Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Are Your Odds of Rescue?

Credit: noaanews

In a recent SPOT newsletter, they covered the subject of how to get rescued from the perspective of the rescuer, and what you can do to improve yours odds of rescue and help them arrive sooner. The first is to get rid of the 911 Syndrome.

I taught sailing, seamanship, and navigation for 29 years. The hardest thing I found to fight against was the expectation of instant remedy. No matter what went wrong, there was someone else charged with the responsibly of correcting our mistakes, compensating for our shortcomings, and risking their lives to save us from our own stupidity. I started calling it the 911 Syndrome. It suggested that we didn’t need to learn pilotage, because we had Loran. We didn’t need to learn celestial, because we had GPS. We didn’t need to worry about survival, because someone would rescue us before we had a chance to get cold or hungry. Since we would be rescued almost before we got wet, we didn’t need to worry about liferafts, EPIRBS or SPOTS, PFD’s, or rescue beacons. For most people, the thought of self-sufficiency never crossed their minds, and if anything went wrong, it was someone else’s fault. It never occurred to many that the reason such equipment or training exists is because people have died to show the need for it. The bottom line is that we should be able to save ourselves without putting others at risk, or if help is actually needed, make our recovery as quick and safe as possible for all concerned. In short, WE are the ones responsible for our survival and rescue.

Here are some of the tips they offered:

1) Make your SPOT profile as complete as possible. Be sure it includes the description of your boat, your skill level, what survival and rescue equipment you have on board, and your experience level. If you get separated from your boat, what survival equipment will you have on your person?
(2) If it is a long trip, modify the profile to include a float plan---tentative schedule, route,
the contact person, who else is in the party, any special medical needs, what your check-in or reporting schedule is and from where, etc.
(3) The contact person should have as detailed an itinerary on the trip as you have, equipment list, full bio info on all persons in the party, etc.
(4) Realize that a rescue takes time to arrange. You must be prepared to make-do on your own for at least several hours to maybe a day or so, depending on how remote you are or how easily you can be reached.
(5) In addition to a SPOT, have a means of communication to converse with rescuers, such as SAT phone or VHF.
(6) In spite of the technological advances we are accustomed to, plan for the possibility that the EPIRB or SPOT may malfunction or land features may adversely affect transmission and make it impossible for the signal to get out. In that case will you
have a signal mirror, survival blanket and other means to survive the conditions, etc.?
(7) They can’t find a needle in a haystack when the haystack keeps moving. If you don’t know exactly where you can find help without transmitting a call for help, then once the call has been made, pick a clear spot, and stay there. You are a very small spot in a large wilderness, so do whatever you can to make yourself visible.  

Lastly, don’t panic until you get the bill.  In some cases, we may be charged for the cost of the rescue, especially if the emergency call was made necessary because of poor planning, preparedness, or just plain stupidity on our part.  Since this may run into tens of thousands of dollars in some cases, there is indeed a very selfish reason for being well prepared.  If there is no thought for the safety of the rescuers, maybe we can find that we are concerned about personal bankrupcy.

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