More and more, modern technology allows us to save us from ourselves. A perfect example occurred earlier this week in the Grand Canyon, where hikers who were beaten down by the heat used a “personal locator beacon” to save themselves. The help, incidentally, came from across the country in Florida.
The beacon's signal was detected from the canyon’s Surprise Valley, a remote area on the north side of the park, by the Air Force Rescue Coordinator Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
Air Force personnel called the park about 6:30 p.m. on July 2 to alert them to the signal. Rangers used a helicopter to reach the location, where they found a hiking party of four. One of the hikers was suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion and was taken out of the canyon by the helicopter. The other three remained in the canyon and were given ice and water by the rangers.
The use of the personal locator beacon technology was the first not only in the Grand Canyon, but supposedly the first “legitimate use” of the technology in the state of Arizona, according to park officials.
For better or worse, the park’s chief of emergency services, Ken Phillips, thinks search and rescue teams will see more use of the locator beacons. The use of satellite phones, which have the advantage of offering two-way communication, is also on the rise.
I say “for better or worse,” because there’s the very real possibility that some folks will overlook their own abilities and lean too much on this technology and get into backcountry locations and conditions where they shouldn’t venture.
“A person who carries a PLB should always take the proper measures to prevent themselves from ever having to use it,” Phillips says.