Mobile Phones And National Parks
A story like this one seems to show up every six months or so. As wireless carriers work to cover just about every possible location with mobile phone coverage, people used to being totally disconnected at national parks are getting annoyed with seeing people hiking around chatting away or they’re pissed off at seeing cell towers rise above natural landmarks. While I can understand the complaints, just like elsewhere, it’s more a question of etiquette and safety. It’s important to teach people mobile phone etiquette to try to avoid situations where they shouldn’t be on their mobile phones, but having phones work for safety purposes seems worthwhile.
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There are many emergency alerting devices available to those venturing into backcountry areas, as discussed here, including satellite phones as well as emergency beacons which send distress alerts via satellite.
Please note, though, that there are specific emergency beacons for specific purposes. Rules vary by country, but in general, here are the three primary classes of beacons used in Canada and the USA:
1) ELTs – Emergency Locator Transmitters. For use on board aircraft.
2) EPIRBs – Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons. For use on board larger vessels, primarily (in Canada) on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, and ocean coasts.
3) PLBs – Personal Locator Beacons. These are most appropriate for hikers, overland adventurers, and canoeists and kayakers operating on inland waters. These small portable units may have an integrated GPS, or can often be connected to one. When activated, satellites will relay the signal to ground stations and rapidly onward to the appropriate rescue coordination centre for your area. The encoded signal will include the owners name and emergency contact information, so false alerts can often be resolved by a phone call rather than dispatching a rescue unit. If GPS-enabled, your exact position will also be relayed, in addition to the satellite-generated position that will be formed. You MUST, however, register your beacon with either the Canadian or US beacon registries, depending upon whether you have bought a Canadian or US-coded device. Excellent protection for those venturing to more remote areas.
Used responsibly, these satellite-aided distress beacons are an excellent investment in safety — truly a lifeline to survival. For more information – Canada: http://www.nss.gc.ca; USA: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov.