Debrief on InReach Communications

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1Louder

Rank VI
Member

Advocate I

3,228
AZ
Member #

1437

Ham Callsign
K1LDR
Not sure what the title of this should be. The short version. A friend hailed me for help yesterday via his InReach. The long version is below on what I think went well and what didn't. Hopefully this helps a few folks. I am a strong believer in owning this type of product. While this particular event was not life threatening they could save your life one day. Ok here goes....

First and foremost the InReach is an amazing device. I have no regrets purchasing one or paying for the basic monthly plan. Here is an example of a friend contacting me in need of assistance with his. No cell service available. I will list some key points and expand on why I think they are important and what information I think was missing. I am not saying I am the ultimate expert on this. These are just my opinions and suggestions. I too have asked for help via my InReach device and have left proactive breadcrumbs (waypoints) when I was in spots I was not comfortable in during solo explorations.

I received the following InReach message this weekend.
"I have a non-life threatening problem but need your help ASAP. It would be good if you brought water, food, first aid supply’s, an off-road truck and tie downs” InReach also includes the coordinates and a link to a map.

What My Friend Did Right!
He asked for help and owns this key piece of equipment. Peak summer temps in the AZ desert mean the quicker you can get help the better.

He stated it was non-life threatening. No injuries. I am sure if it was he would have used the SOS service on the InReach but still this is a key point. I know he is generally well prepared so he probably had food, water, shelter….

Here are a few key points this message did not include:
  • Are you solo?
  • Was this a group message or just to me?
  • Are you in your truck or motorcycle (This buddy does both)
  • What’s the issue? Out of gas? Stuck? Mechanical?
  • Do you need food and water or anything else?
Are You Solo?
It is always good to know who you are dealing with. If it was him and his wife then I knew she couldn’t assist.

Was This A Group Message?
You can’t see if a InReach message was sent to a group like you can with traditional text messages. No need to have X number of different people come out to rescue. He had sent messages to a bunch of different people but none of us knew this.

What Vehicle Are You In?
He has both a truck and rides motorcycles. Helpful to know.

What Is The Issue?
KEY POINT!
I know you need help. But what kind of help. I may or may not have the right equipment. I may or may not need additional resources to help you.

Do You Need Food or Water?
In other words do I need to bring supplies for other than me

What I Think I Did Right:
  • I tried to get additional information from him before just bolting out the door
  • I asked for help from another friend (2nd vehicle safety in numbers)
  • I made sure I had the waypoint loaded in Gaia GPS (My preferred app) and made sure I had the map layers downloaded for offline use. I also plotted a route to make it easier to follow. Adding waypoints at key turns would have been fine. I could have done with the Delorme app as well since I own an InReach but Gaia is more powerful.
  • I made sure I had lots of extra water, food, my first aid kit, all of my recovery gear, paper maps, etc. So if for some reason I got stuck I would be prepared myself.
  • I told others where I was going
  • I told my friend which HAM frequencies I would be on (1 nearby repeater and one simplex)
  • I had my InReach so I could communicate with him when I lost cell service
  • I would have told him when I was leaving pavement and also my wife to give an ETA
The End Result:
In this instance my initial assumption was my friend was stranded in his truck with his wife. This was incorrect. It turns out his wife was at home and she ended up doing the actual rescue. I was notified a bit late. That’s ok. She was concerned about getting lost herself but was able to have her husband meet her at a known location. If an InReach message is sent to you via your phone or email you can simply reply to it. What I didn’t know from the original message was that he was out with a friend on motorcycles. His friends bike was disabled. He was able to drive out to a spot for phone service. Because of this his replies to me were delayed. He couldn’t text and drive. All arrived home safely and I was able to do a practice drill. Nothing wrong with that.

Suggestions:

Create an Emergency Contact List:

Create a list of people you trust. You might have multiple lists. If you send a “SOS” tell the folks which people are on the list. Then those that are available can communicate via text or phone call. Who is available? Who is the closest? Give the lists names if you want to save on the characters you type in the InReach. Each message is only 160 characters. Understandable short hand is very useful.

