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National Park Service Says Tech Is Enabling Stupidity 635

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-got-yourself-into-this-mess-now-get-yourself-out dept.
theodp writes "The National Park Service is finding technology to be a double-edged sword. While new technologies can and do save lives, the NPS is also finding that unseasoned hikers and campers are now boldly going where they never would have gone before, counting on cellphones, GPS, and SPOT devices to bail them out if they get into trouble. Last fall, a group of hikers in the Grand Canyon called in rescue helicopters three times by pressing the emergency button on their satellite location device. When rangers arrived the second time, the hikers complained that their water supply tasted salty. 'Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued,' said a spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park. 'Every once in a while we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them. The answer is that you are up there for the night.'"
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National Park Service Says Tech Is Enabling Stupidity

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  • Charge for support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday August 23, 2010 @07:59AM (#33339164)
    A bill for a helicopter may not cure stupidity, but it will reduce its ability to afford to go there the next year.
    • by ntufar (712060) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:20AM (#33339326) Homepage Journal
      This is how it works here, in Greece.

      If you issued a distress signal (MAYDAY) from a boat, and you are not sinking, the Coastal Guard charges you for the helicopter ride. Never tried it myself but people say it is in 50,000 - 100,000 euro range.
      • by GooberToo (74388) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:06AM (#33339712)

        A "cheap", single turbine news copter can easily cost $1000/hr to operate. Imagine a large, long-range, twin turbine copter chugging along several hours, back and forth, at roughly $3000-$6000/hr. Those bills can certainly add up fast!

        Now you know why helicopters are traditionally the ride for the military and/or the rich and famous.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MBGMorden (803437)

          A "cheap", single turbine news copter can easily cost $1000/hr to operate.

          I was gonna say that's odd, as I had checked into getting my helicopter rating a few years back (already have my PP-ASEL airplane license), and the cost for the helicopter was $295 an hour, but that was in a Robinson R-22 which after researching it is a piston powered helicopter.

          If $1000/hr is right for the turbine's, I'm glad I didn't pursue it. I couldn't have afforded to fly even if I got the ticket. You can find a small airplane to rent almost anywhere for $75-100/hr . . .

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by GooberToo (74388)

            Ya, that's why I stressed "turbine", and further qualified with something like a news copter. There actually are some cheaper turbines to fly but their endurance and useful load isn't really applicable to this type of work and from what I understand, are not really common outside a select few countries in Europe. They likely lack FAA certification too.

          • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:00PM (#33342568)

            I was gonna say that's odd, as I had checked into getting my helicopter rating a few years back (already have my PP-ASEL airplane license), and the cost for the helicopter was $295 an hour, but that was in a Robinson R-22 which after researching it is a piston powered helicopter

            I am an engineer with experience in designing equipment for Search and Rescue helicopters. This is just a quick back of the envelope explanation for how the costs can quickly escalate.

            What you were leasing there was likely a helicopter purchased/selected specifically for training and maybe a few other limited duties. All it really had to do was be available when someone needed it for a few hours to get some training. Maintenance on pistons is also MUCH less specialized.

            So then we go to turbines (special equipment, special training, = expensive maintenance). The initial cost is high considering not many people actually purchase helicopters these days.

            But then lets look into the costs of a medical/rescue helicopter.

            Special avionics
            -P25, SAT, HF radios (You are going to have to communicate/coordinate with a variety of agencies)
            -Whatever you use for locating the beacon (Not my area of expertise, but something has to be there)
            -Special collission avoidance or terrain following systems (There is a potential for poor weather, and you don't want a 3 person rescue adding another 5 to be rescued)
            -FLIR (I could see it being very useful, but probably not essential)

            Specialized equipment
            -Hoists/lifts, stretchers, Wide doors
            -Medical equipment
            -Medical supplies

            Aircrew
            -Not too many helicopter pilots are trained for rescue
            -Flying EMTs
            -Dangerous duty pay
            -Oncall 24x7

            Air Vehicle
            -Larger body to accomodate the 'flying ambulance'
            -Wide doors for stretchers
            -High capacity to fit aircrew and multiple patients
            -Multi engine (you aren't sending up a single engine helo into mountainous terrain)
            -High altitude capability
            -High reliability necessary
            -24x7 availability

            So your $300/hr rental makes sense. But we can see by this how quickly the costs can quickly escalate to thousands of dollars per hour.

    • by erroneus (253617) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:26AM (#33339376) Homepage

      I'm pretty sure they do that already. If they don't, then they are simply enabling the stupidity. I can't speak for other areas, but I can speak to mine where ambulance service is concerned. Many many years ago, I had an 8 month old baby die. When we checked on him, he wasn't breathing but he was still warm. We called 9-1-1, they came out, restored a pulse but he died later at the hospital. A few days later, a rather large and unwelcome bill arrived in the mail for the services rendered.

      I was angry as hell. Consider this: If I hadn't called 9-1-1, I would have been a criminal. And by calling 9-1-1, I make myself liable for an emergency services bill. This defines "damned if you do and damned if you don't." I would be okay with billing someone for "false" or "needless" calls. It makes sense. But when it's an actual need, an actual emergency, and even death has occurred in the end, you would think some sympathy would result from the system. But yeah, I never paid that bill... though I think some insurance coverage might have. I don't remember that time period too well as you might imagine -- it was extremely emotional.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:37AM (#33339466)
        What, you want the government to pay your bill? This is America, out healthcare system isn't built on helping people, it's built of profit, damnit. You must be a COMMUNIST!!!
        • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:27AM (#33339940) Homepage Journal

          While I wish I could enjoy the humour of your comment from up here in Commie Canada, we have to pay for our own ambulance service as well in many cases.

          • by sarkeizen (106737) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:53AM (#33340240) Journal
            In Ontario it's $45 as a co-payment for any non-hospital originating, health card holding, medically necessary local trip. You can be exempt to this fee if you are in a variety of low-income situations. If, like a lot of us you have supplemental insurance provided by your employer then this is often covered. It is $0 if it is hospital to hospital (in the same situation above). It's $240 (or more if it's an air-ambulance) if you do not have a valid health card or the trip is considered medically unnecessary. So yes if you meant we pay a *small portion* of ambulance services in a few *reasonable cases* I'd agree with you but this is completely different that what happens in less communist medical systems :-)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Securityemo (1407943)
            In dear communist motherland Sweden, you pay up to 120$ for any form of health care per year, including dentistry, and up to 250$ for medicine. And if you can't pay, you don't need to pay at all. And no, I don't have to wait for days to get it, unless it's something weird and they have to ship me to a specialist in one of thelarger regional hospitals.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Danse (1026)
            Someone has to pay for it. It's just a question of whether those costs should be socialized or not. Even in cases where most of the medical costs are socialized, I can see it being a concern that socializing things like on-site emergency care could really drive up costs for the health system if people feel like they can use them for things that may not be necessary. So you end up having to make rules about what is considered necessary or not, and that is perilous territory. There are bound to be lots of
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by TheLink (130905)
              "Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong."- Leo Buscaglia

              I suggest that a strong and fit civilisation can afford to be gentle and generous to many. A weak and ailing one cannot.

              Maybe if someone does something really stupid/reckless (assume someone wiser and smarter than me sets the criteria), they lose their right to vote for 4 years (it gets automatically restored after that). If they keep doing stuff like that, they keep losing their right to vote.

              Would that be more or les
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        My understanding is that ambulance services, being "medical" rather than police or fire, fall into the weird realm where no real market exists, in a useful sense; but there is strong unwillingness to face that fact.

        There are, in fact, numerous different ambulance services, some public, some private; but the people calling them are rarely in a position to chose one in any useful sense. And, being an emergency service, they don't get to pick and choose customers(at least not by legal methods. I would be sh
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by 0111 1110 (518466)

          I would literally rather die than pay $2000 for a ride in an ambulance. I kid you not.

      • by AnAdventurer (1548515) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:16AM (#33341708)
        I have been in wilderness search and rescue and wildland fire for 18 years in 5 states, I have yet to see a bill go out with one exception. Denali National Park; If you climb Denali and need to be rescued you MAY get a bill. I have not worked up there but I know some of the mountaineering rangers and guides.

        In the USA other then some of the resources like helicopters, pilots, law enforcement (rangers), training and grants, much of the rescue work is done by professional, trained volunteers supplying there own gear and time. I have been on many rescue calls for people who made bad decisions and a good number did not make it.

        You look at it like this: You are not doing it for them, you at doing it for their family and friends.

    • by leroybrown (136516) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:25AM (#33339924) Homepage

      During a grand canyon in 2002 I was chatting with a NPS ranger during a rest and he mentioned that a helicopter evacuation cost $3,500. He said the biggest problem were guys in their twenties who thought they could hike from the south rim to the river and back up in 1 day in July with just a Nalgene bottle of water.

