SPOT GPS Messenger

After spending a month and a half staying with friends, I decided to settle down for a bit and started renting a room in San Francisco. So far, things have been great, BUT that’s not the purpose of this post… In a strange coincidence, I found out that my roommate works for a company that produces a perfect solution to a problem I had/have when I’m up on my property alone.

The Problem
One of the things that worried me most about being alone on my property, and particularly at my camp, half a mile from the road and miles from any other human settlement, was the risk of injury. Out there, even an injury or condition that could be solved by a simple trip to the ER could’ve become a huge issue, simply because I might not have been able to get to the ER or call for help. For instance, if I were working on the roof of my hut, fell off, and broke my legs, that would’ve been mighty inconvenient. I would’ve had to drag myself over to my trailer, dig out the first aid kit and survival manual, read up on what to do, stabilize myself, then drag my broken legs down the hill to the road. There, I could wait for a car to come by and flag it down, or try to drive to the nearest house.

And that’s the best case scenario, assuming I am still mobile and mostly stable. If I suffered a bad compound fracture, I might lose blood too fast, or move too slowly. If I were immobilized, without a way to contact the outside world, it’d be days, or over a week, before my friends came to find me, and there’s a decent chance I’d have died of dehydration or hypothermia by then. Other than trying to signal air craft (who wouldn’t even be looking for me) the only way to attraction attention would’ve been with my handgun. I’d have 16 rounds of ammo; that’s five sets of three shots (a distress signal, if anyone happened to hear it and recognize it as such), with one bullet left over…

(In case you’re wondering, yes, I thought about all this when I was out there. I went anyway, because the things worth doing in life are worth doing even if it kills you. But that’s another post…)

The solution
Well, it turns out that the company my roommate works for has the perfect solution for crazy people like me!

The SPOT GPS Messenger is a simple device that has a number of basic but useful features. There’s an SOS button you can push, which sends your location to a dispatch center, which will then direct the nearest emergency unit to your location, no matter where in the world you are. There’s also a less urgent “help” button, an “I’m ok” button, as well as a tracking functionality so your friends and family can see where you are (if you’re sailing around the world or backpacking across the wilderness, instead of sitting in a hut like I was). Since both the positioning and communication is done via satellite, it works even where cell phones don’t have reception (though, it’s worth noting that GPS’s don’t work in some terrain, depending on the quality of the receiver). My roommate let me handle the demo unit he carries around, and while not tiny, it’s small enough to carry around, and seems pretty rugged. I obviously didn’t try the SOS functionality, so I can’t tell you whether it actually works, but he said several hundred people have been rescued after using it…

The only downside I can think of is cost. The actual unit costs $150, but the service costs $100+/year. Granted, for a device that can literally save your life, that’s not much. Next time I go out there, I’ll almost certainly bring one of these with me (especially since I can get a discount through my roomie 🙂 ). Even if you don’t go on crazy outdoor adventures, it might be worth having one of these next to your bed if you live in an earthquake-prone area. When your house comes crumbling down around you, one of these might be handy to let people know you’re down there… It also might be good for the elderly; I’ve heard of old people who lived alone who died after a simple fall, because they couldn’t get to a phone to call for help.