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Old 01-05-2009, 03:51 PM   #1
buck moberly OP
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My experience using my SPOT Messenger's 911 emergency button

A couple of days ago I broke my leg in a crash on single track in a remote area. Many people have asked if and how the SPOT Messenger I used to call for help worked.
I've Posted about the ride in this forum post:

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=420272

So here is my review of the SPOT Messenger in an emergency.

3:00 pm

I wrecked. I knew instantly my leg was broken.

3:10 pm

Two of the three people I was with left to get a truck.
At the time the plan was then I would ride out in the truck.

5:18 pm

After trying to move and feeling how severe the fractures were
I pushed the 911 button on my SPOT messenger. It was dark by
then, windy and getting cold. It became obvious that I would be
putting myself in more danger if I rode an hour or more on
very rough terrain in a truck.

5:22 pm

My wife received a call from the GEOS rescue service at home.
The GEOS service wanted to confirm that the call was not a
false alarm.

5:30 pm

The sheriff's dept called my wife to verify that I was missing.
The person who called did not seem to understand what GPS
coordinates were. They wanted to know the general area I was
riding in. They were given my exact location by GEOS but did not
know how to use the information. My wife tried to give the local Sheriff
operator the GPS coordinates but were unfamiliar with them and kept
saying it only provided a general location.

5:40 pm

My wife called the GEOS center. She was frustrated that the local
sheriff dept did not understand how to find me. The person from
GEOS advised they had already contacted an emergency response
center in Sacramento after the frustrating conversation with the local Sheriff operator.

5:40-6:40 pm

Calls came in from more informed local authorities and from
the emergency response center in Sacramento. The sheriff dept
at this time was planning on trying to find me on the ground.

6:20 pm

One of the many attempts by the friend who stayed with me
to go up to the ridge above us to use his cell phone worked.
He got a hold of his wife who called mine to let her know what
the situation was.

6:30 pm

The two friends who went to get the truck got back to us.

6:42 pm

My wife got a hold of the sheriff and told him my condition.
She also got a hold of the GEOS center and told them my
condition. The sheriff dept got through my friend's
cell phone who was now with me and told them they were sending
out a helicopter.

7:20 pm

The sheriffs helicopter arrived and landed as close as possible.
They flew me to an ambulance where I was treated until another
helicopter arrived - a medical evacuation helicopter with room
for a stretcher.

9 ish pm

I arrived at a hospital in Palm Springs were I was drugged
and ignored, but was happy to be indoors and warm.

Anyways I'm at home now with a cast and very satisfied with the SPOT messengers performance. I don't know exactly who did what or how it got done but it all worked out well enough. It's important to also have an informed contact person listed for SPOT and GEOS to relay information.

The one unanswered question I have is if the insurance I bought for search and rescue when I activated the SPOT will pay for any of the helicopter costs. I'll post about it when I know.
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Old 01-05-2009, 04:52 PM   #2
JCleary
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Good to hear you're home warm and happy. Sorry to hear you're injured, but clearly things could have been much worse. I'm definitely thinking about buying one of these, as I don't have a lot of friends that ride.

I would think as this device gets more popular, law enforcement agencies will be better equipped to deal with it. You'd think the cop would be able to look on Google Maps to find the spot with the coordinates. Geez...
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Old 01-05-2009, 05:26 PM   #3
Countdown
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCleary
I would think as this device gets more popular, law enforcement agencies will be better equipped to deal with it. You'd think the cop would be able to look on Google Maps to find the spot with the coordinates. Geez...
Don't count on it. We had a broken back on Mex2Can. Other riders called 911 with sat phone, gave Lon & Lat which was verified by second person who was pilot. Choper came from Vegas and searched for 1/2 hour in wrong place. When they finally located downed rider they did not have enough fuel to land and left. Rider was picked up by FWD rescue.

I saw the same type of write up about calling AAA with Lon&Lat on a paved county road in the desert and the oporator insisted on and addrerss!

One problem is Deg-Min-Sec, decimal degrees, UTM units. The position must get to a rescue dispatcher who can convert to units of the local searchers GPS
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:46 PM   #4
bananaman
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I'm glad SPOT worked for you. Awesome review!

It sounds like the weak link is the local dispatcher.

I wonder, how does this S&R activation compare to sevices like "onstar?" How does this compare to the sequence of notifications if instead of using a SPOT, you'd activated a PLB with a built-in GPS?

I once ran out of gas on a lonely interstate, and realized that I had no idea at all where I was. I called a police dispatcher and gave them my GPS coordinates, and had the same problem- they had no idea how to translate the coordinates. Finally I zoomed out and gave them my approximate location with bearings from several towns.