      • by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:53AM (#33341320)

        The is the number 1 problem I see while hiking. Most people are completely unprepared with respect to the amount of water needed. I hike 14ers on a regular basis and even though they are generally day hikes I always pack enough food and water that I could spend the night if needed. I hope I never get into a situation where I'm forced to spend the night in the high country with only minimal provisions, but accidents happen and it's best to be prepared.

  • Same old story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by scosco62 (864264) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @07:59AM (#33339166) Journal
    I really don't get articles like this; of course tech can provide some new versions of the same old store; but the fundamentals still hold true - some people are just going to go through life stupidly, trusting that someone else will bail them out. You want an answer; hold them accountable for their actions. For the idjits with the Salty Water; fine them the Rangers time, the fuel in the vehicles, plus a 10K punitive fine.
    • If you read the article, they did fine them:

      The leader was issued a citation for creating hazardous conditions in the parks.

      Also, your reasoning that this is the 'same old story' doesn't work when this evidence is presented to you

      The group’s leader had hiked the Grand Canyon once before, but the other man had little backpacking experience. Rangers reported that the leader told them that without the device, "we would have never attempted this hike."

      Emphasis mine. If the National Park Service claims this is increasing their encounters with such idiots then this isn't the 'same old story.' As technology is further exacerbating the age old idiot complex.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642)

        Emphasis mine. If the National Park Service claims this is increasing their encounters with such idiots then this isn't the 'same old story.' As technology is further exacerbating the age old idiot complex.

        It IS still the same old story, just with slightly different actors and tech:

        "Without technical climbing gear that we don't know how to use, we'd never have attempted the climb"

        "Without the new railroad to get us to Glacier National Park, we'd never have attempted the climb"

        "Without the invention of fire, we'd never have attempted to fight that saber toothed tiger"

        Same old same old about stupid people wasting the time of the brave/helpful people.

        • by WildFire42 (262051) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:13AM (#33340568) Homepage

          Actually, the NPS has dealt with this before. A lot. For a series of examples of REALLY stupid people, go check out Death in Yellowstone. Here's the oblig Amazon link:

          http://www.amazon.com/Death-Yellowstone-Accidents-Foolhardiness-National/dp/1570980217 [amazon.com]

          My wife picked this up when we were there on our Honeymoon (there, Grand Teton, and RMNP). There are countless examples of reeeeeally stupid people. The lady who fed a black bear and got her t*ts ripped off when the bear used her as an accidental scratching post? Check. The guy who jumped into the boiling hot geothermal pool to save his dog and his skin fell off after he got out? Check. The countless people who go hiking through grizzly country, forget to wear bear bells, don't take pepper spray with them, don't walk and talk loudly with a partner, and keep their smelly food in an unsealed cooler inside their tent not only get themselves et, but get bears killed too, whose only crime was responding to instinct (okay, okay... there are plenty of examples of bears gone wild who attacked when people did everything right, and just have to be put down).

          Accidents happen, and the tech is there for a reason. There are also plenty of cases where natural selection does its job. The NPS isn't going to stop every case of natural selection, simply because it can't. They'll try, because the park rangers do NOT want anyone to die on their watch. They deal with stupidity a lot, but they're not going to let someone die just because they didn't know what they were doing. It's exasperating to them, I'm sure, but they are dedicated to saving lives and preventing injuries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)

      A few years ago, I was vacationing in Gimmelwald, Switzerland and happen to be staying in the same hotel with two backpackers. As we taking in the great view of surrounding mountains, the innkeeper was discussing the mountain across the valley. I can't remember the name of the peak but he mentioned how he's known of only one person that's climbed it. Immediately one of the backpackers wanted to go the next day and climb it. His friend was less than enthused about it. The conversation went something lik

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:02AM (#33339192) Homepage Journal

    Start charging a fee for services. Set the rates make sure they are known in advance. Outsource to a private company to provide the service (can't have emergency personnel tied up on a catering run). Done and done

    • by captainpanic (1173915) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:32AM (#33339984)

      Start charging a fee for services. Set the rates make sure they are known in advance. Outsource to a private company to provide the service (can't have emergency personnel tied up on a catering run). Done and done

      Brilliant. Outsource to a single private company. Grant a monopoly. You can choose to die or to go bankrupt.

      Oh, no, wait... outsource to multiple companies so that service suffers, maintenance on resque equipment is reduced, the pilots are underpaid and you have to agree to the terms first (stay only in open places, on paved paths and within 500 meters of the coffee house).

