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Old 09-21-2017, 09:52 AM   #1
tenderfoot
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Online Trail register?

Ok, I have mentioned this in two threads but figured it might merit its own discussion and did not wish to hijack other threads.

The recent tragic loss of a hiker mirrors other instances. Two things that might have lead to a happier outcome were if the hiker was better equipped and if the search started sooner. These issues - filing a 'flight plan' for your hike and being equipped for the adverse conditions are well addressed in many threads. I have benefited greatly from reading through many of them.

My question: Would automating some of this have merit?

This is how I see it working, still fuzzy around the edges:
  1. You complete a form similar to the DEC trip Tick shared recently by Justin. But the form is online. You would most likely have to complete it prior to your trip - where you have connectivity to the web.
  2. A polite reminder of minimal gear requirements, similar to what is on DEC trip tick.
  3. No cost to either you or DEC/State
  4. After your expected return time passes you need to close out your trip tick. Similar to Trail Registers (not intended to replace using trail registers). If you fail to do so the system sends a friendly reminder to you via text.
  5. If no response after a suitable time the system sends another reminder to you and the contact(s) you listed. The reminder includes a link - one click and your trip tick is closed.
  6. After three reminders and no response something happens. It could be your contacts are sent instructions on how to get in touch with DEC. It could be that the people behind the system do this on your behalf. Think of what goes on with automated home security alarms. The company calls the authorities with details of the issue after first trying to reach the property owner.
  7. Other than with authorities in an emergency response - No sharing of any information submitted, other than 'aggregate' (ex we've helped this many hikers). Even a delete option to 'leave no trace' of the info you entered. There were some interesting comments about what info about search was shared and what was not. This system would only share with the contacts you listed and authorities.

My motivation with this:
  • I think from what I am reading if the search started sooner for the last missing hiker things may have ended differently - similar to the couple stranded on Algonquin last winter. They had worse weather but better notification about being overdue.
  • I feel a personal debt to this community. I have benefited greatly from shared wisdom. I build web applications as my day job. I work at a University so most of the stuff I do is focused on positive outcomes for people rather than shareholder benefit (nothing wrong with that, just different than what I do).
  • My hiking partner and daughter is looking for a Girl Scout Gold project. She has been talking about introducing young people to Leave No Trace, Hammock Camping, or general outdoors. This project would prove a bit edgier for her, and maybe assist more people. I teach Univ Students how to set things like this up, and she is younger but smarter than some of the students I work with. She would have a great deal of ownership with this project.

My Questions
Where are the holes in my thinking?

Even if you are an experienced hiker, and have your own system in place. Would you try this out? Part of it could be the ability to print your info to leave with the people you usually leave info with.

Do you find this objectionable in any way? Either the app or me soliciting feedback for this non-commercial idea here.

Any ideas on other value added features that would make this attractive to use.

Has this already been done?

Even if most people do not use this it can easily pass the cost versus benefit test. No burden on SAR folks. Hopefully helpful since they can dictate what info they find most useful rather than trying to tease it out of a distressed relative.

I'd welcome any thoughts on this - pro or con



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Old 09-21-2017, 12:41 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenderfoot View Post
[*]No cost to either you or DEC/State
[*] After your expected return time passes you need to close out your trip tick. Similar to Trail Registers (not intended to replace using trail registers). If you fail to do so the system sends a friendly reminder to you via text.

I'd welcome any thoughts on this - pro or con-
nothing has no cost to DEC/State.

You assume that everyone participates in text. Email or traditional telephone call, maybe. I do not do text, it being only one small step above tapping Morse Code, which I have long ago forgotten. I do not read or respond to the inconvenience of awkward text, not when I have devices that actually have speaking by voice technology automatically built in.
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Old 09-21-2017, 12:59 PM   #3
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I can't think of any "holes in your thinking". The main hurdle is an old one, namely getting people to use it. That's the real challenge.

