Friday, June 12, 2009

Other ways of staying in touch

Some interesting and relevant comments on a forum I posted on yesterday raised some valid suggestions for keeping safe while travelling (while getting a little narky that I would post a link to a “commercial” website. Ok, shoot me, I believe people should know about this thing!)

1)I don't want another expensive gizmo to weigh down my backpack
2)Why not just tell the consulate where you're going, and then tell them when you are OK afterwards, and they'll come looking for you if you don't show up.
3)Regular emails to a family member should be enough.
4)Just use your mobile phone and call for help if you need it.

All fair enough points. However, as I replied:

Sarwatch does not add an ounce to your backpack, and is free to use (although it does cost two-fifths of stuff-all if you want to add SMS messaging to run it from your mobile phone).

Telling the consulate is a great idea, and infact something that I recommend strongly on the MyRedFlare website. However, it is a little like a Ranger's logbook... they will only do something if someone jumps up and down and makes a fuss. Who will do this if you go missing in a foreign land, and when will this happen?

I could tell you a story about a young fellow who did indeed send regular emails to his parents, right up to the point where they did not receive their usual 3-day message. Unfortunately when the concerns of the parents were raised with the authorities they discounted this information as being “the unreliability of youth”. No attention was made to the fact that the parents considered this out of character and unusual. Without going into excessive detail, I will say that the delay in the official reaction was unfortunate (in the extreme), and really should never have happened. This example has been a key driver in the continued development of our Sarwatch system... there MUST be more evidence for the authorities that a young traveller wants to be taken seriously. A regular email contact has been shown to NOT be enough.

As for the mobile phone, this is a fantastic suggestion but, as recent events have shown in Australia, even mobile phone contact may not save you. In a recent occurrence a young fellow was lost in the bush but managed to make a few 000 (emergency) phone calls... he was abandoned to his fate because he was not able to provide a cross-street name to the 000 operator. Do you believe it? Our Sarwatch system is designed to get trusted people involved so as not to rely solely on others.

It was suggested by the poster on the forum in question that I was being overly paranoid in my point of view. My reply was that I believe in the “umbrella principle”... “if you take your umbrella then it will not rain” and then you can enjoy a beautiful day. In this context, simple precautions while travelling against the unlikely event of going missing-in-action (for whatever reason) would seem to be a given.

There is no way I can say that our Sarwatch system WILL save you if things go wrong when you travel. In fact, I make it very clear on our website that our system is experimental and must only be considered as a secondary means of notification or information.

However, it is easy to use and just might help. What have you got to lose? Don't be paranoid when you travel but, then again, don't be stupid either. Tell someone where you are going.

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