Safety in the out­doors...

Adventure - - News - Wayne Clark

We first met Wayne through NZ tramp­ing news which is a closed group on Face­book. We of­fered him the op­tion to stand on our me­dia soap box and have his say - this is what he had to say...

Some of you may al­ready have de­cided af­ter read­ing the head­ing, you don‘t need to know any more about safety. You’ve been there done that, got the T-shirt and know all about stay­ing safe in the NZ out­doors. You may think you are safe for com­pletely dif­fer­ent rea­sons… You may have a Per­sonal Lo­ca­tor Bea­con (PLB) or mar­itime EPIRB equiv­a­lent for in­stance. Var­i­ous res­cue or­gan­i­sa­tions tell peo­ple they should take a bea­con with them when they head out into the wilder­ness… In­ci­dents of peo­ple re­quir­ing res­cue in NZ are in­creas­ing greatly in re­cent years. A lot of res­cuees don’t have a bea­con with them which can draw out a search and may make the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. But it may not al­ways be a life­saver. For those who have bea­cons, do you know how to use it prop­erly? A re­cent in­ci­dent on the Route­burn where for­eign tourists were caught out, res­cue au­thor­i­ties stated they should have taken a bea­con. This meant they would have had to rent one but their grasp of English wasn’t good at all. Would they have had packed the bea­con in an ac­ces­si­ble place to ac­cess it, de­spite be­ing se­verely in­jured and im­mo­bile? Would they have stored it loosely on their pack and had it ripped off in an ac­ci­dent and lost it? Could they have read the English in­struc­tions on the bea­con to un­der­stand how to use it? In other sce­nar­ios, peo­ple are ac­ti­vat­ing bea­cons as they know a search will be launched to find them be­cause they are run­ning late. But what trip in­ten­tion in­for­ma­tion if any, have these par­ties left with out­side con­tacts? Have they only given the date that they are due out and left the rest up to in­ter­pre­ta­tion for their con­tacts? i.e. What should the con­tact do if you are a day or two late? If you have a bea­con, do you un­der­stand the var­i­ous sce­nar­ios when you should and shouldn’t use it? Should you use the bea­con just be­cause you are run­ning late and your sit­u­a­tion isn’t life threat­en­ing? If you are sit­ting in a DOC hut, did you know one of the first things DOC will of­ten do if you are no­ti­fied as over­due, is to send a he­li­copter along your in­tended trip route and visit any huts along the way? When you ac­ti­vate the bea­con, SAR will treat it as a pos­si­ble life and death sce­nario and do their ut­most to lo­cate you as fast as pos­si­ble and if nec­es­sary, ex­tract you from your lo­ca­tion. You may have a comms de­vice that can send mes­sages or have two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but they still don’t al­ways have 100% con­nec­tion re­li­a­bil­ity. So generic ad­vice about tak­ing a bea­con with you is only part of the mes­sage that needs to get out. Leav­ing de­tailed trip in­ten­tions is still as rel­e­vant as ever, even with the new lo­ca­tor bea­con tech­nol­ogy. A few words on cell phones in the wilder­ness: Re­cep­tion is of­ten non-ex­is­tent, and bat­ter­ies don’t last. Don’t rely on them for res­cue or com­mu­ni­ca­tion. There have been a lot of ex­tremely lucky peo­ple re­cently who have just had enough re­cep­tion to get hold of po­lice when they were in po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions.

A few words on who should pay for res­cues: Charg­ing for res­cues can lead to a greater re­luc­tance to ask for res­cue when one is needed. This can make search and res­cue harder and more dan­ger­ous for res­cue ser­vices. Of course you don’t want to en­cour­age reck­less use of the sys­tem ei­ther. If peo­ple are go­ing to be charged then it should be in clear cut cases of need­lessly wast­ing res­cue re­sources.

700,000 Over peo­ple who hike in New Zealand each 338 year, peo­ple have to be 6 res­cued on av­er­age don’t come home.

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