SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
Lost and found.
TRUE STORY: ABOUT a year ago one of SGR’s test divers was out scuba diving with a buddy on a local charter dive boat. Like so often happens in the coastal waters of Southern California, surface conditions took a turn for the worse while the divers were on the bottom. When they eventually surfaced they found themselves a distance from the boat and caught in a raging current that was quickly carrying them away from the dive site. These were both experienced divers, they knew it made no sense to try to swim against the current, so they inflated their BCs, deployed their signal tubes and settled in to wait for the dive boat to come pick them up.
They drifted for three hours, and were only rescued when a passing pleasure boat just happened to divert in their direction to see what was floating in the ocean. Once aboard, the divers radioed the crew on the dive boat who had been searching for them the whole time—the divers hadn’t been forgotten, the dive boat just couldn’t find them.
It all ended well, but it could’ve easily become one of those lost-at-sea stories you occasionally read in the newspaper. That’s what motivated the SGR dive team to search for a solution that would make sure such a close call never happened again. Enter the SPOT.
The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger is a satellite messaging and emergency communications device that you can use in virtually every corner of the planet. It allows for casual communication with friends and family when you just want to check in, but most importantly, it provides emergency assistance when you really need it—all at the push of a button.
How it Works
The Spot Messenger is linked to a global network of satellites that lets you quickly and easily send messages that include your GPS location. It provides three levels of communication: “Check-In,” “Help,” and “SOS.”
• The “Check-In” level is for non-emergencies when you find yourself in outlying areas where cell phone service doesn’t exist. In this mode you can let loved ones know that everything’s okay with a pre-programmed “I’m Okay!” message backed up with your GPS location. With the push of a button this information is sent via email or, using text messaging, through Short Message Service (SMS) to as many as 10 pre-loaded friends or family members.
• The “Help” button lets you notify friends/family that you are in need of assistance in the event of a low-level non-life-threatening emergency. This button can also be linked, for an additional fee, to professional recovery services like roadside assistance or Vessel Assist, both of which are great for when you're traveling in the back country or behind remote islands where you don’t have cell or VHF radio service.
• But by far the most important function on the SPOT, and the one that would have gotten SGR’s test diver and his buddy out of hot water, is the “SOS” button, which once pushed, notifies the GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center of your location every five minutes. GEOS alerts the appropriate agencies worldwide based on your location, including public service agencies like SAR (Sea-Air Rescue) as well as private rescue contractors.
What’s really cool about the SPOT, beyond its ability to help you get out of a scrape, is how easy it is to use. Once programmed with your message and your email and SMS contacts, all it takes is the simple push of a button to activate the system. Another big-time advantage of the SPOT is that you can easily do a systems check before heading out on the dive boat. All you do is include your email or phone number in the contact list, and push the “Check-In” button. Within minutes you’ll get your own message indicating your location and status. When you click the link in the email or text message it displays your latitude, longitude and shows your position on a map.
The SPOT is waterproof, but only to a depth of three feet—not quite enough to suit a diver’s needs. But SGR found a simple work-around to that. We bought an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera/housing package that’s depth-rated to 150 feet. We gave the camera to some local kids, then used the housing to stow our SPOT. Now we carry it with us in a BC pocket whenever we go diving, knowing that if we ever surface with no boat in sight, by popping the SPOT out of its housing and pushing a button, help is on the way.
The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger has helped initiate many rescues around the world, both on land and out at sea. SGR divers have been carrying one for about a year, we’ve used it often in “Check-In” mode while traveling in different parts of the world, and while we haven’t had to push its “Help” or “SOS” buttons, it’s nice to know they are there if we ever need them. Carrying the SPOT as part of our dive inventory, from California to the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world, we’re able to let our people know where we are and if we’re okay, and, more importantly, if we’re not. SGR
Price: $149.99, plus an annual service subscription of $99.99 that gives you unlimited use and messaging. Other features are available for additional charges. (Bonus: Residents of the U.S. and Canada can get a $50 mail-in rebate on a Spot Satellite GPS Messenger if purchased from a participating retailer. (This rebate is good through December 31, 2011.)
Warranty: 1-Yr. Ltd.