Here's what I'm going to do: in the next few days I'm going to contact my local law enforcement agencies (city, county, and state) and ask them how they deal with GPS coordinates.
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:53 PM   #5
Frank Warner
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Countdown
One problem is Deg-Min-Sec, decimal degrees, UTM units. The position must get to a rescue dispatcher who can convert to units of the local searchers GPS
If the local searchers don't know enough about their GPS to enter different units ( deg.decimal deg, deg, min etc) then they should get more training!!!!!
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:02 PM   #6
motomark39
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I am a firefighter in Alabama and we have gps on all units and have been trained, but some of the guys that don't practice/use gps don't retain the information. This is considered basic information gathering for making rescue as quick as possible. Changing to the correct coordinate system is of course key and a basic skill.
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:25 PM   #7
250senuf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motomark39
... Changing to the correct coordinate system is of course key and a basic skill.
Is there one coordinate system that is the correct one? Is that likely to change from one jurisdiction to another? I've got my GPS set to UTM; just two numbers to report that way.
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:45 PM   #8
TomW
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In this case it's the dispatchers that need the training. They need to be able to:
  • recognize lat-long coordinates, and
  • convert from what they're given to whatever format their people on the ground need (GPS coordinate formats or street address).
We take for granted that everybody is as up on this technology as we are. It's not only not true, but those that have had the training need to use it (or be retrained) often enough to be able to perform on the (rare?) occasions these skills are needed.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:11 PM   #9
buck moberly OP
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It was frustrating for my wife to have my exact location but the local sheriff department dispatcher did not know how to use it. I should add that the GEOS rescue center was very helpful in that they had contact information that my wife may have not been able to find. They kept at it until they got a hold someone who did understand. The sheriffs department pilot who picked me up was amazed by the exactness of the information as to my location he was given. They wanted to see the device that had helped them find me.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:28 PM   #10
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I am not sure why geos did not have coordinates converted to any format that a local emergency dept needs. these local departments may not know how to do it (although they should), but geos should be ready to do so anytime to any format or description.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:39 PM   #11
buck moberly OP
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I think the dispatcher did not even know what a gps receiver is let alone what to do with lat and long coordinates.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:49 PM   #12
jonz
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How it would work in Riverside County

Howdy gang,
I just got off the phone with the Indio CHP Dispatch center ( I work in that area) which basically handles all of eastern Riverside County and which is close to Buck's accident location. However, Buck's accident was in a different county, San Bernardino County. This is just another data point letting you know how things are handled in the area. After reading about all the trouble the San Berdo Co. dispatchers had with gps data, I wanted to find out how it would be handled here. Here's the scoop.

If you were able to make a cellular 911 call with your GPS coordinates, it would go to Indio CHP Dispatch and they have a computer program (don't know why it isn't google earth or google maps - the state way is to pay the maximum amount for the least capability ). They know how to plug in the coordinates and it shows your location on their mapping program. If it's a service call, they handle it. If it's Search and Rescue, they refer it to Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. The same folks SPOT would call. According to the dispatcher I talked with, Riv Co Sheriff's dispatchers and SAR can and do deal with gps coordinates all the time in a computerized mapping system.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:53 PM   #13
Ardyjay
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buck moberly
I think the dispatcher did not even know what a gps receiver is let alone what to do with lat and long coordinates.
Why not just enter them on google maps? Worked when I tried it.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:53 PM   #14
bananaman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonz
Howdy gang,
I just got off the phone with the Indio CHP Dispatch center ( I work in that area) which basically handles all of eastern Riverside County and which is close to Buck's accident location. However, Buck's accident was in a different county, San Bernardino County. This is just another data point letting you know how things are handled in the area. After reading about all the trouble the San Berdo Co. dispatchers had with gps data, I wanted to find out how it would be handled here. Here's the scoop.

If you were able to make a cellular 911 call with your GPS coordinates, it would go to Indio CHP Dispatch and they have a computer program (don't know why it isn't google earth or google maps - the state way is to pay the maximum amount for the least capability ). They know how to plug in the coordinates and it shows your location on their mapping program. If it's a service call, they handle it. If it's Search and Rescue, they refer it to Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. The same folks SPOT would call. According to the dispatcher I talked with, Riv Co Sheriff's dispatchers and SAR can and do deal with gps coordinates all the time in a computerized mapping system.
Well done. If we all do this- actually contact people- we can make a difference.
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Old 01-05-2009, 09:21 PM   #15
crashmaster
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Glad the SPOT and GEOS worked as advertised. However the lack of understanding of the Sheriff's department is a little concerning, and somewhat amusing. I frequently ride solo near the old WWII tank command training area in east Riverside county. Good to know that the Riverside folks could at least find me if I was confronted with injury or a 40 mile desert walk in 100+ degree heat.

This may be a stupid question, but why are not all personnel in SAR teams well versed on GPS? I mean really.......it is called SEARCH and rescue after all.

This doesnt sound good if you need to rely on the SPOT 911 feature in a less developed country. Although I think the SPOT is a great device, you really are still on your own and responsible for yourself, so plan accordingly, you alone and your level of preparedness is your best chance for survival in a life threatening situation. The SPOT is great to have, but this incident clearly illustrates that you may not be able to count on it 100%
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