being notified of an emergency with the location coordinates allows us to conduct our rescue efforts extremely efficiently, saving valuable time and resources. As a result, more people are rescued from often life-threatening situations, saving lives, time and money.”
For the past couple years I have traveled in the wilderness with a SPOT device not only as a “backup parachute” for emergencies but as a way to keep in touch with my wife and to track my route via GPS waypoints. My father, who has a propensity for long solo wilderness adventures, uses a SPOT, too, and it’s reassuring to find an “I’m OK” notification in my email inbox when he is in the woods. I can then click on a geo-tagged url and see on Google maps exactly his location (usually miles off trail!) to know his general whereabouts in the outdoors.
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.