More and more people are taking SPOT geolocation devices with them out on the land since they make searches faster and more successful.

But Nunavut's director of protection services, Ed Zebedee, says some people are not using the devices properly.

Zebedee says the 911 button, not the help button, is what's causing trouble for his department.

He says it is meant to be used only in life-or-death situations, but his office has received 15 911 calls this year. All except for one were from people using it improperly.

Zebedee says some people were simply impatient as they waited for rescuers.  A few calls were the result of people playing with the devices to see what they did.


Ed Zebedee, Nunavut's director of protection services, says the 911 function on SPOT devices should only be activated in a life or death situation. (CBC)

"They enacted the 911, then shut the unit off. But once it's been activated, according to the international rules, we have to send a team out and find out why they activated the 911."

Pressing the 911 button actually initiates an international response. The signal goes to an international coordination centre in Houston, Texas.

They call the Search and Rescue coordination centre in Trenton, Ont., RCMP headquarters and Zebedee. They keep calling every two hours until they can confirm the person has been located.

Zebedee says his group told the hamlets about the procedure with the 911 button, but he's not aware how, or if, they've passed on the message.

At the moment, there is no cost charged to those who initiate a false alarm with SPOT 911 calls, but Zebedee says that could change.

Large number of recent searches

Over the last month, Zebedee says his office has noticed an increase in the number of searches around the territory.

He says the late spring is part of the cause.

"They had the big snowfall over in the Kivalliq region. Almost a metre of snow in 30 hours. That really caused some havoc for us. Some people weren't prepared for that," he said.

"And like I said, the late spring: weather conditions are changing. More people are going out and getting stuck."

Zebedee says there have also been a lot of equipment breakdowns.

As of Friday morning, he says there have been 114 searches so far this year, which is about 20 per cent more than in other years.

Zebedee says the number of searches has increased by 15 to 20 per cent every year.