      While I agree that everyone who gets into trouble in national parks is basically asking for it (nobody lives there, everybody entered by free will), a big improvement can simply be made by warnings that the rangers can't always resque you. It's not so much the gadgets which make people trust that they get resqued, it's the fact that they don't know that the rangers will let you actually sit it out for a night if it's not so serious.

      Get an alarm number with someone answering the phone who judges how serious the siuation is.

  • by adosch (1397357) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:08AM (#33339238)

    It's inevitable that geo-technology and *gasp* geo-equipped apps on cellphones, are going to make this all but even worse in the coming years or decade. IMHO, I don't think you ever get away from that battle unless you harbor legislation that gives them more than a handbook-rule judgement when to or not to help someone when stupidity has reared its ugly head into the matter.

    I am all for doing exactly what was quoted in the article: telling them they should have been more prepared and leaving that person out in the bush for the night to figure it out in the morning. However, we know the outcome of that: a bear chews their face off and NFS has a pile of lawsuits on their hands for claims of being negligent in the face of danger, no matter how insignificant the event called it was. Which also means more tax dollars tied up in court on top of calling out the rescue helicopters and NFS commandos.

    • by rwv (1636355) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:26AM (#33339374) Homepage Journal

      no matter how insignificant the event called it was.

      This is a classic "Boy who cried wolf" problem. During an emergency, responders need to take calls seriously unless there is overwhelming evidence that the call is a prank. After the second time the Grand Canyon SatPhone hikers pushed their emergency button, I think they ought to be put in the "sorry, you're on your own from here on out" category, giving bears uninterrupted access to eat their faces.

  • This is wrong. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:09AM (#33339240)
    It's not the tech that makes people stupid, it's stupid people using it that causes problems. GPS, SPOT and etc... are all great tools for use by campers, hikers, biker's and more. When you give these tools to people who don't have a clue then you going to have a situation where helicopters and rangers are getting called. There is nothing wrong with grabbing a map and a compass and going out on a hike, but with the advancement in tools to help us navigate more effectivily, who really wants to take an old school map with them. I support GPS and all the other tools fully, I think the problem this post points out is that when stupid people are given simple tools they find away to cause problems for everyone else.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheCarp (96830)

      > It's not the tech that makes people stupid, it's stupid people using it that causes problems.

      I doubt these people are really stupid. If anything, they are probably some of the smart ones. The problem is that incompetence has a way of tricking people into thinking they know what they are doing. Its conceptually easy to hike, especially with GPS. Without it, it was easy to see how lost you could get, and how hard it would be to come out with compass and map.

      GPS takes all that away. What the article point

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094)

        I think that the ability to properly assess the challenge of an unfamiliar situation is pretty much a hallmark of intelligence. Learning from experience is just operant conditioning; chimps and dogs and mice do that. Applying one's limited knowledge to unfamiliar situations takes higher-level abstract thinking, and if you aren't able to do that... that's stupidity. Much as the beginning of wisdom is realizing that you aren't wise, the beginning of intelligence is recognizing the limits of what you know.

    • Re:This is wrong. (Score:5, Informative)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:33AM (#33339434) Homepage

      "Enabling" in this context means to allow and passively encourage, by removing obstacles and trying to compensate for it. It's like "enabling an alcoholic" by making excuses for them, calling in sick for them, cleaning up their puke for them, etc. "Enabling stupidity" doesn't mean "making people stupid".

  • Not New (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:12AM (#33339258) Journal
    This is not a new problem. In the area I live, there are plenty of mountains that, while looking outwardly benign, kill a number of people (experienced or not) each year. Because of their proximity to a number of major cities, relatively short hikes to the summit (day trips), and extremely changeable weather (70 F and sunny to zero visibility, freezing temperatures, and gale-force winds in an hour), lots of inexperienced hikers get way in over their heads.

    Their recourse? Not to plan carefully and accordingly. Not to travel with more experienced and better-equipped friends or guides. Not to heed the signs at treeline warning of the numerous weather-related dangers. Not to stick to less dangerous ascents in the region. Not to bag it when the weather turns sour. Nope, just whip out the cellphone and call in a rescue.

    It's one thing if you take a fall due to dumb luck, it's another thing to get soaked, freezing, and lost due to, well, being dumb.