Telling someone where you're going and when you're returning is old advice that Alex Stevens did not follow. All he needed to do was send the info to a friend in a text message or email (or via many other convenient ways).

If your online form, or app, is even more convenient (or enticing) than just firing off a text/email, then you got something there. Otherwise, it's no more likely to be used by the next Alex Stevens.
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Old 09-21-2017, 01:06 PM   #4
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I am not a lawyer, but I could imagine the state opening itself up to liability with such a system. Someone signs in, it doesn't register, they don't get out, or it allows them to sign in and then glitches and doesn't report them not out of the woods, I'm sure there is some law firm that will be eager to take that case. I don't see anything wrong with people leaving their itinerary with friends and family with an expectation of when they would be getting out and if they haven't let that contact person know, and the DEC is contacted. It's pretty simple.
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Old 09-21-2017, 01:25 PM   #5
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I just posted something along the very same line then came back to this thread to discover you're thinking along the same legal lines.

My thinking was about suing a steward/46ers who failed to discourage an unprepared hiker who ultimately dies. Perhaps the next of kin wouldn't sue a non-profit like the ADK 46ers. However, your example, where the state runs a "messaging system", is a juicier target for a hungry law firm. Obviously the state would need a solid disclaimer to protect them in the event the system fails to work as advertised.

Messy, messy, messy. So much simpler to just inform a trusted family member or friend.
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Old 09-21-2017, 02:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
I

My thinking was about suing a steward/46ers who failed to discourage an unprepared hiker who ultimately dies. Perhaps the next of kin wouldn't sue a non-profit like the ADK 46ers.
I have a message out to the other stewards and to the 46er in charge of the program to ask what our protection is in this situation. I'll keep you posted.
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:11 PM   #7
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One hole would be timing. When would the hiker have to register? One week before the trip? One day? Six hours? I often (and probably many others) go on the spur of the moment; sun comes out at 10 am, I load the pack and go.

Would the DEC need more lead time for this system to work?

Although your idea has merit, I think being prepared, letting someone know where you're going and signing in might just be the way to go. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) can go a long way. A GPS is nice, but a proper map and compass never run out of batteries.

Last edited by dundee; 09-21-2017 at 04:09 PM..
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:47 PM   #8
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Did this hiker originally sign in at the Works trail head....???
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:54 PM   #9
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Did this hiker originally sign in at the Works trail head....???
He did sign in the Upper Works register. The DEC does not check those books automatically.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:16 PM   #10
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First off - great feedback one and all. Thank you.

Thoughts on questions posted so far:

"nothing has no cost to DEC/State."
Ok, DEC would not be paying for development or administration of it the way I currently envision it. It would result in cost when they get a call that someone goes missing; but that cost exists already. They might enjoy nominal savings if the call came in with the information they want in a format they want. Not envisioning it run by DEC. Their role would be similar to local police department when private security firm calls them to report an alarm.

You assume that everyone participates in text.
I have a cell but I have friends and relatives that still enjoy not having one. And my cell is wonky - frequently dies in the bush. I said the 3rd strike could be 'something happens'. This certainly could be a phone call. But I have friends without cell phones so they would have to list home phone and be careful with their 'if not back by' date time. Or not use this. Not meant to replace trail register or using friends and family. Also - think of the demographic. Not of the people that go into the woods; but of the people that require assistance once they are in there. I have heard Social Media blamed for this.

"The main hurdle is an old one, namely getting people to use it. That's the real challenge."
Important if your goal is to gather customers. The goal here would be for a Girl Scout to provide a public service that could possibly helps people. If cost is low and use is low no worries. If cost is high and use is low we cant do it. If cost is low and use is high - hot dog!

even more convenient (or enticing)
I leave times, maps, phone numbers with my wife. She still is unsure with what to do with all of that. The DEC Trip Card is something I will use with her from now on - does a great job. Thanks Justin. If this application is easy to use for the hiker and gets the info to authorities in a format they find easy to use that is a win/win. I have not tested yet if my wife can deliver the information to the DEC when we are lost in a way they can use. I am sure though they are very good at asking the right questions - but why not get the info gift wrapped the way they like it.


