/ Mountain Rescue and Mobile Phones

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mypyrex - on 14 Jan 2013
I've been looking at incidents involving MRT call out where people have been lost or stuck on difficult terrain and have called for assistance on their mobiles. I can't help thinking how things were before the advent of mobiles, esp the modern small ones(20 odd years ago) People would very often have had to get themselves out of trouble - unless of course there was a serious injury. Just wonder if we're getting too reliant on mobiles.
Jim Fraser - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

I think it was 1991 that I was first on a call-out involving a mobile phone in Kintail. A helicopter lifted an injured person from the Forcan Ridge probably less than 2 hours after the incident. In February 2005 in the Cairngorms, the combination of two factors related to radio comms, mobiles phones and personal issue MR radios, meant that within a few minutes of breaking her ankle, a woman was attended by 3 MR guys from 3 different MRT teams, and an hour and a quarter after the incident she was landing at Raigmore Hospital in an RAF helicopter.

Last year, I was on one where there was not mobile phone coverage and the companion had to walk out get help. The difference was clear. I do not know if there was a mobile phone carried at that incident but I do know that if the companion had gone up instead of down there would have been coverage for a 999 roaming call regardless of network. There is nearly always coverage on summits but accidents don't happen on summits.

Things are moving on. MR teams are examining, and some are using successfully, applications that will track lost persons who have contacted them using smart phones (don't expect this to work in the most complex terrain). IKAR members are examining how MR teams can scan ground for a known mobile using specially built equipment and information from the network provider. Some of these new things will work and some will not. Do not expect any of this to be magically available any time soon.

Read the advice on this leaflet.
http://www.outdoorindustriesassociation.co.uk/cust_images/Mountain%20Rescue%20leaflet%202011s.pdf

And here are a few more tips.

1. Charge it. Turn stuff off, or down, to extend battery life. Carry a spare battery (charged).

2. Protect the phone from wet conditions. (Tesco ziplock bag?)

3. Understand 999 roaming and its limitations. You can call 999 on any network: not just your own. Problem: you can only be called back on your own network. Solution: get the vital information across clearly in the 999 call, don't waste battery energy with other useless phone activity and arrange a time to call 999 again.

4. POLICE. Don't ask for an ambulance. They don't do hills.

5. SMS text messages can work far better than voice in areas with poor coverage. Have two or three numbers of reliable people who will have their phones always on who can be relied upon to pass on text messages to the police.
Blue Straggler - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> Just wonder if we're getting too reliant on mobiles.

Is it not a question of "too reliant on MRT"?

Ava Adore - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

I too have thought we are too reliant on mobiles. And we expect them to work even in the hills where signal may be poor. Many times I've asked someone to ring me/text me when they're near x crag and we'll meet up and then one or other of us doesn't have signal.

A friend and I went to do a Grade 3 scramble a couple of years ago and asked our lift to meet us at a particular time. However, we didn't feel confident enough to do some of the moves without protection so effectively led 3 or 4 "pitches". Which increased our time taken. Fortunately my friend was able to text our lift to tell him our new ETA but it would have been awful if we hadn't been able to communicate. We were about 2 hours late.
mypyrex - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser: I understand that Jim but my point was that nowadays some people seem to use mobiles to call up MR when they are in a relatively minor situation with no injuries in which, years ago, they would have sorted it out themselves. In those days you would have "walked-out".

I've spoken to members of the team I'm associated with as a fundraiser and many of them have told me of people who have called up in non-life threatening situations(disorientated, tired, bad weather etc) and effectively demanded MRT attendance.
Milesy - on 15 Jan 2013
In general everybody should take a read of Cairngorm John if you haven't read it already. Lots of interesting stories about people who genuinely needed rescue, those who rescue never came quick enough for, and those who blatently used or abused the rescue services.
EeeByGum - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Is it not a question of "too reliant on MRT"?

