Monday, November 28, 2011

A Response

To my previous post about Quicksand and the use of a PLB or SPOT Satellite Messenger, I received a response from "Anonymous" that reads:

This would be a great gadget to have, but many people simply do not have the money to go out and buy all the great equipment, especially in this economy. Its really hard to justify spending money on items you may only use occasionally. There is a tipping point there somewhere. You make a valid point about being prepared, and that is well taken. The average Joe who just wants to get out in nature to find some peace and solitude from the cacophony of modern life generally isn't going to have the money to buy all the latest and greatest. I think it would be helpful if you could do some posts that would help those less fortunate, financially.

The writer makes a good point. Equipment such as a PLB is not inexpensive, and most people do without for that very reason. It's just human nature to believe that "it" will never happen to us.

If I were in the business of reporting every case of people getting lost or stranded, with no way to make contact with the outside world to spark a rescue effort, there would be no end to it. Every day, somewhere in America, people fall into those situations. And if you expand to the world, there are literally hundreds each day who fall into the depths of trouble that require outside help.

Sometimes, they're lucky enough to be able to work out their problem and save themselves. Sometimes they're not. But in every case, if you were to ask the survivors, they would say that spending a couple hundred dollars to save their lives would be cheap.

It only looks expensive when we don't need it. As soon as you do, you will wish you had made the investment.

And that brings me to my next story. Just a few days ago, a teenage boy named Jacob was hiking with his father and two brothers in the Olympic National Park. All of them were experienced hikers, and this trail was almost in their backyard, so it wasn't like they were neophytes on their first trek to some exotic location like Nepal. Actually, local day hikes are more dangerous than exotic expeditions. The reason is that, for expeditions people train and equipment themselves for the worst that can happen, but for the day hike in their backyard people don't expect anything bad to happen, so they don't prepare for the worst.

But on with the story — Disaster was only a small misstep away. As Jacob stepped onto a narrow section of the trail, the ground gave way and gravity took over. He slid for a ways, then went head over heels, tumbling down a rocky 150-foot slope.  When he stopped, his body was covered with cuts and scrapes from the jagged rocks. His right leg wasn't working well, and his left leg wasn't working at all. His left ankle was broken.

Jacob heard his brothers yelling to him from above, but when he tried to crawl up the slope his legs went into spasms and he couldn't move.

Soon, Jacob's dad and brothers descended the slope to check on his condition. By then, it was late in the afternoon, and the sun was about to set. They wouldn't have enough daylight to get themselves out of this situation. They needed help.

From where they were, cell phone reception was too poor to make a phone call, so they tried texting everyone they knew, asking them to call 911 and send help. The dad sent one of the sons down the trail to the car to retrieve their emergency backpack. (Just a note here — wouldn't it be better to have that emergency equipment with them, rather than leaving it in the car? I'm just saying…). It turns out this was the first time they had ever needed the emergency equipment, but the dad later reported that it probably made a big difference in the way things turned out during Jacob's incident.

By 7:00 p.m., park rangers and search & rescue arrived on the scene and determined that Jacob couldn't be moved until morning. The brothers hiked out with the rescue team, and the dad stayed with Jacob and six rangers through the night. At about 2:00 a.m., it started raining.

Before daylight, the rescue team was making plans involving ropes and a litter to carry Jacob down the narrow mountain trail. A secondary plan was to call in a Coast Guard helicopter to make the rescue. But the weather was bad enough that the chopper couldn't fly until 11:00 a.m.

It was afternoon of the day following his "slight misstep" that Jacob was delivered to the hospital for treatment.

As painful as this experience was, Jacob was incredibly lucky. It could have been so much worse.

  • Imagine if he had been hiking alone
  • Imagine if he had been fifty miles back in the mountains, far from the emergency kit
  • Imagine if the overnight temperature fell below freezing
  • Imagine if there had been no cell phone or zero cell coverage
All those "imagines" do happen. Consider the story of Aron Ralston, the young man who was forced to cut off his own hand to save his life. It's interesting to note that now Aron Ralston is a spokesman for a company that makes PLBs. It is probable that if he had invested a couple hundred dollars to buy a PLB, he would not have had to self amputate his hand. Rescue could have arrived within hours, rather than the days it took him to save himself — and only then at such great anguish and pain. 

Back to the story about Jacob. After it was all said and done, Jacob's father made a statement that everyone would do well to pay attention to. "You can't eliminate all risks, but you can take steps to mitigate the danger," he said. 

In the end, only you can put a price on your life. How much are you willing to pay to make sure you're safe when you're "out there?"  And let's take it a step farther. How much are you willing to pay to make sure your loved ones will be safe?  Is a couple hundred dollars too much? 

Not for me. Actually, I'm priceless! 


  1. The best thing to take out the door with you is common sense. And these days, a gun.

  2. Yes, you are priceless! Thank you for this post. You make some very valid and convincing points, and they are very well taken.

  3. Thanks again for keeping up this blog. I check it every day, not only to educate myself on preparations for the protection of myself, my friends and family. I love that you constantly keep bringing the Boy Scout Motto to the forefront of my mind. You are not preparing me for the zombie apocalypse but for the real life emergencies that happen to someone/somewhere every day.