There are several variants possible on a dead man's switch type transmitter. All subject to physical and human limitations, but some worth considering. They seem to range from:
1. Gadget that automatically broadcasts a message to say that you're OK, but not where you are, once a day - unless you intervene to tell it not to, or it isn't working.
2. #1, with the addition that it also broadcasts your location.
3. Gadget that automatically broadcasts a message to say that you're NOT OK, and where you are - unless you tell it otherwise.
4. Gadget (i.e. SPOT) that broadcasts a message with sub-texts, but only when you tell it to. Message ranging from "I'm OK" to "I'm OK, here's where I am" to "Here's where I am" to "I'm not OK, here's where I am" to "I'm not OK, here's where I am, I need help asap".
All dependent on human, mechanical and electronic failings, and also somewhat dependent on education of those who receive the messages. And there'll always be a significant number of false positives and false negatives. As observed upthread, it may overall still save rescuer time and resources.
Of course, a modern telephone, if in range and turned on, may continually tell observers where you are...
JMuir would be shocked at the gear any of us feel compelled to carry, and I am not referring to Spot. Five hundred dollar boots, Gortex gear, high tech tents, titanium sporks, it is all stuff to make life better and/or safer. A personal locator is just another "improvement".
When I was younger I would deliberately not tell people where I was going. now that I am a single dad of a nine year old I have to hedge my bets. I travel and climb in a much different style. The thought of me dying and leaving my son alone is sheer torture.
More people are taking bigger risks. Beacons make life safer for both the party carrying it, as well as everyone else who might be in the back country. I completely understand the view that such a device diminishes the challenge. It is a valid point that one goes into the back country to get away, be self sufficient and totally responsible for their well being. Will Spot become a crutch, much like cams have?
I completely understand the view that such a device diminishes the challenge. It is a valid point that one goes into the back country to get away, be self sufficient and totally responsible for their well being. Will Spot become a crutch, much like cams have?
Any tool can be viewed as a crutch. The automobile that transports tired, hungry, and cold "self-sufficient" hikers back to warmth and food is included.
Ask the one-legged (wo)man whether (s)he gives a damn about style points lost by the crutch.
A big issue we found in the review is that many devices because they work inconsistently, can actually raise the stress level of family members, friends who are tracking them.
From the review:
A popular anecdote illustrating a drawback of any satellite messenger device which performs with less than 100 percent consistency is that if your contacts are expecting to receive “okay” messages from you, then not receiving them is almost a guaranteed source of stress. If your family or significant other is expecting to receive “okay” messages at a certain frequency, and then they do not, it could cause them to raise the alarm unnecessarily. Indeed, there are many reported cases of this documented by rescue services, and many stories of a messaging device causing, instead of alleviating, stress for people who are tracking the progress of the user.
There are pros and cons to the SEND devices vs. PLB's. And of course there is always the argument (stated earlier) that these devices encourage taking unnecessary risks.... but that argument, while maybe true in a minority of cases, doesn't seem to hold up for the majority. Would you tell someone to not take an avalanche beacon when skiing in the backcountry because it is going to increase their risk-taking? Or tell someone to not wear a seat belt when driving?