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National Park Service Says Tech Is Enabling Stupidity

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-got-yourself-into-this-mess-now-get-yourself-out dept.

Cellphones 635

theodp writes "The National Park Service is finding technology to be a double-edged sword. While new technologies can and do save lives, the NPS is also finding that unseasoned hikers and campers are now boldly going where they never would have gone before, counting on cellphones, GPS, and SPOT devices to bail them out if they get into trouble. Last fall, a group of hikers in the Grand Canyon called in rescue helicopters three times by pressing the emergency button on their satellite location device. When rangers arrived the second time, the hikers complained that their water supply tasted salty. 'Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued,' said a spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park. 'Every once in a while we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them. The answer is that you are up there for the night.'"

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635 comments

Charge for support (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339164)

A bill for a helicopter may not cure stupidity, but it will reduce its ability to afford to go there the next year.

Re:Charge for support (5, Informative)

ntufar (712060) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339326)

This is how it works here, in Greece.

If you issued a distress signal (MAYDAY) from a boat, and you are not sinking, the Coastal Guard charges you for the helicopter ride. Never tried it myself but people say it is in 50,000 - 100,000 euro range.

Re:Charge for support (0, Redundant)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339598)

How many people that need to be rescued can afford this?

People who endeavor in stupid hiking activities are usually young, ergo have not yet achieve a socio-economic status enabling them to afford the cost of rescue.

Re:Charge for support (4, Insightful)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339634)

I think you missed the "and are not sinking" line.

If you need it, you don't pay.

It's the same here with the fire service and ambulance service. Free, unless it's a false alarm.

Re:Charge for support (3, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339712)

A "cheap", single turbine news copter can easily cost $1000/hr to operate. Imagine a large, long-range, twin turbine copter chugging along several hours, back and forth, at roughly $3000-$6000/hr. Those bills can certainly add up fast!

Now you know why helicopters are traditionally the ride for the military and/or the rich and famous.

Re:Charge for support (-1, Offtopic)

Golbez81 (1582163) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339362)

You can also be fined or even jailed for calling 911 on a non-emergency basis. Perhaps that should also be enacted for GPS/SAT devices as well, but alas, we all know our current congress has MUCH MORE IMPORTANT business to attend to...

Re:Charge for support (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339498)

we all know our current congress has MUCH MORE IMPORTANT business to attend to...

Well, yes.
It does.

Re:Charge for support (0, Offtopic)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339550)

we all know our current congress has MUCH MORE IMPORTANT business to attend to...

Well, yes. It does.

Yes, yes they do. But as long as they are wasting time with stupid crap like going after Roger Clemens, maybe they could spare a couple of hours and get some real governing done. Maybe that's asking too much.

Re:Charge for support (-1, Troll)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339670)

Yeah, sure. It, along with Obama, is busy reinforcing the idea that the state is here to take care of all your wants and desires. You have a problem? Call the government it's supposed to take care of you in every way possible.

This is the very predictable outcome of progressive policies that encourage people to trust the state for everything rather than look to themselves to take care of themselves.

Re:Charge for support (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339376)

I'm pretty sure they do that already. If they don't, then they are simply enabling the stupidity. I can't speak for other areas, but I can speak to mine where ambulance service is concerned. Many many years ago, I had an 8 month old baby die. When we checked on him, he wasn't breathing but he was still warm. We called 9-1-1, they came out, restored a pulse but he died later at the hospital. A few days later, a rather large and unwelcome bill arrived in the mail for the services rendered.

I was angry as hell. Consider this: If I hadn't called 9-1-1, I would have been a criminal. And by calling 9-1-1, I make myself liable for an emergency services bill. This defines "damned if you do and damned if you don't." I would be okay with billing someone for "false" or "needless" calls. It makes sense. But when it's an actual need, an actual emergency, and even death has occurred in the end, you would think some sympathy would result from the system. But yeah, I never paid that bill... though I think some insurance coverage might have. I don't remember that time period too well as you might imagine -- it was extremely emotional.

Re:Charge for support (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339466)

What, you want the government to pay your bill? This is America, out healthcare system isn't built on helping people, it's built of profit, damnit. You must be a COMMUNIST!!!

Re:Charge for support (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339520)

My understanding is that ambulance services, being "medical" rather than police or fire, fall into the weird realm where no real market exists, in a useful sense; but there is strong unwillingness to face that fact.

There are, in fact, numerous different ambulance services, some public, some private; but the people calling them are rarely in a position to chose one in any useful sense. And, being an emergency service, they don't get to pick and choose customers(at least not by legal methods. I would be shocked, shocked, to discover that ambulances are based in a demographically predictable pattern, and that the guys driving them for not that much an hour respond faster to neighborhoods where the odds of being shot are low...).

