(Last Updated On: March 20, 2014)
Last month, there was an avalanche on Star Mountain outside Twin Lakes in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. I will refrain from any commentary, but I would recommend reading the official Colorado Avalanche Information Center report. One thing that particularly struck me was this part:
Rider 7 struggled to reach a 911 operator on his cell phone. He made about 10 calls, passing some information to the dispatcher each time. He moved around searching for better reception.
Throughout the mountains of the west, cell range is constantly “close”. And while many people carry a satellite phone, PLB, or other rescue communication device, most of us hope that our cell phones will suffice. And they usually do. But I’ve also had occasions where I needed more.
A few summers ago, we went on an ambitious bike ride and due to some factors out of our control, we found ourselves 35 miles and a long climb from home as the sun was setting. As luck would have it, Brittany called me when I barely had cell service. We couldn’t really understand each other, but I kept saying “Other side of Kebler, pick us up” and Brittany was able to catch my drift and get us (and save herself some worry since we would have limped home much later than expected.) When we got home, she made me sign up for a texting plan for emergencies just like that one, when a text probably would have gotten out when a phone call didn’t.
Which brings us back to a true emergency like Star Mountain, when texts might be able to communicate with Search and Rescue or 911, when a phone call won’t. Can you text 911? Not really, not yet. But it’s on its way, and in at least one place in Colorado, it’s already a possibility. By the end of 2014, the FCC has determined that text capability will be required by carriers. As of 1/15/2014, the only location in Colorado with 911 capability is Pitkin County for Verizon users. It’s nice to know that in many parts of the Elk Mountains, you can shoot off a text in case of emergency.
Better not to need it at all, but there’s the info and something to think about. Besides, it will make for one more unbelievable plot twist in horror flicks- “Why isn’t he texting 911, what a dummy, Freddy Kruger can hear you!”
We haven’t played with this device ourselves, but maybe this is an even better option: