False alarms on the rise for search and rescue teams

More and more, hikers are inadvertently activating their Spot GPS markers.

In retirement, some people golf. Woody saves lives.

“I believe this year I’ve done 52 or so,” said Paul “Woody” Woodward. That’s 52 search and rescue missions in 2017. In total, he’s done more than 1,100. “I think it’s ingrained in us.”

As an unpaid professional for the Alpine Rescue Team and the President of the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, the 58-year-old is on call once a month for 2-10 days.

“It comes in numerous ways: through the sheriff’s office,” he said, pointing to the sheet that helps him find the latitude and longitude coordinates of the person who needs help.

But sometimes those calls get mixed up when hikers use GPS devices incorrectly.

"I think they need to read the directions first,” Woodward said. “They need to understand what the device is and what it can do."

Last weekend, nine volunteers from the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team climbed Mt. Sneffels and damaged an emergency vehicle, only to find that the hiker had inadvertently activated a SPOT Satellite Messenger.

“These are incredible devices that can help them, but they need to be very careful,” said Woodward.

This was the third false call from a GPS device in one month for the Ouray Mountain Team. While Woody wasn’t on that call, he’s seen this happen.

"The message that they received was, 'attacked by bear, send medical,'” said Woodward about a call a couple years ago.

When his team responded to that call with guns ready to protect themselves from a bear, they found a man asleep in his tent, unhurt. He had sent the wrong pre-programmed message from his SPOT.

"Putting the rescuers at risk is a huge thing with an increased number of calls,” said Woodward.

Average statewide rescue missions are up.

Woody wants to keep saving lives without rescue missions for people who don’t need rescuing.

If you want to donate to these volunteer rescue efforts, you can purchase a CORSAR card for a few bucks.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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