Or is it simply a question of the fact that more people are heading to the hills?
drmarten on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
>
> I think it was 1991 that I was first on a call-out involving a mobile phone in Kintail.

I would have said mobiles came later until I read that. I'm still surprised that there was the coverage in Kintail in 1991. When looking up mobile phone usage I found this, I think the earliest model barely deserves the prefix 'mobile'.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gallery/2010/feb/14/mobile-phones-gadgets-iphone#/?picture=3576...

Good tip about keeping the phone dry, my phone conked out for good last year after a very wet day on Slioch. I had the phone in my trouser pocket and did my usual of not thinking of putting on waterproof trousers until I was already soaked and on the way down. Agree about Cairngorm John - it's worth a read.
goose299 - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:

> 5. SMS text messages can work far better than voice in areas with poor coverage. Have two or three numbers of reliable people who will have their phones always on who can be relied upon to pass on text messages to the police.

You can text directly to the police, you know. See: http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/ Was designed for deaf people but is also pretty useful for climbers/mountaineers and walkers
Slugain Howff - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

It can work both ways though. In more than a few instances we have avoided a full team call out by talking the caller off the hill. On one occasion this involved some instruction on how to use their GPS!!!!!

S
Jim Fraser - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:

And here is probably the most useful smart phone app around. Arthur Embleton's 'Grid Reference'. It does what it says on the tin.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.blerg&hl=en

Works with Android phone that have GPS (don't know about other OS, you'll have to check). Does not require a phone signal. Beautifully simple, quick, and clear. (Forget the north arrow thing. Magnetic fields are strange things and you DO have a proper compass anyway, don't you?)
Slugain Howff - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:

That's handy!
Jim Fraser - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser) I understand that Jim but my point was that nowadays some people seem to use mobiles to call up MR when they are in a relatively minor situation with no injuries in which, years ago, they would have sorted it out themselves. In those days you would have "walked-out".
>
> I've spoken to members of the team I'm associated with as a fundraiser and many of them have told me of people who have called up in non-life threatening situations(disorientated, tired, bad weather etc) and effectively demanded MRT attendance.


If ten talk-them-down calls save us one long wet night carrying out a body then that's fine by me.
Milesy - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:
> And here is probably the most useful smart phone app around. Arthur Embleton's 'Grid Reference'. It does what it says on the tin.

The only thing I have installed on my phone nav related is the "GridPoint GB" app. Gives you a grid reference and also shows an x on the current square so you can quickly point on the map. Works without network coverage and doesnt eat up much battery power.
Only a hill - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser)
>
> And here is probably the most useful smart phone app around. Arthur Embleton's 'Grid Reference'. It does what it says on the tin.
>
> https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.blerg&hl=en
>
> Works with Android phone that have GPS (don't know about other OS, you'll have to check). Does not require a phone signal. Beautifully simple, quick, and clear. (Forget the north arrow thing. Magnetic fields are strange things and you DO have a proper compass anyway, don't you?)

There's a similar app available on Windows Phone as well--truly very good and just as accurate as a standalone GPS. The battery drain is minimal if used wisely.

Instead of being afraid of smart phones in the hills, I think people just need to educate themselves about how to use them effectively, and when it's appropriate to switch them off and use map and compass instead. It shouldn't be either/or in my opinion; digital and paper compliment each other.
Jim Fraser - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to drmarten:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser)
> [...]
>
> I would have said mobiles came later until I read that. I'm still surprised that there was the coverage in Kintail in 1991. When looking up mobile phone usage I found this, I think the earliest model barely deserves the prefix 'mobile'.


You might be right. It could have been later in the early 90s. I don't have my log books handy. The users were military. It was on a summit ridge so the mast could have been 30+ miles away for all we know.
mypyrex - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Slugain Howff:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser)
>
> That's handy!