Because of this, there isn't really a useful "price" for ambulance service. If you use it, you get a gigantic bill ($2k on the low end); but many of those simply go unpaid, rattle around collections for pennies on the dollar, get negotiated under some sort of hardship plan, or get paid by insurance at some shadowy-but-not-literally-secret rate agreed upon between the insurer and the provider.

Re:Charge for support (-1, Troll)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339608)

How is it that you can go through losing a child without learning that sometimes life sucks for no reason and there's nothing you can do about it?

I guess you did do something about it, which is not pay the bill (and hopefully ruined your credit in the process), but either way fuck you for your sense of entitlement. Somebody has to pay for that, and who better than the parents who had the sex to make it, made the decision to keep it, and now don't have to pay the hundred(s) of thousands of dollars to raise it? Cold? Hey, I'm not the one who made this about a balance sheet, you are.

Re:Charge for support (5, Insightful)

mattrumpus (677024) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339726)

Fuck you for your anti-social attitude. This person's child, who is a citizen of your society, needed urgent medical attention. Really, are you that lacking in compassion you would stand by and say "fuck you" to someone dealing with a sick baby?

Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Re:Charge for support (1, Interesting)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339752)

Ambulance companies often offer "subscriptions" that allow you to avoid these bills. In the case of my local company, it's something like $50/year. So to turn it around... you never bothered to get involved with your local emergency services until YOU needed help, and now you want to whine because you expect all of your neighbors to pick up the tab?

Insurance (2, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339404)

Here's an idea. Require anyone who wants to go up the mountain to carry insurance sufficient to cover the cost of rescue. Then let the insurance company work out how much to charge people based on how much experience and preparedness they can demonstrate.

Re:Insurance (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339446)

Here's another idea. Permit anyone to go up the mountain, but don't provide them rescue services if they don't get the insurance first. I'm tired of all this protecting people from themselves, crap. Let's just protect society from people. Meanwhile, preventing poor people from hiking is not a good solution. Those mountains belong to everyone... and carrion eaters need food, too. Won't someone think of the animals?

Re:Insurance (2, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339534)

Require anyone who wants to go up the mountain to carry insurance sufficient to cover the cost of rescue.

Any other things you think government should *require* people to do in a group pitching itself as a free society?

Re:Insurance (3, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339728)

Yes, I think government should require people not to have to foot the bill for others' stupidity.

Re:Insurance (5, Insightful)

arogier (1250960) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339546)

And thus the American frontier was closed forever. Having a family gathering in park just outside of town that happens to be wooded and have a small lake? $450 for six hours of indemnity covering no more than twelve people. Cant pay it? Stay out of the park.

The National Parks are America's greatest natural treasures, but they come with the downside of the unpredictability of nature and the inherent hazards thereof. Regulate medicine, regulate markets, but let wilderness be wilderness. Park Rangers should hand out copies of Nash's "Wilderness and the American Mind" the way Gideons hand out the Bible to hotels.

Re:Insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339646)

It shouldn't cost that much to insure them. Since anybody could do it, somebody would offer a lower price. If it really does cost too much, why the heck should I subsidize them going camping / hiking whatever?

I think the best idea would be: if you want to be rescued, you have to register your plan with the park and pay for insurance. Otherwise, you are on your own.

Re:Charge for support (1, Insightful)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339442)

...or prosecute/put on trial the person(s) responsible once the rescuee(s) have been returned, to determine whether negligence and/or stupidity is to blame. If it is, then slap the fines to them, making sure they at least pay the bill for rescue ops.

The payee could be the someone rescued, or someone like Laurence & Maryanne Sunderland, the (ir)responsible parents of "I-Hit-The-Button-Come-Save-My-Ass-Before-I-Die" posterchild Abby Sunderland [sailinganarchy.com] , who had no right or reason to be in the Southern Ocean on a boat she was woefully unprepared for sailing even at latitudes where the weather is generally good. Estimates have put her rescue costs as approaching, or even over, US$1 million - not to mention the risk to the rescuers lives. All that cost and wastefulness for a publicity stunt designed for media whoredom and familial enrichment...

Re:Charge for support (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339484)

When I was in Arizona I was told this is how it works there, I'm not sure if this is just what rangers told us and tell everyone as a matter of course to try and prevent people being stupid or if it really is the case.

