Severe winds caused two large trees to fall onto two unsuspecting campers huddled in their tent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota last week. Suffering from multiple broken bones, the campers were able to call for help using a satellite phone.
Despite the transmission being garbled, rescuers were still able to locate the injured campers in the million-acre wilderness, and with great difficulty, get them to a hospital for treatment. Five other BWCA visitor were also injured during the storm, with winds exceeding 60-70 mph.
This situation illustrates the potential hazards of traveling and camping in desolate areas, where help is often miles and hours away. However, this situation also demonstrates a trend in communications, the increasing availability and use of satellite phones and other communication devices to stay connected and call for help during emergencies.
Satellite phones can be expensive and owner’s must pay a monthly fee for service. However, they may be rented for temporary use, such as a camping trip. Also, their reliability varies greatly depending on satellite access. Improved cellular coverage, including erecting more towers, would be another possible alternative to campers carrying satellite phones.
Campers and visitors to remote regions, such as state parks or other wilderness areas, are being urged to carry satellite phones, or SPOT messaging devices which allows a person to send text messages, in case of emergency. Often times, reception in these locations is all but nonexistent, making communication via traditional means difficult. Preparation is key, and having a means of communication is essential to ensuring a safe experience.