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Cell phones, camera's, etc. cause mishaps and false emergencies within national parks

National parks all over the United States have had problems in the past involving visitors being injured by wildlife, touching scalding hot geysers and so on. While incidents like these are bad enough, rangers within the national parks are now saying that technology is a key component that's helping to cause these mishaps. To make matters worse, visitors are using their technology for non emergency-related purposes.

Yellowstone National Park, for example, has had a record number of visitor-related accident's during the month of July, and according to rangers, technology is often to blame. Recently, the park had an issue with a visitor who got a little too close to a buffalo in order to obtain a picture, and it charged toward the woman causing injury.

This isn't the only case where a camera got a visitor into trouble. Just this month, a French teenager fell 75 feet from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon while backing up to take a picture. 

While both of these accidents were careless, they were legitimate emergencies that called for rescuing. What has rangers frustrated with visitors is when they use their technology to call rangers for "emergencies" that are not really emergencies at all.

"Every once in awhile 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," said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. "The answer is that you are up there for the night."

Another instance of emergency misuse on a cell phone was when a group of hikers traveled to the Grand Canyon last fall and constantly pressed the emergency rescue button on their electronic device (which does not allow the sender to explain why they're calling for help) and every time the rangers showed up in a helicopter, the group would have an excuse like their water was too salty, or they were short on water. By the third time that this had happened, the group was sent home and the leader was issued a citation. 

Park rangers not only lose time dealing with potential real emergencies when these incidents occur, but they also lose a hefty amount of money. According to Maureen Oltrogge, a spokeswoman for Grand Canyon National Park, it costs about $3,400 an hour to send a helicopter into the park. 

"Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued," said Skaggs. 

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RE: So it would be better..
By MrBlastman on 8/24/2010 10:36:48 AM , Rating: 4
the group was sent home and the leader was issued a citation.
This needs to happen more often, IMO.

The tools hiking in the Grand Canyon definitely did not belong there and sending them home was the right thing to do. The fact they called help just because their water was salty and then later ran out of water--shows they did not have the skills nor the knowledge to be in that Canyon. They had no business hiking in there.

It is absolutely amazing how many people have no clue of the outdoors--none. I see it all the time when hiking or camping in national parks and you can clearly tell this by the plethora of people who consider bringing a camper to a park (with a gas stove, power lines, water, showers etc.) as camping. The truth is though, it isn't camping at all, it is leisurely vacationing.

Being an Eagle Scout, I've seen my share of "real" camping, hiking out into the wild for days without carrying in any water at all with me, except for either a pot to boil with or a bottle of iodine tablets to purify the water (powdered kool-aid mix does wonders to make it taste better). Of course, there is a line between this and pure survival camping (where you hunt your own food and live off the land completely). The thing is, if you are going to attempt camping or activities such as this, the ole' motto "Be Prepared" really has a dramatic amount of truth to it.

If you aren't prepared, or not willing to take the time to learn the skills necessary to be in situations you might encounter in the wild, don't take the extra risk and know your limits. The story of the individual summiting and getting stuck--that can happen as weather does change rapidly out in the wild; checking the weather before you go on your treck helps as well.

But, as a scout (if you make Eagle, you're one for life), you're taught that if people are in distress, are lost, need help or whatever, you do the right thing and provide assistance to them without any requirements--such as them compensating you for the help. It is the right thing to do. We can't help that people are going to be in the wild that don't belong there, but, as people, it is the right thing to do to help them if you have the knowledge and the know how.

Requiring everyone to financially compensate park services for their rescue is a mixed bag. The Rangers take an oath to serve the wild and help the people in it--so, they really are just doing their jobs by being there. We have money allocated by the Federal budget (very small amounts of money, actually) to pay for these rangers and if people don't need to be saved, the Rangers are busy doing other things.

Our national parks are one of the greatest treasures of our nation. If anything, we do not need to discourage people from adventuring in them--telling them: if you mess up, you're screwed or you owe a lot of money, well, that kind of goes against the spirit of it. If people legitimately go into the wild and screw up, they shouldn't have to worry about the repercussions and instead, let the Rangers do their jobs and rescue the people. Too few people venture outdoors these days to begin with, we more people wanting to get outside.

Our Parks are there for a reason, people shouldn't be afraid to use them. Although, IF they are venturing into them, they need to be prepared for what they might face and try and be responsible adults about it.

If they're tools, like the Grand Canyoners, they shouldn't be anywhere near a national park and being banned/kicked out from parks around the country works for me. There is so much to see in our great parks, so much that there is no reason to be trying to text on a phone, read email, watch movies etc.,--the real excitement is through your two eyeballs and all the wilds around. Pictures are great, but please, understand the risks before trying to take them.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

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