I'm not sure how it works in the Grand Canyon as it stems more than one state, would the Arizona law (if it exists) covering this not apply to the Grand Canyon hikers who got lost, or would it simply depend in which section of the Grand Canyon they're in as to which state would be handling the "rescue" and deciding the charge?

It could be the case that those hikers did in fact get charged for those callouts, although if they were chargeable you'd have thought they'd learn after the first time the helicopter arrived and told them, hence why I'm intrigued a little about this law, whether it's real and so on.

I'm sure there's someone from that part of the US here that knows.

Re:Charge for support (2, Insightful)

Hertzyscowicz (1106209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339660)

Also, whenever there's a needless or stupidity-induced call for a helicopter, kick the caller and their party out of the park. See how long this keeps up when the park service doesn't just do expensive water shipments whenever you're a little short.

Same old story (4, Insightful)

scosco62 (864264) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339166)

I really don't get articles like this; of course tech can provide some new versions of the same old store; but the fundamentals still hold true - some people are just going to go through life stupidly, trusting that someone else will bail them out. You want an answer; hold them accountable for their actions. For the idjits with the Salty Water; fine them the Rangers time, the fuel in the vehicles, plus a 10K punitive fine.

They Never Would Have Made the Hike Without SPOT (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339264)

If you read the article, they did fine them:

The leader was issued a citation for creating hazardous conditions in the parks.

Also, your reasoning that this is the 'same old story' doesn't work when this evidence is presented to you

The group’s leader had hiked the Grand Canyon once before, but the other man had little backpacking experience. Rangers reported that the leader told them that without the device, "we would have never attempted this hike."

Emphasis mine. If the National Park Service claims this is increasing their encounters with such idiots then this isn't the 'same old story.' As technology is further exacerbating the age old idiot complex.

Re:They Never Would Have Made the Hike Without SPO (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339428)

Emphasis mine. If the National Park Service claims this is increasing their encounters with such idiots then this isn't the 'same old story.' As technology is further exacerbating the age old idiot complex.

It IS still the same old story, just with slightly different actors and tech:

"Without technical climbing gear that we don't know how to use, we'd never have attempted the climb"

"Without the new railroad to get us to Glacier National Park, we'd never have attempted the climb"

"Without the invention of fire, we'd never have attempted to fight that saber toothed tiger"

Same old same old about stupid people wasting the time of the brave/helpful people.

Re:They Never Would Have Made the Hike Without SPO (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339430)

So they're basically dealing with the "I have winter tires so I can stop quickly on the ice" logic.

Re:They Never Would Have Made the Hike Without SPO (1)

scosco62 (864264) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339572)

Clarification - citation is not the same as a fine. If I get a traffic ticket for $1000, I certainly take it more serious than a $80 one,. As for the other comment; well, I doubt that you can reasonably hang that amount of risk on a single device as indictment of technology.

Set rates and publish them (4, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339192)

Start charging a fee for services. Set the rates make sure they are known in advance. Outsource to a private company to provide the service (can't have emergency personnel tied up on a catering run). Done and done

Re:Set rates and publish them (1)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339732)

That'll work real well until someone with a legitimate need gets in an accident and gets left to die because he can't swing the bill.

deposit (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339232)

Every hiking party should leave a deposit before the hike that should be enough to cover search and rescue expenses.

Re:deposit (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339244)

I doubt many people can afford the potential millions..

Re:deposit (4, Insightful)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339350)

Have them insure it.
No doctor could afford the potential millions of a malpractice claim, so they are practically required to get insurance, and the climbing/hiking issue can be handled the same way. Some mountain ranges (if I remember correctly, including Everest) do practice this already.

Re:deposit (5, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339524)

Thereby ensuring that only those who can afford this kind of small-pool high-risk insurance are permitted to use the parks. Not an idea I can get behind.

Re:deposit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339574)

Neurosurgeons?

Re:deposit (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339630)

Where do you sanely put the limit on that though? If I go for an hour's walk into the forest, lose my footing and sprain my ancle I'm not going anywhere. Oh I might crawl to civilization if no help was coming, but normally I'd call in a rescue. Or people that are only going for a short trip, but lose their direction and start going all wrong? Practically you'd want that kind of insurance almost everywhere you go outside public roads, but the risk would vary greatly.

And it would really only move the problem to be between would-be abusers and the insurance company. I'd give people quite a bit benefit of the doubt, if people are afraid to call the emergency services because they're worried it won't be emergency "enough" then lives could be lost. Insurance companies looking for a profit are likely to swing too far in that direction, covering as little as possible and with as few and minimally trained people as possible if you do call on them.

