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Recreation Advocate

The OutdoorWire family websites feature news and information affecting outdoor recreation opportunities and access to public lands. 

SPOT - for the offroad emergency

SPOTTechnology is making significant improvements to treks off the paved road.  One area that has seen rapid improvement is in communications.  In the good old days, CB radio was (and still is) standard fare for communications during the off road trail ride.  Over time, the CB has yielded its top sport to a succession of new comers: 2-meter amateur radio, cell phone, and GPS.

Each has benefits and drawbacks.  None provide true emergency location finding.  That is changing with SPOT.  SPOT is a combination of GPS and Satellite phone technology providing a beacon transponder that can send a 911 distress signal or a simple check-in message.

SPOT takes your GPS location and sends it to others back at home over a commercial satellite network in real time so they know exactly where your are and how you’re doing. SPOT works virtually around the world regardless of cell phone coverage.  SPOT provides four functions: Ask for help, Check-in, Track Progress, or Alert 911.

Once the Alert 911 function is activated (included as part of the low-cost SPOT service plan), SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and send that location along with a distress message to a GEOS International Emergency Response Center every five minutes until cancelled. The Emergency Response Center notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, our country’s embassy or consulate, or other emergency response or search and rescue teams – as well as notifying your emergency contact person(s) about the receipt of a distress signal.

Even if SPOT cannot acquire its location from the GPS network it will still attempt to send a distress signal – without exact location – to the Emergency Response Center, which will still notify your contacts of the signal and continue to monitor the network for further messages.

A step down from the Alert 911 is the Ask for Help function.  Activate the Ask for Help function (included as part of the low-cost SPOT service plan) and SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it along with the HELP message through the SPOT satellite network every five minutes for one hour or until cancelled. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

With the Check-In function (included as part of the low-cost SPOT service plan), when you press the OK button, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it through the SPOT satellite network. Your contacts receive either an SMS text message on their mobile phone with your message and coordinates, or an email with your message and a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

With the Track Progress function, once activated, SPOT acquires and sends your GPS coordinates to your SPOT account every 10 minutes. Anyone with access to your account information can log on and view your route, complete with virtual views provided by Google Maps™. To continue tracking on longer journeys, the SPOTcastingSM function must be re-activated every 24 hours.  This feature is an option to the low-cost SPOT service plan.

At $149.99, SPOT offers a low-cost insurance policy should that emergency happen when you are out of cell phone or radio coverage.  A basic service plan ($99.99 per year) is required.  The optional Track Progress Option allows you to share your track via Google Maps.  

For more information check the FindMeSPOT website.
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