"Otherwise, it's no more likely to be used by the next Alex Stevens."

Leaving info with friends/family is the best thing. Occasionally I just want to get away quickly. Occasionally I get a lot of questions about why I am going instead of where and when. And questions about if the lawn needs mowing, shed need painting, etc.

state opening itself up to liability
Not the State. Their responsibility would be picking up the phone when a 3rd party calls to report someone missing with details on when/where. So responsibility shifts to the company/organization running the app. Usually handled with a waiver, bu$ine$$ in$urance and incorporation. If an LLC was set up for just this endeavor and it was sued the plaintiff could get all of the assets - which in this case would be the app itself. This is probably the idea killer though. Daughter also wanted to rent equipment online and we looked into this and it was not encouraging.

glitches
Yes. It can be tested and tested and as a web app is less prone to local issues. But it would be at the mercy of connectivity. Actual trail registers are vulnerable as well. And who is to say that a friend not so familiar with the risks of your trip forgot to call it in? Waiver again. Advice that this should be your secondary tool. I'm curious how SPOT handles this for their locator beacon.

It's pretty simple.
Right. Another reason why I suspect as a few of you have said that this may not be worth while. So I would revise one of my questions: do you see value in using it in addition to what you do now? Asking myself this I think I'd try it but unless something happens the benefit of getting Trip Tick data to the DEC is suspect.

suing a steward/46ers
Would look into good Samartin laws. "some states extend Good Samaritan liability protection to cover business and nonprofit entities acting during an emergency." For this purpose if an established protocol acceptable to DEC was attempted but failed through no fault of the individual / organization... Certainly an obstacle.

One hole would be timing.
Phew! An easy one. The system would not care. Would have to have edit abilities - so if you planned a trip in advance and wished to cancel it. Although when you got the 1st 'are you ok' message that would be great. If you got to trail head and did not have connectivity you'd be out of luck. If I stopped at a thruway exit, submitted form, no issues.

KISS
No arguments there.

The general premise was to provide some of the services a trail steward may provide (although I do not think they reconcile trail registers). Similar to the DEC Trip Tick but maybe more accessible for those digital natives. Would be interesting to see data on demographics of SAR but it seems some of these hikers are younger 'digital natives' that occasionally think themselves invincible. I am intrigued by the idea of putting a gear list and weather report in front of the person as they complete form. With the bit of advice about altitude changing temps, etc.

So in the words of Monty Python this idea is "not dead yet...", would welcome additional thoughts.

And again, thank you to all who responded so far.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:21 PM   #11
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The DEC does not check those books automatically.

Bingo. They do not have the resources. The online register would be a shadow register that checks itself and alerts - after first attempting to contact registrant through contact info registrant provided.

So DEC would get notification for people that are a) overdue and b) unresponsive to contacting (texts than calls(?)). And the notification would include info from their Trip Tick - more than what is available in register (ex: no check mark for 'compass', hmm...)
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:35 PM   #12
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Classic over complication here. A complex technical solution is not required. Trail Boss and Gebbyfish have already given you the answer.

I always hike solo. There is an erasable whiteboard on our refrigerator. When I leave for a hike, I write down my exact itinerary, the DEC emergency number, and a specific time by which if I have not returned (or called), my wife should call DEC. It works flawlessly. Have never had to call DEC but the information is always there just in case. It's called personal responsibility.

Forget trail stewards, trip tickets, electronic databases, cross referencing trail registers, and having rangers try to keep track of people. As Trail Boss implied, the above simple act of personal responsibility might well have saved Alex Stevens.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:42 PM   #13
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Tenderfoot, I applaud you and your daughter for thinking on this to avoid tragedies in the future, but honestly, people don't even think to bring food, proper clothing, map, compass, even water on their hikes. How do we make them utilize this service or even know about it? When a permit system/day ticket system was in force, I think it was scrubbed because the rangers couldn't possibly check everyone for one. How do we make people do this? I don't want rangers reduced to asking, "Did you log your hike itinerary in the XYZ system?". I want more rangers and I want hikers to research their hikes before they go out in the woods and know what they're up against.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:43 PM   #14
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Quote:
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... do you see value in using it in addition to what you do now? ...
Not me, no.