    It did get bad enough that the state legislature passed a law a number of years back that, if you need rescue because you were stupid or inadequately prepared for the hike, you can get charged for the rescue costs. This is typically upwards of a few tens out thousands of dollars.
    • Re:Not New (Score:5, Informative)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:51AM (#33339568) Homepage

      You wouldn't be referring to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, would you? My sister used to do S&R up there (as well as some other places), and has some great stories like a guy who called in lost who described his location as "I'm lying in a field with blue flowers" and was unable to provide any more information, including where he started and what trail he had been following. And of course every year a bunch of yokels get themselves killed on Mount Washington, although most of that happens in the spring and fall when things look quite pleasant at the base while at the summit it's snowing and a wind chill of -20 F. To give an idea of how dangerous a lot of those mountains are during the winter: people who are planning on climbing Denali and other major mountaineering peaks use the White Mountains as a training ground, because it's possible to go up there for the day, experience arctic conditions for a while, and be back down at the base for dinner.

      The basic story is that rescuers take risks every time they go out to look for somebody, and it's important to recognize that. If you do need a rescue, it will help immensely if your call for help includes:
      - A good description of where you are, including where you started, what landmarks you've passed recently, what trail you were following or are on, GPS coordinates if you have them, and anything else you can think of that will help your rescuers find you easily.
      - A good description of the injuries and risks to the victim. For instance, if someone has broken their leg, but is otherwise seems fine and has stable vital signs, that means a significantly less risky and expensive rescue than if they've broken a leg and several ribs and punctured a lung and has pulse rate rising every hour. Ideally somebody in the group has proper wilderness first aid training, and if so they should treat the patient according to their training.
      - What tools and supplies you have with you, including whether you can stay the night reasonably safely. This is especially important late in the day.
      - What self-rescue efforts you have taken already and plan to take. For instance, in the case of a broken leg, it will help if you explain that you're going to splint the leg and start working on improvising a litter, and will call again if the group starts moving.
      - Oh yes, and while we're on the subject, move the group if and only if you can explain exactly where you're going and the route you plan to take. Otherwise, stay put at the spot that you've explained to your rescuers.

    • Re:Not New (Score:5, Insightful)

      by captainpanic (1173915) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:43AM (#33340120)

      Actually... the Dutch coastline does the same. Beautiful beaches, but treacherous sea currents. Thousands of swimmers get into trouble... and it's always the stupid ones who get into trouble (those who swim away from the beach, rather than parallel to it).

      Should we tax all the tourists, because they may go for a swim, and may get into trouble?? Fine the stupid ones so they never come back?

      No, we chose to try to inform as many as possible... and have resque services for free. Tourists keep coming (we don't scare them away with crazy fines, and they love the beaches). That brings in money, and part of that money is used to have a couple of hundred men and women in the resque servives, who are out on the water and in the air all the day.

      Tourists always get into more trouble than the locals... no matter where you go.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by khallow (566160)
        The thing to remember is that a mountain rescue can be a lot more expensive and dangerous than picking up a swimmer who gets pulled to sea.
  • Prospector's Special (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mapkinase (958129) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:13AM (#33339260) Homepage Journal

    Situation when rescue could be easily performed (there is technology), but the issue is about the money is a significant plot component in a beloved childhood Robert Sheckley story:

    http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b93297/Prospectors-Special/Robert-Sheckley/?si=0 [fictionwise.com]

  • by dlenmn (145080) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:16AM (#33339290) Homepage

    A lot of these devices seem to prevent planning in general, even for little things. If you had to look up an address and stare at a map ahead of time to know where you were going, then you'd think of other things in the process. Now you can just hop in your car, type what you want in to your phone (e.g. bike shop), and follow its directions. Maybe you'll end up where you want, but people who do that often seem to be unprepared. And I've seen people doing that get lost in the process -- those directions aren't perfect, and if you don't have some general idea of where you're going, its still easy to make wrong turns. (Dedicated GPS devices are better, but not perfect, and I've heard that their sales are down due to smartphones).

    Of course, it's not like in the old days everyone planned ahead and knew where they were and where they were going at all times. My family was big on planning routes, always having maps, and knowing how to read them. This is clearly not the case for many people I have met. I still think technology isn't helping.

  • Help! (Score:5, Funny)

    by smitty777 (1612557) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:19AM (#33339318) Journal

    I was going to write a clever response to this article, but I'm having too much trouble finding the Slashdot automatic clever response generator. Can you guys send over someone from tech support to help me?