Very. Downloaded
mypyrex - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Only a hill:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser)
> [...]
>
> Instead of being afraid of smart phones in the hills, I think people just need to educate themselves about how to use them effectively,

Agreed. I bought mine just over twelve months ago and I wouldn't be without it in the hills. That said there's still a map and compass in my 'sac.
drunken monkey - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex: Id rather folk had mobile phones than not. It can make it a hell of a lot easier to find them on a callout.
mypyrex - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to drunken monkey:
> (In reply to mypyrex) Id rather folk had mobile phones than not. It can make it a hell of a lot easier to find them on a callout.
Agreed.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Milesy - on 15 Jan 2013
I have my map and compass and I don't use my phone for navigating but I am happy to know that should I fall and break my legs I can manage to unlock my screen and grab a grid reference should I need it.
richprideaux - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

Smartphones are proving useful when finding casualties from the MRT end:

http://www.go4awalk.com/the-bunkhouse/walking-news-and-discussions/walking-news-and-discussions.php?...

I echo Jim's comments above - I'd rather talk someone down from the comfort of my front room than carry the same person off in a stretcher 4 hours later.
Jim Fraser - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Milesy:
> I have my map and compass and I don't use my phone for navigating but I am happy to know that should I fall and break my legs I can manage to unlock my screen and grab a grid reference should I need it.


Quite. That's the great thing about that app. Straight to the point, no messing, and big and bold so there are no mistakes. Refreshing, in a world full of pointless bu115h1t.


Jim Fraser - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to richprideaux:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
>
> Smartphones are proving useful when finding casualties from the MRT end:
>
> http://www.go4awalk.com/the-bunkhouse/walking-news-and-discussions/walking-news-and-discussions.php?...


Russ did training sessions for us at the resent MRCofS conference.
Ridge - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser)
>
> And here is probably the most useful smart phone app around. Arthur Embleton's 'Grid Reference'. It does what it says on the tin.
>
> https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.blerg&hl=en

Also allows you to copy and paste straight into a text message, which is nice touch.
jkarran - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

> I've been looking at incidents involving MRT call out where people have been lost or stuck on difficult terrain and have called for assistance on their mobiles. I can't help thinking how things were before the advent of mobiles, esp the modern small ones(20 odd years ago) People would very often have had to get themselves out of trouble - unless of course there was a serious injury. Just wonder if we're getting too reliant on mobiles.

Perhaps in the past those people didn't get themselves out of trouble. Perhaps they fell of ended up cragfast with hypothermia.

We are over reliant on our phones and electronics in general but I don't think this is necessarily a great example of that.

jk
freerangecat - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to Slugain Howff)
> [...]
>
> Very. Downloaded

Me too - thanks for the link.
richprideaux - on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:

Have you had a chance to use it yet? I've used it a few times operationally. The best was 1.5 miles difference between their reported position and the SARLOC position. SARLOC won...
m0unt41n on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to Jim Fraser) I understand that Jim but my point was that nowadays some people seem to use mobiles to call up MR when they are in a relatively minor situation with no injuries in which, years ago, they would have sorted it out themselves. In those days you would have "walked-out".
>

Depends on area but generally the Police will firstly contact the local MR Co-ordinator who will establish whether it merits a call out, either from the Police information or then by speaking directly to who ever dialled 999.

It is not automatic, we dont go out just because someone dials 999 and asks for MR.

Equally, the Police can call the Co-ordinator to request MR assistance and the co-ordinator may decide it is not appropriate, usually because it is Urban or semi-Urban and the Police search teams can do the job.

But of course they can also request assistance, as happened with the April Jones search, where we did the difficult countryside.

GordyB on 15 Jan 2013
In reply to richprideaux:


In reply to richprideaux:

Our team's used SARLOC pretty effectively on a number of occasions. One of the first times we used it is written up here http://www.ramsaysround.com/history-2/ (Scroll to bottom of page) Grid Ref given didn't tie up with where he thought he was. SARLOC led us straight to him. Could have taken hours longer searching for him otherwise. Can happen to the best of us.