I actually in this case think it makes more sense with fines, ranging from none to full cost coverage depending on how much of an idiot they've been. I'd leave the punitative damages out of it though, unless you were really making prank calls or things like that.

Re:deposit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339528)

Now, I don't think the costs are in the millions but 20-50 k$ based on what I learnt about the costs of false alarms when I got my maritime VHF certificate (in Europe). We were told that to make sure that we have an extra incentive to remember very clearly how to cancel a false alarm sent by DSC (digital selective calling). VHF DSC radios (i.e. all modern VHF radios) have a single button for sending a digital distress call and including the position from the GPS, when accessible. The call conveniently includes all information about the boat owner (and the type of boat to ensure a reasonable response).

Re:deposit (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339602)

It would be cheap enough assuming their device is giving out a good signal, but I've read stories before where the search for a missing hiker took several days and costs millions.

Re:deposit (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339522)

Brilliant idea. Restrict exploring PUBLIC LAND to only those who can afford hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is NOT an acceptable solution.

Re:deposit (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339582)

Taxes are a heavy burden on my household and I would appreciate a little bit more focused tax collection. What has being public has anything to do with it? You are not paying for using it, you are paying for potential consequences of your stupid actions.

Another model is to include the cost of rescue into the ticket, insurance style.

You can't fix stupid (3, Insightful)

adosch (1397357) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339238)

It's inevitable that geo-technology and *gasp* geo-equipped apps on cellphones, are going to make this all but even worse in the coming years or decade. IMHO, I don't think you ever get away from that battle unless you harbor legislation that gives them more than a handbook-rule judgement when to or not to help someone when stupidity has reared its ugly head into the matter.

I am all for doing exactly what was quoted in the article: telling them they should have been more prepared and leaving that person out in the bush for the night to figure it out in the morning. However, we know the outcome of that: a bear chews their face off and NFS has a pile of lawsuits on their hands for claims of being negligent in the face of danger, no matter how insignificant the event called it was. Which also means more tax dollars tied up in court on top of calling out the rescue helicopters and NFS commandos.

Re:You can't fix stupid (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339338)

It's inevitable that geo-technology and *gasp* geo-equipped apps on cellphones, are going to make this all but even worse

So they're going to make things better?

Got to love well worded comments complaining about stupidity!

Re:You can't fix stupid (4, Insightful)

rwv (1636355) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339374)

no matter how insignificant the event called it was.

This is a classic "Boy who cried wolf" problem. During an emergency, responders need to take calls seriously unless there is overwhelming evidence that the call is a prank. After the second time the Grand Canyon SatPhone hikers pushed their emergency button, I think they ought to be put in the "sorry, you're on your own from here on out" category, giving bears uninterrupted access to eat their faces.

Re:You can't fix stupid (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339676)

After the second time the Grand Canyon SatPhone hikers pushed their emergency button, I think they ought to be put in the "sorry, you're on your own from here on out" category.

A problem with that, is that the third call might be an actual emergency. You can't know. All the emergency responders would know at this point is that there is a group of inexperienced idiots out there whose satphone makes them feel like they can call for help anytime the need help carrying their bags. Those people might be doing really stupid things and might at any point put themselves in real danger without any of the knowledge or skills they would need to protect themselves. While I agree that maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for these kinds of people to become bear snacks, we can't really expect emergency services not to respond to people that might need help.

Re:You can't fix stupid (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339764)

I imagine that dispatching a helicopter "for the second time" gives the emergency responders one opportunity to say, "Don't waste our time", and one opportunity to say, "We're done with you, so be fairly warned that we aren't going to respond to you anymore".

Thus, after fraudulent rescue cry number two it's possible for the in-over-their-heads hikers to say, "Give us a lift out of here so we can find a safer, more comfortable trail".

Then again... call *me* crazy. I pay attention to things like posted warning signs and having the recommended supplies to ensure I won't get dehydrated when I go camping.

Re:You can't fix stupid (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339678)

...NFS has a pile of lawsuits on their hands for claims of being negligent in the face of danger...

Fortunately (at least in this case) agencies of the federal government are rather hard to sue, except for those conditions where the government agrees to be sued...

This is wrong. (4, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339240)

It's not the tech that makes people stupid, it's stupid people using it that causes problems. GPS, SPOT and etc... are all great tools for use by campers, hikers, biker's and more. When you give these tools to people who don't have a clue then you going to have a situation where helicopters and rangers are getting called. There is nothing wrong with grabbing a map and a compass and going out on a hike, but with the advancement in tools to help us navigate more effectivily, who really wants to take an old school map with them. I support GPS and all the other tools fully, I think the problem this post points out is that when stupid people are given simple tools they find away to cause problems for everyone else.