    • Re:Help! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:37AM (#33339474)

      I got here as fast as I could and—oh, that's the problem? You're clearly in over your head, buddy. This service is intended for real emergencies only. Nevertheless, try "Technology isn't teh problem, it's stupid people that are the problem. I live in a mountainous area and etc, etc..." Make something up or really stretch the truth, but just be sure the anecdote emphasizes someone's stupidity from your clearly superior vantage point.

  • by gremlin_591002 (548935) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:22AM (#33339336) Journal
    Ten years ago when I was hiking in Glacier National Park, we heard a whistle. Now back then a whistle was something you used to summon help. My friend and I hurried down the trail looking for whoever was in trouble. It turned out it was a stupid lady with her two small children making sure that the bears were scared away. Nothing has really changed with people, their whistle can just be heard at even greater distances. Park rangers have the ability to issue tickets for this sort of behavior, no reason they shouldn't.
    • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:21AM (#33339886)

      Hmm, how does that joke go? You can tell the difference between brown bears from grizzly bears because a grizzly bear's poo has whistles in it..

  • Two strikes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:22AM (#33339342) Homepage

    Last fall, a group of hikers in the Grand Canyon called in rescue helicopters three times by pressing the emergency button on their satellite location device. When rangers arrived the second time, the hikers complained that their water supply tasted salty.

    If I had been one of the rangers, those idiots wouldn't have had the device to use a third time. "Sorry, you can't have this. We're going now."

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sockatume (732728)

      You could wind up with a "cry wolf" situation, though. Much better to send the chopper up on the third strike, check that it's a false alarm, then airdrop actual wolves 200 yards uphill.

    • Re:Two strikes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:48AM (#33339554) Journal
      Two? Pick them up the first time, take them down to the base, and present them with a bill for the flight. To use the other poster's metaphor, don't leave the boy who cried wolf with your sheep.
  • Evac Only (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:24AM (#33339356)

    One simple solution is to make it clear that if you activate an emergency beacon or request 911 assistance, you _WILL_ be taken back to park facilities. If you read TFA, you'll see that most of the complaints are regarding people requesting guides or supplies, but not wanting to cut their trip short. (The other accounts are of morons with digital cameras, who are no different than morons with film cameras, and seem to be used simply to fill out the article.)

    In short, one rescue per trip. You can go out, but if we need to come get you, you can't go out again. (Exceptions could be made for animal attacks or physical injuries.)

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:27AM (#33339378)
    Stupidity is nature's way of culling the dead wood. Mountains are there for a reason, and idiot climbers are proof that the gene pool can fix itself - but they aren't there for long, so admire nature at work before they tumble down!
  • Wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fishthegeek (943099) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:29AM (#33339402) Journal
    Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. - Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
  • The problem is.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:50AM (#33339562) Homepage

    We rescue these morons.

    Honestly, Evolution is getting reversed because we save the "stupid" from getting killed. The news covers the death of a moron as "a tragedy" instead of , "and there's at least another idiot we dont have to deal with anymore"

    Our society encourages Stupidity because the risk of death is reduced or removed. Let these idiots die, leave their bodies there as a warning to others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525)

      We rescue these morons.

      Honestly, Evolution is getting reversed because we save the "stupid" from getting killed. The news covers the death of a moron as "a tragedy" instead of , "and there's at least another idiot we dont have to deal with anymore"

      Our society encourages Stupidity because the risk of death is reduced or removed. Let these idiots die, leave their bodies there as a warning to others.

      AFAIK, the technology as it stands right now allows the moron to call for help.

      It does not allow the ranger to establish ahead of time if it's a moron who's crying for help or an experienced hiker with all the appropriate equipment who just happened to be unlucky.

    • by Abstrackt (609015) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:13AM (#33340560)

      My brother shared some stories from his practicum as a paramedic once, it turns out they have to respond to every call because it might be a real emergency. Unfortunately, in the town he was in this led to some people outside of town using the ambulance as a taxi. The person would get picked up and despite the fact that there was nothing wrong they'd have to be delivered to the emergency room. Once they got there, the person would simply wander off into town.

      The paramedics mentoring my brother decided to use this as a learning opportunity for him when they picked up the most famous of these characters. "Gee, he looks a little dehydrated, we'd better give him a drip." So my brother got to practice giving people IVs. What was interesting though, was when they started treating it like a real emergency (read: uncomfortable till the end) people stopped taking advantage of it because it was no longer easy.