G
Jim Fraser - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

This photo shows Manuel Genswein from Switzerland doing a demo of a prototype phone detection device at IKAR 2012.

http://icarmountainsafety.ning.com/photo/imag0419?context=latest

This is also reported in Ken Marsden's IKAR Avalanche Commission report on the MRCofS website.

http://www.mountainrescuescotland.org/member-page/ikar-reports-updates/

Baron Weasel - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

Slightly off topic, but did you know that Cave Rescue now have ultra low frequency 'Mole' phones than work underground to overground?

BW
Lurking Dave - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to mypyrex: Interestingly I've moved away from carrying a smart phone when biking/climbing - I've gone back to a basic Nokia that is light, more robust and has battery power for days.

Cheers
LD
Carolyn - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to GordyB:

SARLOC's been impressive whenever we've had a response back - we just need more of our casualties to upgrade to a smart phone ;-)

My experience is that most people use mobiles sensibly, to call for help earlier in an injury. We had one recently (I'll find the thread on here later) - potentially serious head injury, went uphill and phoned police with an accurate grid reference, got team members to them in an hour or so and a Sea King moments later. Without the mobile it would have been at least an extra hour or so, and with a vaguer location, could have been a prolonged search.

But we do get a few "lost" people, who would likely have sorted themselves out after a anxious half hour if they hadn't had a mobile signal.
veteye - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to drmarten:
I got my first mobile complete with car kit in either late 1988 or early 1989 for 600.V expensive but it freed me up whilst on call.

I had my 3mth old Samsung Galaxy II die on me after being benighted on the Ben 18months ago even though it was in my trouser pocket under overtrousers.Yet I also had a Nokia E71 in the same place and I still use the latter.Some phones are more robust than others.
joelc - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to Baron Weasel: Hmmn, I'm not one of the cave rescue communication-geeks so don't take what I say as gospel but the "Mole Phone" has been pretty much replaced by the "Hay Phone" in the UK. Unfortunately they seem to have a mind of their own & will only work when it suits them (certainly in my team); underground-surface comms was, is and possibly always will be very fickle....

I do recall a number of issues with mobile phones & rescues, though. Years ago ('early nineties) someone in the Mendips tried to raise Cave Rescue (via the Police) & was eventually directed to the coast guard. I think this was because the call got routed to a 999 call centre further afield & the operator had never heard of cave rescue. Would like to think that these mistakes are a thing of the past but unfortunately they're not.
Ridge - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to Carolyn:
> (In reply to GordyB)

> My experience is that most people use mobiles sensibly, to call for help earlier in an injury. We had one recently (I'll find the thread on here later) - potentially serious head injury, went uphill and phoned police with an accurate grid reference, got team members to them in an hour or so and a Sea King moments later. Without the mobile it would have been at least an extra hour or so, and with a vaguer location, could have been a prolonged search.
>
> But we do get a few "lost" people, who would likely have sorted themselves out after a anxious half hour if they hadn't had a mobile signal.

That's an issue with the people rather than the phones. Closest I came to needing MR was a few years back. We, (OK, I, since nav is down to me..), got benighted in the lakes in December, also heavy fog so we decided to stop rather than risk a fall, as I was unsure of my nav by that point. We had a mobile signal but opted for a cold and uncomfortable night in a bothy bag rather than call for the MR. If I'd had a smartphone or GPS ro confirm location we'd have got ourselves down. Sadly some people call the MR half a mile from the Whinlatter visitor centre because they're a bit tired or mifht be late for their restaurant booking. That's not the fault of technology.
Ridge - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to Ridge:
..although the garbled typing is all down to Samsung.
Carolyn - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to Ridge:

Well, the most recent Whinlatter callout did cause me to raise an eyebrow, yes....
Ridge - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to Carolyn:

Well, it is a huge, trackless expanse of forest wilderness...
Carolyn - on 16 Jan 2013
In reply to Ridge:

...... and so quiet, rarely another soul within miles.

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