Re:This is wrong. (2, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339322)

> It's not the tech that makes people stupid, it's stupid people using it that causes problems.

I doubt these people are really stupid. If anything, they are probably some of the smart ones. The problem is that incompetence has a way of tricking people into thinking they know what they are doing. Its conceptually easy to hike, especially with GPS. Without it, it was easy to see how lost you could get, and how hard it would be to come out with compass and map.

GPS takes all that away. What the article points to is that these people were inexperienced at actual hiking in these conditions, and massively underestimated their challenge, because, they thought that the part solved by technology was the hard part. They were simply wrong.

Is it stupid to, through lack of experience, underestimate a challenge and end up in over your head? It points to a lack of experience, but not really stupidity.

-Steve

Re:This is wrong. (2, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339656)

I think that the ability to properly assess the challenge of an unfamiliar situation is pretty much a hallmark of intelligence. Learning from experience is just operant conditioning; chimps and dogs and mice do that. Applying one's limited knowledge to unfamiliar situations takes higher-level abstract thinking, and if you aren't able to do that... that's stupidity. Much as the beginning of wisdom is realizing that you aren't wise, the beginning of intelligence is recognizing the limits of what you know. Actual intelligence is overcoming that.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339662)

My dad likes climbing mountains, and has a lot of experience doing so (running hillwalking/running clubs, etc).

I first walked with him when I was about four, and I'm sure he chose easy routes on relatively safe mountains which he knew well. This is only in Scotland, so while they looked very big and jagged to an English boy you're entitled to laugh at them.

I remember being very young (maybe 7?) and being shown how to use a compass, then spending longer than usual on the peak of the mountain until mist descended, and being told to find the way back. I was pretty scared by it, but it stopped me from being tempted to wander out of sight.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339348)

Indeed, there will always be stupid people doing stupid things. Technology does allow more people to do things that one was a specialized art, though. For example, before desktop publishing software, printing was an arcane art requiring dark rooms, cameras, understanding of graphics and typography, etc.. We can argue that pages look a lot uglier now than they did in the past, but so it is. The same with anti-lock brakes, chain guards, and other safety devices that thwart Darwin Award filtration of the gene pool.

As to GPS units, I've been in a car with someone who almost ran into a wall because he insisted that the GPS told him to turn. I've also known a girl who got lost because she wanted to go north so "turned left at the ocean" (she lived on the Florida East Coast and one day took a trip to Naples on the Florida West Coast.)

Re:This is wrong. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339354)

with the advancement in tools to help us navigate more effectivily, who really wants to take an old school map with them

Anyone who knows just how fickle and fragile electronic devices can be, and who knows the value of a good backup?

Re:This is wrong. (0, Troll)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339414)

People who can use a map want to take one and if your smart enough to bring one they your really not going to be relying the GPS to get to point B from point A.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339580)

I'd be happy to rely on a satnav to guide me somewhee if I was on holiday or even out hiking etc. I can read maps fine, but would have one for backup only.. just because someone is "smart" doesn't mean they don't also value convenience.

Re:This is wrong. (4, Informative)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339434)

"Enabling" in this context means to allow and passively encourage, by removing obstacles and trying to compensate for it. It's like "enabling an alcoholic" by making excuses for them, calling in sick for them, cleaning up their puke for them, etc. "Enabling stupidity" doesn't mean "making people stupid".

Re:This is wrong. (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339742)

I like how you put that, but then again giving someone a GPS doesn't turn into Les Stroud and part of being intelligent means knowing your limitations.

Not New (5, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339258)

This is not a new problem. In the area I live, there are plenty of mountains that, while looking outwardly benign, kill a number of people (experienced or not) each year. Because of their proximity to a number of major cities, relatively short hikes to the summit (day trips), and extremely changeable weather (70 F and sunny to zero visibility, freezing temperatures, and gale-force winds in an hour), lots of inexperienced hikers get way in over their heads.

Their recourse? Not to plan carefully and accordingly. Not to travel with more experienced and better-equipped friends or guides. Not to heed the signs at treeline warning of the numerous weather-related dangers. Not to stick to less dangerous ascents in the region. Not to bag it when the weather turns sour. Nope, just whip out the cellphone and call in a rescue.

It's one thing if you take a fall due to dumb luck, it's another thing to get soaked, freezing, and lost due to, well, being dumb.

It did get bad enough that the state legislature passed a law a number of years back that, if you need rescue because you were stupid or inadequately prepared for the hike, you can get charged for the rescue costs. This is typically upwards of a few tens out thousands of dollars.