      I don't think you need to let these people die on the mountains, just make the help a little less easy on them so they think twice before wasting your time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by donscarletti (569232)
      Oh come on, there are far worse people out there in the gene-pool than these idiots. These people are stupid, but they have at least set out to challenge themselves, have an adventure and see the world. So many spend their entire life watching TV, drunk in bars, stoned on the couch or playing farmville and will risk quite little. If we are going to start eliminating ill-prepared hikers from the gene-pool, I would suggest they be on the list somewhere after drunk-drivers and well after coke-pushers and con
  • Tech enabling? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Danathar (267989) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:05AM (#33339700) Journal

    No. Stupidity enables Stupidity.

    blaming tech for stupid people doing stupid things is well......stupid

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:14AM (#33339786)

    When I was in Boy Scouts as a kid, we had to learn to read topographical maps and use a compass. Maybe we had a cell phone, maybe not. hand-held GPS was kind of expensive and not particularly advanced. Besides, GPS needs batteries and adds weight.

    Hiking with a map and compass and no "please, come get me!" beacon is like programming in C or Assembler. You're closer to the metal and have to have a deeper understanding of what you're actually doing. Going out with GPS is like jumping right in with a language like Ruby which makes things really easy at first... until the first time you forget to properly define a base case for a recursive function and hit a stack error message.

    The tools are great, but are always going to work way better for people who understand the basic principles of what's being automated for them, and have some "old school" experience to fall back on when necessary. Easy tools that take all the hard work out of a lot of necessary tasks lead to a false sense of security.

    As with programming, where high-level, dynamic languages make it much easier for people who might otherwise not take the time to learn to program do so, going "here's a GPS... and this rescue beacon!" encourages people who probably don't really want to learn how to tie proper knots go out in the woods, get themselves in way over their head, and then basically hit that stack error. But, never having had to address memory by hand, they don't really know what that means or what to do about it.

    I go hiking fairly regularly, and I don't even own any of that stuff. You can get USGS topo quads easily enough, and a good compass. Sturdy boots, balanced pack, and my leatherman. Carry enough water and some spare granola bars in case I get out farther than I had really planned. If I'm in the woods, its 'cause I don't want to be attached to the computer anymore. But maybe thats because I work surrounded by them all day.

  • by sizzzzlerz (714878) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:18AM (#33339836)

    Having a 4x4 simply means being able to get stuck further from the pavement.

  • by websitebroke (996163) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:21AM (#33339878)
    Seriously. By frivolously calling because your water tastes bad, you're potentially drawing rescue personnel away from a real rescue. Somebody could _die_ either rescuing your sorry ass, or somebody in a real emergency could die because the rescue crews were dealing with you. Maybe a few days in jail would help you think about it.
  • by SolarStorm (991940) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:57AM (#33340294)

    I am 50ish and pilot. I learned to fly when I was 17 flew for a bit (10 years ish), then had a family. I then decided to return to flying. I went back for some more training. The differences.

    1st time: My instructor was an OLD WWII vet. A mean cuss that ALWAYS was trying to get me lost. I live in Central Alberta where land marks are few, its flat, and water lines can vary greatly from the charts. We used a map covered in wax paper, a pencil with 1" marks cut in to it and a watch. I never did get lost.

    2nd time (25 yrs later): Modern aircraft, Cessna 172 instead of the 1947 fleet canuck. GPS as well as compass. Instruct must have been all of 6 or 7 (really about 25ish). Nice young kid, good skilled pilot. We went up for a refresher check out flight. Did a stall, spin, slow flight etc. (Oh yeah, he did smile at my knee board with the wax paper and pencil). At the end of the flight he said lets head for home and I banked the aircraft while he punched in the coords on the GPS. By the time he was done, I was already on the heading. He was mildly impressed.

    We went for coffee and discussed the differences in our training. We both admitted that I could use some more training using the GPS. However he offered his time in trade get some more experience with my flight computer (plastic slide rule for headings and wind for the non pilots) and knee board. He recognized that if he ever did loose his GPS for what ever reason, a manual system might be good to know.

    I look at all of the technology available to today's hikers, boaters (I have my skippers papers too), and pilots that forget about the mark I computer sitting on our shoulders. It provides a false sense of security. Everything is fine in the perfect scenario, but for many of these adventures, emergencies arise, not because of a real act of god but a lack of planning. When diving we say "Plan the dive, dive the plan". This should be applied to all "adventures" but we live in a society where the quick adventure is what we are after and fewer a learning how to plan and be prepared. We are quick to pass on the responsibility to technology or experts, knowing that we can sue if they fail.

