GPS Locators: No Substitute for Proper Preparation

This week's blog is brief, but, once again, focuses on bad behavior.

By now, most of us have heard about or used a "Personal GPS Locator"--a device that allows you to use satellite communication to send a distress call. I often mention these during 4x4 clinics as a good tool to have in your bag of self-preservation goodies.

However, it is recently coming to public attention that GPS locators are being abused, wasting the resources of various emergency services for such trivial things as being scared by a thunderstorm, having bad-tasting water, or just an accidental activation. My favorite quote from a Search and Rescue administrator says "you send a message to a satellite and the government pulls your butt out of something you shouldn’t have been in in the first place.”

Though having a GPS-based locator can save lives, it should NEVER be used as a substitute for good preparation, including having adequate water, maps, a thorough weather and trail conditions check, and--what I hesitate to call "common" sense--a general awareness of one's surroundings, one's capabilities (and limitations) and a little knowledge about handling "the unexpected."

Even having a locator doesn't mean that you will have adequate signal or that conditions will allow rescuers to get to you. One should always approach a venture into the backcountry with the attitude that "no one is coming to rescue me--I have to rely on myself to get out and back", and plan accordingly, even if that plan means scrapping the excursion altogether. Know when NOT to go.

For a thorough article about the rising misuse of GPS locators, see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33470581/ns/us_news-life//

For more information on one specific device that I have used with great satisfaction, visit: http://www.findmespot.com

Happy trails!