Re:Not New (1)

omi5cron (1455851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339392)

sounds like you live near the White Mtns. in fact, some have been railing against these unprepared idiots for a long while. if i remember correctly, William Putnam did an on-air editorial about stupid people going where they should not,(in the Whites) back in the early 70s. stupid people will always be stupid, with the state-of-the-art technology or not!!

Re:Not New (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339456)

The problem is that before, the stupid people with no technology just got themselves killed and nobody heard from them again.

Now, they call for help and you either have to go help them or accept the fact that you let them die.

Re:Not New (4, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339568)

You wouldn't be referring to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, would you? My sister used to do S&R up there (as well as some other places), and has some great stories like a guy who called in lost who described his location as "I'm lying in a field with blue flowers" and was unable to provide any more information, including where he started and what trail he had been following. And of course every year a bunch of yokels get themselves killed on Mount Washington, although most of that happens in the spring and fall when things look quite pleasant at the base while at the summit it's snowing and a wind chill of -20 F. To give an idea of how dangerous a lot of those mountains are during the winter: people who are planning on climbing Denali and other major mountaineering peaks use the White Mountains as a training ground, because it's possible to go up there for the day, experience arctic conditions for a while, and be back down at the base for dinner.

The basic story is that rescuers take risks every time they go out to look for somebody, and it's important to recognize that. If you do need a rescue, it will help immensely if your call for help includes:
- A good description of where you are, including where you started, what landmarks you've passed recently, what trail you were following or are on, GPS coordinates if you have them, and anything else you can think of that will help your rescuers find you easily.
- A good description of the injuries and risks to the victim. For instance, if someone has broken their leg, but is otherwise seems fine and has stable vital signs, that means a significantly less risky and expensive rescue than if they've broken a leg and several ribs and punctured a lung and has pulse rate rising every hour. Ideally somebody in the group has proper wilderness first aid training, and if so they should treat the patient according to their training.
- What tools and supplies you have with you, including whether you can stay the night reasonably safely. This is especially important late in the day.
- What self-rescue efforts you have taken already and plan to take. For instance, in the case of a broken leg, it will help if you explain that you're going to splint the leg and start working on improvising a litter, and will call again if the group starts moving.
- Oh yes, and while we're on the subject, move the group if and only if you can explain exactly where you're going and the route you plan to take. Otherwise, stay put at the spot that you've explained to your rescuers.

Reduces planning in general (4, Insightful)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339290)

A lot of these devices seem to prevent planning in general, even for little things. If you had to look up an address and stare at a map ahead of time to know where you were going, then you'd think of other things in the process. Now you can just hop in your car, type what you want in to your phone (e.g. bike shop), and follow its directions. Maybe you'll end up where you want, but people who do that often seem to be unprepared. And I've seen people doing that get lost in the process -- those directions aren't perfect, and if you don't have some general idea of where you're going, its still easy to make wrong turns. (Dedicated GPS devices are better, but not perfect, and I've heard that their sales are down due to smartphones).

Of course, it's not like in the old days everyone planned ahead and knew where they were and where they were going at all times. My family was big on planning routes, always having maps, and knowing how to read them. This is clearly not the case for many people I have met. I still think technology isn't helping.

Stupid? Not for someone with moral values (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339306)

Only Socialists think it is stupid to want to get something for your money. For what I am paying in taxes they should be life-flighting me filet mignon and caviar every half hour.

Just like that damnable internet! (0, Offtopic)

retech (1228598) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339308)

I blame the net for increasing the number of perverts too! Certainly it's created more pedophiles than there ever were before. I know it's made more criminals, just look at all the people getting ripped off now!

...world's gone to hell with all this technology. It wasn't like this back in the good ol' day.

Are really doing more silly things (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339316)

Are really doing more silly things or is it just that they call in because they can. Would the same group of idiots just looked on the map for another spring, or decided that the water was only slightly salty if they had no means of contacting help. Would the people on the mountain found their way down without help? I can remember seeing idiots on mountains years ago, including a woman in high healed shoes about a mile onto a track up Snowdon. She probably gave up after another mile and walked back with wore feet, but today she might have summoned rescue services.

Help! (4, Funny)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339318)

I was going to write a clever response to this article, but I'm having too much trouble finding the Slashdot automatic clever response generator. Can you guys send over someone from tech support to help me?