Come up with a format all of you can understand to make things easy.
  1. Non Emergency or Emergency
  2. No injuries or type of injury(s)
  3. I am in my truck/bike
  4. I am solo - I am with
  5. I have texted the group (Then we can coordinate)
  6. I have food/water
  7. I need or don’t need
Turn on MapShare! You can password protect this but if your InReach device is on people who have access can see where you are, send you a message via web browser or ping your location to see if you have moved.

The common sense one. Tell people where you are going and when you plan on being back. So if all else fails someone will start to look for you at some point.

I hope some folks find this useful and I am totally open to other suggestions.
 
Last edited:

Wawa Skittletits

US East Region Member Rep
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Advocate I

3,746
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
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Drew
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Good information. I’ve used an inreach for nearly 2 years and appreciate you making me think about how to best take advantage of this incredibly useful, potentially life saving, tool.
 
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Jedi

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Advocate I

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This is a great write-up! Thank you for sharing your experience with this, @1Louder. Your list of items to communicate is great, the only thing I would change is on 2. make it choices of: Injury; Mechanical; Injury & Mechanical. That frames the rest of the communication.
 

1Louder

Rank VI
Member

Advocate I

3,228
AZ
Member #

1437

Ham Callsign
K1LDR
This is a great write-up! Thank you for sharing your experience with this, @1Louder. Your list of items to communicate is great, the only thing I would change is on 2. make it choices of: Injury; Mechanical; Injury & Mechanical. That frames the rest of the communication.
I talk too much and write too much! So that is a good suggestion! :)
 

Tuffmag

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Supporter +

Contributor II

355
Fayetteville
First Name
Kevin
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McCoy
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18200

Great read- looks like add to my pack as I grow in my endeavors to complete my off-road survival gear. Thanks, guys as always for sharing information
 
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Roger Jeffery

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Member

Contributor I

233
Harlingen, TX
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ROGER
Last Name
JEFFERY
Member #

18157

Not sure what the title of this should be. The short version. A friend hailed me for help yesterday via his InReach. The long version is below on what I think went well and what didn't. Hopefully this helps a few folks. I am a strong believer in owning this type of product. While this particular event was not life threatening they could save your life one day. Ok here goes....

First and foremost the InReach is an amazing device. I have no regrets purchasing one or paying for the basic monthly plan. Here is an example of a friend contacting me in need of assistance with his. No cell service available. I will list some key points and expand on why I think they are important and what information I think was missing. I am not saying I am the ultimate expert on this. These are just my opinions and suggestions. I too have asked for help via my InReach device and have left proactive breadcrumbs (waypoints) when I was in spots I was not comfortable in during solo explorations.

I received the following InReach message this weekend.
"I have a non-life threatening problem but need your help ASAP. It would be good if you brought water, food, first aid supply’s, an off-road truck and tie downs” InReach also includes the coordinates and a link to a map.

What My Friend Did Right!
He asked for help and owns this key piece of equipment. Peak summer temps in the AZ desert mean the quicker you can get help the better.

He stated it was non-life threatening. No injuries. I am sure if it was he would have used the SOS service on the InReach but still this is a key point. I know he is generally well prepared so he probably had food, water, shelter….

Here are a few key points this message did not include:
  • Are you solo?
  • Was this a group message or just to me?
  • Are you in your truck or motorcycle (This buddy does both)
  • What’s the issue? Out of gas? Stuck? Mechanical?
  • Do you need food and water or anything else?
Are You Solo?
It is always good to know who you are dealing with. If it was him and his wife then I knew she couldn’t assist.

Was This A Group Message?
You can’t see if a InReach message was sent to a group like you can with traditional text messages. No need to have X number of different people come out to rescue. He had sent messages to a bunch of different people but none of us knew this.

What Vehicle Are You In?
He has both a truck and rides motorcycles. Helpful to know.

What Is The Issue?
KEY POINT!
I know you need help. But what kind of help. I may or may not have the right equipment. I may or may not need additional resources to help you.