    The only answer I can see is passing on the expenses of rescues to the rescuees. Legit or otherwise. Might be a good thing to take out adventure insurance... The more training you have, the less the insurance would be...

    • by cptdondo (59460) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:35AM (#33342040) Journal

      I was the disaster preparedness officer in the National Guard for a bunch of years. Whenever I did an evaluation (and some of these were full-scale deoployments with aircraft and 1,000 personnel) I'd start taking away all of the high tech stuff.

      You depend on radios? I'll figure out a way to compromise them. Somebody will be careless and leave one laying around. I'll disconnect your computer network, jam your wireless. I'll steal cars, hide your keys. If nothing else, I'll overwhelm your digital network with too much information.

      The good units had paper-and-pencil backups and runners. The bad units came apart.

      Same with hiking; never let the technology override your ability. We hike with a GPS, but we always carry a paper map and and a compass. Last time we did this, my kids were 100' off from the GPS coordinates - after 3 hours of bushwhacking over broken terrain. You can stay found if you know what you are doing.

  • by quatin (1589389) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:16AM (#33340622)

    I see a lot of knee jerk responses about charging EVERYONE for using emergency services or making it some type of crime to be calling emergency services.
    We all pay for the park service to be alert in case something goes wrong. It's their job to provide help. Just, because some people abuse the service, doesn't mean you should mess it up for everyone.

    It doesn't matter what technology you provide or don't provide, stupid people will do stupid things and end up being a cost to society. If we didn't have SPOT, someone idiot will bring flares and "accidentally" set a forest fire while signaling for help. You simply have to allocate for stupidity. If you try to make the world idiot proof, then we'll all be living in misery.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:46AM (#33341184)

    Here in Arizona, there is no fee to those that we rescue. We're all volunteers with the exception of DPS Ranger. SPOT beacons have saved several people's lives in the last couple of years. The first in the county was a guy who slipped off the edge of a steep trail and broke both ankles. Luke AFB got the first ping in 45 minutes. That's a damn sight better than waiting an unknown number of hours before someone notices that the subject is missing. Cellphones also help us direct ground units to the subject. That being said, SAR teams do not rescue peoples' vehicles and we have gotten into shouting matches with people from Phoenix who got stuck in the snow and are stunned that we will take them to safety but they're going to have to arrange for a paid tow service to get their vehicle out.

    That being said, the NPS is somewhat hypocritical about things. First off, in Yellowstone, there is no cellphone service in most of the park despite what the movie 2012 would have you believe. Second, I have witnessed the ancient diesel noisy belching shuttle buses at the Grand Canyon blow right past people on the side of the road who may be injured or in trouble simply because they weren't standing at a designated pick up point.

    Furthermore, technology isn't the only thing that can get people into trouble. The US Forest Service often doesn't maintain roads that appear on published maps and GPS databases as good roads so people end up in trouble. And then there are the outdoor magazines. We had a rescue here of a man who read an article that said you should hike up one trail and bushwhack over to another trail to come out. Really really bad idea if you don't know what you're doing.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:28AM (#33341882)

    I'm a long time back country camper and hiker (meaning I carry my own tent/bag etc on my back). One of my favorite routes in Yosemite is to take a route in which I camp at the base of halfdome and then finish in the valley. The best part is that I don't encounter the crowds until I'm 75% done.

    The last 25% is along the main tail between half-dome and the valley. This passes by the major water falls which people do a simple day hike to. While most people doing a day hike to half dome start at dark, I've seen more than my share of "dumb hikers" who are dressed in jeans/doc martins/sneakers or other non-hiking apparel and in their hand was a bottle of water (the kind you get for a few bucks at the supermarket, not a camelbak and ample supplies). I think they only see the pictures of the cables and forget that it's 14miles miles round trip and 5k feet of elevation gain.

    I've had more than one occasion where some unprepared day hiker has asked me for water/food/help. I had one woman ask me for water and I when I told her that the water that I had in my camelbak was filtered (I have a portable pump/filter) from a local stream, she refused to take it.

    I agree with the article, GPS and electronics haven't made people more stupid, the devices have enabled more stupid people to do things whereby they are critically dependent on the device. I never hike without a paper map. Why? Maps don't need batteries, and still work when wet and dirty.

    On a side note, people that leave food in their cars in Yosemite should not only be fined, but they themselves should be fed to the bears.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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