What I do now is similar to what Richard70 described.
  • I tell my wife verbally and I leave her a written note.
  • The note states where I will start, the peaks I plan to climb (and any extras in case I "feel good"), along with a call-back time.
  • If she doesn't hear from me by the call-back time (like say 7:00 PM), that's her first indication something could be amiss.
  • If she doesn't hear from me by midnight, our agreed-upon deadline, she calls the DEC which is programmed into the phone ("ADK Ranger", first entry in the list).

I've considered replacing the note with an email but she likes the handwritten note.

I've spent most of my working life in IT management, notably the development and implementation of software systems. I spent a lot of time doing the Jedi mind trick of convincing people "you don't need that feature". Complications are for watch faces and not for efficient systems.

Where automated systems excel is when you can get synergy. For example, did you know the DEC promotes a free app called Pocket Ranger?

http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/96470.html
(Don't feel bad if you never heard of it.)

If you were to include your "online trail-register" into Pocket Ranger it'll leverage the app's existing features ... and the app benefits from your addition. It becomes more valuable, and appealing, to potential customers.

Full Disclosure: I know of the app but have never used it.

EDIT
Just tried the app. Not nearly as useful as it's description leads you to believe. Very little info for hikers, such as camping regulations. App mostly feels like a browser to access the DEC website's content. Some reference material is stored offline but many things need Internet access. After a quick appraisal, this may not be the best horse to hitch your wagon to.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:59 PM   #15
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I'm all in for 'Retina Scanners'...
https://youtu.be/zhpCu-ZJiu4
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Old 09-21-2017, 09:06 PM   #16
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Minor nuisances:

What if you arrive at the planned TH and find the parking full or sign that trail conditions are poor (beaver flooding, etc) or can't get to the TH due to weather/road conditions/road work/etc or for whatever other reason decide to go to a different destination?

Who at DEC will receive the alerts? Supposing you can put this as a 'premium' feature for which the used has to pay, but still who gets the alert? Dispatch? how many dispatchers do they have - do they have the time to track down the contacts and find out if the 'subject' is really overdue / in trouble? (No cost?)

What prevents some bozo from filing a bunch of fake reports and swamping the system with fake alerts?

I see little if any value in such a system (other than selling 'apps'), emergency alert devices are already available (though not free) and proper planning and contingency works much more reliably.
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Old 09-21-2017, 09:11 PM   #17
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Did this hiker originally sign in at the Works trail head....???
In case anyone missed it in the original post of this thread: http://www.adkforum.com/showthread.php?t=24715
Quote:
An entry in the trailhead register dated September 2, indicates he planned to spend three days in the wilderness.

Last edited by Justin; 09-21-2017 at 09:22 PM..
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Old 09-21-2017, 10:00 PM   #18
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No.
Just no.
Responsible humans will set up travel plans and keep in touch with their loved ones.
You can already use a SPOT or InReach device. Cell phones, while coverage can be spotty are nearly ubiquitous in the back and side country (I had the pleasure of listening to a woman arguing about her work schedule from the top of Camels Hump last fall), etc. etc.
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Old 09-22-2017, 05:21 AM   #19
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I'm not big on regulating things, but if there's one thing that should somehow be required, especially in the High Peaks, it is map and compass skills and to have them with you. Imagine it as being a life-vest for hikers.
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Old 09-22-2017, 07:02 AM   #20
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Just throwing this in because people can't follow the rules/guidelines/suggestions.

http://poststar.com/blogs/adam_colve...631c8c3fc.html

Why bring a drone to a balloon festival???
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