Outdoor safety technology can keep adventurers connected to emergency assistance even on remote bike paths, trails and waterways.
After wrapping up an afternoon of sun and surfing, Jeffrey Huntley and his buddy were looking for a spot nearby to camp for the night.
As they turned the corner onto a service road just out of sight of the highway, Huntley’s friend spotted a man lying on the ground, entangled in a bicycle.
“It took me a second to realize that the man was in extreme distress. He was in and out of consciousness, bleeding profusely from multiple injuries on his face and hand,” said Huntley, who lives in Big Sur, Calif.
A former emergency responder, Huntley began first aid while his buddy activated the InReach device — a satellite communicator — they brought in case of emergency.
Luckily, a fire paramedic tending to forest fires nearby responded within 10 minutes, said Huntley.
With dangers to cyclists, runners and hikers ranging from potentially serious accidents to navigational misadventures to rabid raccoons, safety tech makes the great outdoors safer for nature enthusiasts.
Outdoor emergencies can happen at any time, and carrying safety tech that enables easy access to search and rescue teams can make a huge difference in getting home safely.
Rescue devices using satellite technology to transmit GPS location aren’t new, but now they’re more affordable and accessible for recreational adventurers.
Approximately 250 people are rescued on land, sea and air each year in the U.S. using beacons connected to government satellite systems, while even more adventurers have been saved using private satellite services.
Garmin’s inReach, as well as ACR’s ResQLink and SPOT’s Gen3, follow similar distress beacon protocols, but they use different satellite technology. By pressing a distress button on the rescue device, a 406 MHz signal containing GPS coordinates pings off satellites to alert first responders of an emergency.
Using the government-maintained Cospas-Sarsat international satellite system for search and rescue, ACR offers personal locator beacons that don’t require a subscription plan. When ResQLink owners register their device, they receive a distinct user ID, which is encoded in the distress signal.
This simple one-way communication beacon directs search and rescue teams to the person’s location through a series of relays.
First, the ResQLink beacon sends an emergency radio signal to satellites that are part of Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue network. The satellites relay the message with the person’s location to a ground terminal station, which then routes the information to the mission control center. This team then alerts the nearest rescue coordination center to dispatch search and rescue resources to find the person in distress.
SPOT Gen3 and inReach rescue devices offer more services than the ResQLink. These devices use privately-owned satellite systems connected to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center. When an SOS distress call is sent, GEOS provides GPS coordinates to local emergency response teams.
Both SPOT Gen3 and inReach rescue devices allow text messaging — sent to email or smartphones — with a subscription plan. Enthusiasts can also track, record and share where their adventures take them.
The inReach beacon offers more interactive technology, including two-way communication with GEOS during emergencies, weather forecasts and an Earthmate app for pairing the inReach with a smartphone or tablet for messaging, planning and map viewing.
For people who like to stay on the beaten path — especially solo runners or cyclists — a satellite beacon might be overkill. Most people bring their smartphones everywhere they go.
However, in some distress situations — whether an injury or imminent threat from an attacker — it may be impossible to place a call. That’s when an app like Road ID could come in handy.
The app pings out “eCrumbs,” tracking the user’s GPS location via the cellular network on a map, allowing friends and family to keep tabs on the outdoor enthusiast. If the user stops moving for more than five minutes, the app notifies preselected contacts that the person is potentially in distress (the user can give a thumbs up to the app if there’s no emergency).
Road ID also offers ID bands that include the user’s name, city and prescription drug allergies, plus key contact names and phone numbers. Outdoor adventurers can attach the ID band on a wristband, necklace, shoe or fitness wearable. If the user is unconscious or having difficulty communicating in an emergency, the ID band can assist first responders in providing care.
In a tough situation, sometimes all people need is a little help from their friends. Dubbed as a mobile panic button, Wearsafe combines a small fob with a smartphone app.
By triggering the wearable fob button (or tapping on the screen of an Android or Apple watch linked by Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone), the person can send an alert to predesignated emergency contacts.
When a distress signal is sent, the Wearsafe app records and transmits audio via the smartphone’s microphone, allowing contacts to hear exactly what’s going on. They can then share this information — most importantly, the user’s exact location — with first responders.
“I generally do early-morning long runs that go far from my house,” said Leslie St. Amant, a marathoner from Connecticut and a Wearsafe user.
“I’m running 10 miles out and back, or doing a 15-mile loop, often on busy roads or back roads, sometimes in areas that might feel shady. I feel much more comfortable doing that with my Wearsafe.”
Whenever the great outdoors calls, adventurers can stay safely connected while hiking, biking, running or sailing.