Yesterday, the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program released seven recommendations for improving emergency responses in the Arctic.
One recommendation one was to make Spot and other tracking devices more readily available, but not all devices are created equally.
Dave Taylor is the the training coordinator for the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association in Yellowknife.
“Your safety in the bush depends on your trip plan, your ability to stay alive until help arrives and it’s definitely assisted by having some form of communications,” Taylor says.
Here are some of his thoughts on the most common tracking devices available in Yellowknife. Add your own in the comments section below.
The Spot Messenger
The Spot Messenger is an entry level device. It’s orange, it fits in the palm of your hand and it runs for many days.
The disadvantage is it does not receive messages, it only transmits messages, but it does have an ‘I’m Okay’ button, an ‘I need help’ button, and an ‘I’m in an emergency’ button. It also does tracking, but you don’t get any feedback from whoever you send a message to.
The Spot uses a satellite constellation that doesn’t have very good coverage in the Far North. The edge of their coverage is along the Arctic Coast so if you’re operating further North, you might want to look at the Inreach or Iridium satellite phone.
Price: $170 to buy, minimum $100/year for service
The Delorme Inreach SE satellite communicator is a recent entry.
The advantage is that you can plug it into a cell phone and use the keypad on your cell phone to compose messages and you can also receive messages. It also does tracking: that means you can set it up to transmit your location at scheduled times. It’s very compact.
If you put lithium batteries in both the Spot and the Inreach, you should be all right in the cold.
Price: $320 to buy, minimum $360/year for service
Iridium satellite phone
Top of the line is the Iridium extreme satellite phone. If offers voice and text. The batteries don’t work as well in the cold, but you can dial any phone number in the world and talk to people. It also transmits its location, but doesn’t do tracking the same way.
The satellite phone and the Spot would make a good combination. You can use the Spot to track where you are and then if you stop moving and never come home, they know where to go look for you. But if you want to explain what your problem is, then you need a sat phone or an Inreach.
Price: $1800 to buy, minimum $600/year for air time
Further comments from Dave
All three devices are radios, which means that you have to have a good sky view. They don’t work as well inside a vehicle, they don’t work well in a cave or under a lot of trees or if there’s a lot of mountain and hills between you and the satellite it’s trying to connect to.