Re:Help! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339474)

I got here as fast as I could and—oh, that's the problem? You're clearly in over your head, buddy. This service is intended for real emergencies only. Nevertheless, try "Technology isn't teh problem, it's stupid people that are the problem. I live in a mountainous area and etc, etc..." Make something up or really stretch the truth, but just be sure the anecdote emphasizes someone's stupidity from your clearly superior vantage point.

It's not the tech that's stupid... (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339330)

I don't hike, but common sense tells me that if you're hiking or camping deep into isolated territory and are depending on GPS that depends on cell towers (i.e. most cellular GPS technology), you probably haven't done your homework and are highly likely to get into trouble.

Stupid people do stupid things.

Re:It's not the tech that's stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339478)

Assisted GPS lowers the time you need to get a GPS lock. It works without the towers, it just takes longer to get an initial fix.

Re:It's not the tech that's stupid... (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339588)

"depending on GPS that depends on cell towers"

GPS is NOT cell tower based. GPS uses GPS satellites. Any device that does not use the GPS satellites is not a GPS device. Anything that bases your location off of cell towers is probably of such amazingly poor accuracy that you'd be better off throwing darts onto a map.

Re:It's not the tech that's stupid... (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339754)

I think the OP of this particular thread was referring to AGPS, which will function just fine on its own using the GPS satellites, however, requires a data stream (ie from a cell tower somewhere) for the locational data relating to where the satellites are in orbit (Almanac data I believe is what its called)

Some phones (My android Galaxy S for example), can function perfectly fine on its own, but will take ages to get a sat lock, some of the cheaper phones, might not function at all.

There is more to GPS then just talking with the Satellites.

Same problem as always. (5, Interesting)

gremlin_591002 (548935) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339336)

Ten years ago when I was hiking in Glacier National Park, we heard a whistle. Now back then a whistle was something you used to summon help. My friend and I hurried down the trail looking for whoever was in trouble. It turned out it was a stupid lady with her two small children making sure that the bears were scared away. Nothing has really changed with people, their whistle can just be heard at even greater distances. Park rangers have the ability to issue tickets for this sort of behavior, no reason they shouldn't.

Two strikes (3, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339342)

Last fall, a group of hikers in the Grand Canyon called in rescue helicopters three times by pressing the emergency button on their satellite location device. When rangers arrived the second time, the hikers complained that their water supply tasted salty.

If I had been one of the rangers, those idiots wouldn't have had the device to use a third time. "Sorry, you can't have this. We're going now."

Re:Two strikes (2, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339426)

You could wind up with a "cry wolf" situation, though. Much better to send the chopper up on the third strike, check that it's a false alarm, then airdrop actual wolves 200 yards uphill.

Re:Two strikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339590)

What part of "wouldn't have had the device to use a third time" did you not understand?

Re:Two strikes (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339594)

I prefer the proper response is to give the hikers location to the fire training planes as a safe place to do a training drop of 500 gallons of water.

Re:Two strikes (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339554)

Two? Pick them up the first time, take them down to the base, and present them with a bill for the flight. To use the other poster's metaphor, don't leave the boy who cried wolf with your sheep.

Evac Only (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339356)

One simple solution is to make it clear that if you activate an emergency beacon or request 911 assistance, you _WILL_ be taken back to park facilities. If you read TFA, you'll see that most of the complaints are regarding people requesting guides or supplies, but not wanting to cut their trip short. (The other accounts are of morons with digital cameras, who are no different than morons with film cameras, and seem to be used simply to fill out the article.)

In short, one rescue per trip. You can go out, but if we need to come get you, you can't go out again. (Exceptions could be made for animal attacks or physical injuries.)

EASY button. (1)

Wh15per (1526101) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339370)

This is a very simple problem to solve. Arrest the hikers for making false emergency calls. Fire the Rangers for getting duped the *third* time.

Re:EASY button. (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339398)

But what if the third time there really /was/ an emergency, like a rattler bite or a bear mauling? The Boy Who Cried Wolf is supposed to be a cautionary tale for the morons. Blame lawyers for taking the effect out of it.

Re:EASY button. (2, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339616)

They should have arrested the hikers the first time. There shouldn't have been a third time.

Darwinism in action (2, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339378)

Stupidity is nature's way of culling the dead wood. Mountains are there for a reason, and idiot climbers are proof that the gene pool can fix itself - but they aren't there for long, so admire nature at work before they tumble down!

People don't need tech to be stupid (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339382)

While technology may add to the miriad ways in which people can be stupid, there have always been accidents and deaths in wild places because people have gone there unprepared. People die in the Scottish mountains every year. I've been told a big problem is people driving a long way to get there, and despite the weather closing, deciding they really must climb Ben Nevis or whatever because they've only got the three days there, even though their expertise and kit is only good enough for fair weather. This is when the Mountain Rescue gets a call out and find people have got injured / hypothermia / died. GPS or no GPS you shouldn't go up a mountain in training shoes and the kind of clothes you go to the shops in, but people still do....