Do You Need Food or Water?
In other words do I need to bring supplies for other than me

What I Think I Did Right:
  • I tried to get additional information from him before just bolting out the door
  • I asked for help from another friend (2nd vehicle safety in numbers)
  • I made sure I had the waypoint loaded in Gaia GPS (My preferred app) and made sure I had the map layers downloaded for offline use. I also plotted a route to make it easier to follow. Adding waypoints at key turns would have been fine. I could have done with the Delorme app as well since I own an InReach but Gaia is more powerful.
  • I made sure I had lots of extra water, food, my first aid kit, all of my recovery gear, paper maps, etc. So if for some reason I got stuck I would be prepared myself.
  • I told others where I was going
  • I told my friend which HAM frequencies I would be on (1 nearby repeater and one simplex)
  • I had my InReach so I could communicate with him when I lost cell service
  • I would have told him when I was leaving pavement and also my wife to give an ETA
The End Result:
In this instance my initial assumption was my friend was stranded in his truck with his wife. This was incorrect. It turns out his wife was at home and she ended up doing the actual rescue. I was notified a bit late. That’s ok. She was concerned about getting lost herself but was able to have her husband meet her at a known location. If an InReach message is sent to you via your phone or email you can simply reply to it. What I didn’t know from the original message was that he was out with a friend on motorcycles. His friends bike was disabled. He was able to drive out to a spot for phone service. Because of this his replies to me were delayed. He couldn’t text and drive. All arrived home safely and I was able to do a practice drill. Nothing wrong with that.

Suggestions:

Create an Emergency Contact List:

Create a list of people you trust. You might have multiple lists. If you send a “SOS” tell the folks which people are on the list. Then those that are available can communicate via text or phone call. Who is available? Who is the closest? Give the lists names if you want to save on the characters you type in the InReach. Each message is only 160 characters. Understandable short hand is very useful.

Come up with a format all of you can understand to make things easy.
  1. Non Emergency or Emergency
  2. No injuries or type of injury(s)
  3. I am in my truck/bike
  4. I am solo - I am with
  5. I have texted the group (Then we can coordinate)
  6. I have food/water
  7. I need or don’t need
Turn on MapShare! You can password protect this but if your InReach device is on people who have access can see where you are, send you a message via web browser or ping your location to see if you have moved.

The common sense one. Tell people where you are going and when you plan on being back. So if all else fails someone will start to look for you at some point.

I hope some folks find this useful and I am totally open to other suggestions.
Thank you
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1Louder

Roger Jeffery

Rank I
Member

Contributor I

233
Harlingen, TX
First Name
ROGER
Last Name
JEFFERY
Member #

18157

I purchased the InReach yesterday. Love to ride Mountain Bikes in the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife refuge. No cell signal in a lot of it and I have seen lots of rattle snakes. Heading to Big Bend National Park Sunday. Glad I came across your post!
 

Traveler I

1,747
Phoenix, AZ
Great post!

One thing I'd add, operating an InReach is not intuitively obvious to everyone. I try to make sure when traveling with a group that someone else knows at least the basics of how to operate my device.

I usually designate a person, or persons, as overwatch. They need to know the basics of my trip, what to expect in a message and what I expect them to do. Often that may be calling SAR or a local vehicle recovery company. In the US, SAR is run out of the county Sheriff's office almost exclusively. Your overwatch needs to know that and what number to call. Likewise, I will research recovery outfits ahead of time and leave that information as well. Having them follow along periodically on the MapShare page is invaluable. I back that up with a preset message once in camp that all is well.

OK, that's 2 things.

InReach is a very nice tool. Like all tools, its usefulness depends on the user's skill level. Best to practice that before you really need it.

Again, very useful post (as usual) 1Louder. Thanks.
 

Captain Chaos

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Supporter +

Advocate II

3,136
Liberty Lake, WA, USA
First Name
Mark
Last Name
Gilmer
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KI7TFB
Lots of great information here! Thank you for posting.

I have an inReach also. This posts made me think about the solo trip I’m planning on taking to Arizona, Nevada, and who knows where else. My wife would feel much better if she knew I had people prearranged to contact if I need help. Before I go, I’ll post on the forum asking for those who would be willing to help. Maybe we should have a sticky or something for that. Maybe on the regional threads?
 

Bluesman

Rank I
Member

Traveler I

263
Arizona, USA
Member #

13665

Thanks 1Louder, really good info. I'm a solo operator w/no social safety net. I have inReach, but never thought about how I might use it other than SOS in an all out emergency.