How Much Reporting Is Enough?

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by John Fabian, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. John Fabian

    John Fabian Fabe

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    What are the expectations of Adventure Riders and the folks they leave behind as to the amount of communication while on an adventure?

    This question came up for me in a news story here in the United States about two bicyclists from California traveling in South America. They had been posting to Facebook on a daily basis and then they stopped. Friends and family did not hear from them for a month. The US State Department and South American police became involved. The cyclists families were interviewed on national television. Fear was expressed, tears were shed.

    The couple were on a boat heading to Ecuador. They are healthy and happy. Families and friends are relieved.

    This begs several questions: How much communication is expected? How much communication is enough? How much uncertainty should the folks back home be prepared to endure? Must we plan for wifi/cell phone/satellite connections on our adventures as we do for temperature and rainfall? Do you prepare your family and friends for your communication or lack there of?

    The United States is rife with media stories of bogeymen everywhere outside our borders kidnapping and murdering naive blond haired, blue eyed American patriots. Be out of communication for a day or two and your disappearance proves the story. We need to set boundaries and expectations with our folks back home.

    What are your experiences and expectations? How much reporting is enough?
    #1
  2. lmychajluk

    lmychajluk Long timer

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    This is probably the result of the spread of cell service over the last 20 years. Many people (especially those in more developed areas) think that you can pretty much use a cell anywhere, and loss of signal is a very localized problem (like you're in valley or building). They don't realize there are vast stretches of earth where cellular signals just don't reach.

    If you're 'blogging' your adventure or emailing friends/family on a daily basis, then stop without any notice or warning for a month, I can see how that might throw up some red flags. In the example by the OP, all the couple had to do was say they're getting on a boat and would be out of touch for a while. So, as far as what's 'expected', its whatever precendent you establish. If you're going on a month-long trip and tell the people back home you'll be out of touch for a month or so, no one will worry. If you establish a precendent of communicating daily, you should be responsible for providing any warning that you may not 'check in' on schedule, either before the trip starts ("I may not be able to check in every day") or in your last communication ("I'll be in a remote area for the next couple of days where you may not be able to reach me."). If you're going to set that precedent of checking in daily, you need to prepare to do so (i.e., sat phone, SPOT, etc...).


    This sounds very similar to boating concept, in that its recommended to leave a 'Float Plan' w/ an itinerarry and emergency info with someone on shore. It should include an ETA at the destination or return to home port. There are many variables, but the person holding the float plan needs to use some judgement. If the weather is fair, and the boat is only a couple of hours late, maybe no big deal - schedules are very loose when boating. If they're 12 hours late and a storm is moving in, maybe it's time to make that call to the Coast Guard. Likewise, if possible, the captain should make an effort to communicate any changes in schedule to the best of his ability.
    #2
  3. buls4evr

    buls4evr No Marks....

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    If one is that worried about this, then one should invest in a SPOT messenger.They transmit in deepest, darkest Africa even.
    #3
  4. It'sNotTheBike

    It'sNotTheBike Banned

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    Obviously the bicyclists in the above story were grossly inconsiderate
    of their people "back home" and were probably "having so much fun"
    they didn't even stop to think about the possible ramifications of suddenly
    ending communications. This is simply childish and self-absorbed
    behavior.


    This is not rocket science. Before leaving on a trip which may involve
    unusual risks, it is common sense to establish an agreed-upon protocol for
    communications with folks who are staying home. There is no clear definition
    for what a "correct" protocol "should" be; all that is up to the individuals
    involved. The important point is that all involved agree upon when emergency
    search procedures should begin, and that will vary depending on the people involved
    and the nature of the trip. The US State Department has better ways to spend taxpayer
    dollars than searching for idiots who forgot to phone home.



    By the way, the Times Roman font is much harder to read than the Arial
    font which is the default font on this site. You aren't doing yourself or anyone
    else who might read your posts any favors by using that font instead of the
    default Arial.