In the USA, Christopher McCandless [wikipedia.org] didn't need tech to make bad decisions either. Please be careful out there folks, you can die if you are unprepared.

Wisdom (4, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339402)

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. - Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Re:Wisdom (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339506)

Wow. What an incredibly stupid sig.

Let mother nature sort them out. (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339410)

GPS devices and such are just sticks in the wheels of mother nature. On one hand its good that more people discover nature and get a feel for it but somehow i dont think idiots like these people get the point.

Best paragraph... (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339502)

The park service itself has put technology to good use in countering the occasional unruliness of visitors. Last summer, several men who thought they had managed to urinate undetected into the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone were surprised to be confronted by rangers shortly after their stunt. It turns out that the park had installed a 24-hour camera so people could experience Old Faithful’s majesty online. Viewers spotted the men in action and called to alert the park.

I hope (for the park's sake) that the camera was duly announced...

Personally, I'd hate becoming caught on tape slinging a banana skin on a national monument after picnic...

The problem is.... (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339562)

We rescue these morons.

Honestly, Evolution is getting reversed because we save the "stupid" from getting killed. The news covers the death of a moron as "a tragedy" instead of , "and there's at least another idiot we dont have to deal with anymore"

Our society encourages Stupidity because the risk of death is reduced or removed. Let these idiots die, leave their bodies there as a warning to others.

Re:The problem is.... (2, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339740)

We rescue these morons.

Honestly, Evolution is getting reversed because we save the "stupid" from getting killed. The news covers the death of a moron as "a tragedy" instead of , "and there's at least another idiot we dont have to deal with anymore"

Our society encourages Stupidity because the risk of death is reduced or removed. Let these idiots die, leave their bodies there as a warning to others.

AFAIK, the technology as it stands right now allows the moron to call for help.

It does not allow the ranger to establish ahead of time if it's a moron who's crying for help or an experienced hiker with all the appropriate equipment who just happened to be unlucky.

Happens at the sea as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339654)

With GPS and autopilots, the same sort stuff happens also at the sea. I heard of a Finnish couple misprogramming their GPS, and following its directions carefully the whole day. When it announced that they had arrived, they had no idea where they were. Turns out they had been going west all day, instead of east, so they were pretty far from their home... They also had to call rescue, tell their precise coordinated, but admit that they had no idea where they were... Even worse are those speedboats that go on gps-autopilot exactly on the middle lane of the waterway without looking for other traffic. When two such boats meet, the results can be deadly...

It's risk management, not necessarily stupidity (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339672)

If I'm willing to take X amount of OVERALL risk without technology, and I have a tool that reduces my overall risk, I'm still willing to take X amount of OVERALL risk.

I'm willing to climb a 45-degree craggy rock without a rope. I'm not willing to do 50-meter sheer inclines even with good toe-holds. Give me a rope and an assistant and I'm willing to take the now-greatly-reduced risk to do sheer inclines for the payoff of the thrill and bragging rights.

Baxter State Park (1)

MalHavoc (590724) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339686)

I'm in Eastern Canada but do a lot of hiking in Maine, near Katahdin. Baxter State Park has a notice on their website specifically telling people to not use services like Tom Tom to find the park, or they will get completely lost or spend tons of time driving around for no good reason.

http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/ [baxterstat...hority.com]

I was bitten by Google Maps a few years ago when I was trying to find a small inlet to get into a trailhead. Google Maps gave me driving directions that ultimately had me crossing a channel on a ferry to an island I really had no business going to. Well, at least the banjo sounded nice.

Tech enabling? (4, Insightful)

Danathar (267989) | more than 3 years ago | (#33339700)

No. Stupidity enables Stupidity.

blaming tech for stupid people doing stupid things is well......stupid

Not a new problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339720)

Ever since the advent of the cell phone this problem has been around. As a volunteer firefighter we are called out quite often for false alarms because people don't take the time to think before they dial. A couple of examples: Call for jumper on overpass on the highway turned out to be a photographer on the train tracks. (Another death of curosity effect) and smoke coming from a dry cleaners building in the winter (AKA Steam)

Isn't the obvious solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33339724)

Isn't the obvious solution just to stop rescuing people?

If rescue services for people who can't handle the wilderness are too much of a drain on public reasorces, maybe we should stop going to such grate lengths to recue people.

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