    .
    #4
  5. It'sNotTheBike

    It'sNotTheBike Banned

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    A 406MHz EPIRB is a better deal than a SPOT and
    does not require a subscription fee be paid in order for
    the device to work. SPOT is not the ultimate answer but
    is just one of multiple solutions to the problem of locating
    someone who is in need of rescue. Of course if you are kidnapped,
    the kidnappers aren't going to let you carry your SPOT or any other
    locator beacon along when they snatch you up.



    A 406 EPIRB is what virtually all professionals use. By "professionals" I mean
    people who risk their lives for a living, such as fishermen.


    http://www.mcmurdomarine.com/en/


    The device must be registered before use such that if it is triggered,
    authorities who will engage in a search know for whom they are searching.


    http://www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov/


    Failure to register the device can result in the signal from an EPIRB
    being ignored, which obviously is not in the best interest of someone
    who needs help.


    .
    #5
  6. lmychajluk

    lmychajluk Long timer

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    Just an FYI...

    EPIRBS are registered to a vessel, and are generally only allowed for use at sea. They can be mounted in a bracket that will automatically deploy it if the boat is sinking. However, you shouldn't carry one while on a bike, hiking, camping, etc... A PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) is registered to a person, and can be used on land or at sea and with any activity. A PLB uses the same frequencies as an EPIRB, though it is generally smaller than an EPRIB (think cell phone size vs. brick), usually has a smaller battery with more limited operating time, and may be limited in some other features (i.e., it may not float). Both will send your position to international rescue authorities. Both should be recertified every few years by the manufacturer (which includes a battery change) to ensure that they will work when you need it. Neither is a 2-way communication device, nor do they allow position 'reporting' unless activated in an emergency (though some of the newer models may be including some type of 'I'm OK' alert / test).
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  7. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

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    I agree. We usually tell our family "We'll be out of communication between such and such dates." or "We'll try to find a phone to let you know how the trip is going, but don't worry if you don't here from us until we get back on X date".
    #7
  8. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    There has to be something more to the story you posted. It's common sense for people to worry if someone is posting daily updates and then disappears for a month. Who knows... maybe that couple was a bunch of screwups, or maybe they expected to have connection on the boat and it was too late when they realized there is no connection.

    Secondly, there are good reasons why people worry. You shouldn't dismiss it as bogeymen phobia. It seems like half the people who backpack South America get robbed at knife/gun point at least once. (including me) If you look white, the crooks will target you in many regions.

    I only found this map that shows world cell phone coverage. It's clearly missing a lot of coverage, especially in Africa, but I think it shows overall just how much cell phone coverage there is on Earth. Vast majority of "adventure riders" don't really go into the places that don't have coverage (jungle/forest/mountains). Being riders, we are mostly stuck on roads and roads means that there is infrastructure and people - and usually some sort of communication.

    That said, I limit my contact with home for two reasons:
    • I don't know when I will have internet access again and I don't want to have to go out of my way to find it so that people don't worry when they don't get a check-in communication on Sunday evening or whatever. I set expectations low so that no one worries when they don't hear from me. I'll send an email every few weeks, occasionally post some photos on FB. That's it.
    • I don't want to chit-chat about the latest home gossip on my 'adventure'. This is supposed to be the time to get away from the daily grind. Getting out of touch is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    I'm not married though, so that helps. :D
    #8
  9. John Fabian

    John Fabian Fabe

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    I agree. My focus on the cyclists was how fast the story went national in the States and the morning talk show spin.
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  10. squawk77

    squawk77 Dreamer

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    Well, except for the southern half of Africa

    [​IMG]
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  11. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    While I did not buy SIM cards in each of those countries, they are readily available, cheap, and easy to get for foreigners. Cell phone coverage is pretty good everywhere in that region and even the very poor people rely on cell phones. People might live in a mud hut with no electricity or running water, but they will have access to a cell phone. I'm sure there are some dead spots but overall it is more than acceptable. Get a $20 Nokia that lasts 10 days on 1 charge and it works great.
    #11
  12. usgser

    usgser Long timer

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    Rent a sat phone.
    DO NOT use a vessel ERIRB. Serious bad idea. The money in fines it's going to take to get your ass out of a sling with the USCG and FCC you coulda bought and entire Sat phone store.
    #12