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Does mandated precaution breed recklessness?

 
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 07:22 am
"And besides, it wrinkles my dress..." is a phrase those of us above a certain age might remember. It was part of a PR campaign to get people to use seatbelts by offering up some of the excuses people used not to wear them.

I was thinking about this phrase today while reading updates on the hikers lost on Mt. Hood -- the experienced hikers who went out without a locator beacon. One hiker has been found dead. Two others are still missing.

There have been many attempts to enact laws forcing hikers to wear the beacons but they have never passed mostly due to the Portland Mountain Rescue's insistence that forcing people to carry beacons will encourage them to take chances they wouldn't ordinarily take. They argue that many easy rescues would sap resources more than a few massive rescues and rescue attempts. "A false sense of security" is a term that is used over and over again.

What do you think?

And....

What give you a sense of security that might be false?
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Type: Question • Score: 5 • Views: 2,444 • Replies: 20
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 07:29 am
I'll answer my own question...

My dog, Diamond, gives me a sense of security. He's absolutely devoted to us and never ever fails to enthusiastically greet me at the door.

I came home the other day and Diamond did not greet me. I checked the outside gate (even though he doesn't wander) and it was closed. It was weird. I called for him and called for him and got no response. I called Mr. B just to make sure he didn't have the dog with him.

Mr. B starts freaking out -- "GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!" "GET OUT OF THE HOUSE RIGHT NOW!" He insisted that I find someone to go in the house with me so I walked down the street and got my neighbor J. Mr. B stayed on the line as J and I went into the house.

Diamond heard J's voice and immediately started barking furiously. He had somehow closed himself in a basement closet while I was out. He was fine. Everything was fine.

I've thought about this incident a lot since then -- how I trust the dog to keep me safe.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 07:45 am
@boomerang,
It's interesting. I'm thinking.

I don't think I'm willing to make a general judgment that applies to all mandated precaution. I think it's too dependent on circumstances and specific cost/ benefit.

For example, I really do get the Portland Mountain Rescue's perspective here. I tend to think they're correct -- that some people who would normally say that the risk was too high would say "well, but if anything goes wrong we have a beacon at least." And that it might be what helps them decide to take a bigger risk than they would otherwise, which multiplied many times would mean more rescue situations which would strain the PMR's resources.

As for what gives me a sense of security that might be false... neighbors, probably. I'm always kind of keeping an eye on things and I think they're doing the same, but maybe they're not/ maybe there are more gaps than I think.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:13 am
@boomerang,
How much do the beacons cost?

I suggest handing them out for free, with a warning: "Using this beacon inappropriately will result in a fine of $500."
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:25 am
@DrewDad,
What would "inappropriately" mean, though?

They seem to be talking about actual rescues that are necessary because people took extra risks due to feeling like the beacon is a good backup.

Like, no beacon: fairly inexperienced hikers decide to stick on an easy, safe trail.

With beacon: fairly inexperienced hikers decide that since they have the beacon they'll go ahead and take a harder, more dangerous trail, get lost, can't find their way back, get stuck on a mountaintop with insufficient gear, and are on their way to hypothermia or worse when they activate the beacon. (Thereby requiring a helicopter rescue, medical attention, etc.)
0 Replies
 
Ionus
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:27 am
@boomerang,
I think cars with "more than average" safety features tend to lead to complacency.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 08:35 am
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:
they have never passed mostly due to the Portland Mountain Rescue's insistence that forcing people to carry beacons will encourage them to take chances they wouldn't ordinarily take.

The Portland Mountain Rescue is almost certainly right about this. But from a public policy standpoint, the important point is not what risks people take. It's the mortality from the risks people have taken. The question, then, is whether the extra mortality from additional risk taking exceeds the reduced mortality from the beacon. I think it won't. As you indicate in your initial post, the case is exactly analogous to to seatbelt laws, and seatbelts demonstrably reduced mortality.
sullyfish6
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:05 am
I think it's a simple "It won't happen to me" attitude.

Head of the hospital emergency room in our area died in a car accident. No seat belt, throwon from his own vehicle. Authorities found that he had disabled the seatbelt mechinism. Hw was only 62, left wife, kids and grandkids and entire hospital staff.


0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:05 am
@Thomas,
Well-stated.

I guess my concern is that if the PMR is stretched thin, that the extra mortality from additional risk-taking would exceed the reduced mortality from the beacon. For a few reasons -- the PMR personnel would be overworked and more likely to make mistakes, the equipment would be overused and more likely to break down, the likelihood of more than one emergency at a time (where choices would need to be made re: who to rescue rather than just rescuing whomever would need help) would go up with the greater number of total rescues, etc.

I don't really know what's involved though (I'm guessing at the helicopters, for example, and I don't know how many beaconless people die per year that could be saved with beacons or what kind of numbers could be expected to recklessly set out with beacons).
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:15 am
@sozobe,
Found this, interesting:

http://www.pmru.org/pressroom/headlines/20091213PMRStatementRegardingMissions.html
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:21 am
@Ionus,
Yeh but the upshot is that we still hae several accidents a WEEK around here where it was damned obvious that the deceadent was not wearing a seat belt. "Victims ejected from car and into a tree"
We rely on stuff like the dog also and its amazing how weve let our senses become attuned to the signals that give teeny indicators that something is awry.
You gotta admit that you do have a dummy dog. Ill bet hes a million laughs. I know that youre gonna embarrass him over Christmas by telling the story of how your dog got himself locked in a basement closet and that set off a big 911 alert in the neighborhood. Hes gonna need months of psychiatric counselling after the holidays.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:26 am
The hiker who was found dead, what was the cause of death?

I think that there is a certain puerile mentality which is seduced into stupid behavior just because it is prohibited. There can be cultural attitudes like that, too. For a century or more after the end of the American Civil War, it was enough for most Southerners to know that Federal law prohibited something for them to defy the ban. In many places in the South, in the 1960s, birth control pills were available over the counter, despite the hold of fundamentalists Christianity, simply because the label read "Federal law prohibits dispensing without a prescription." Now Southern pharmacists were stupid--they weren't going to hand out anything in the narcotics schedule, because of the potential penalties. But many Southerners did things prohibited by Federal law because Federal law prohibited, as long as they weren't taking serious risks in doing so.

The thing here, though, is different. To my mind these sorts of things area product of the puerile attitudes which lead young men and women to take greater and greater risks just because they are risks. I asked how the one hiker had died to know if his/her death was a direct result of not having taken ordinary precautions.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:28 am
@Setanta,
Minor injuries, then hypothermia.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010512405_apormissingclimbers2ndld.html

The article indicates that there are white-out conditions now, presumably dangerous for rescuers too, which is another element of the overall-reduced-mortality thing. (And I don't think only mortality per se should be considered -- if someone takes a stupid risk, then a rescuer breaks a leg say in saving the person who took a stupid risk, I think that counts for something as well.)

...there's currently an avalanche warning, too:

Quote:
The risk of avalanche remains high. The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center has issued avalanche warnings for today on Mount Hood.


http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/12/day_four_on_mount_hood_avalanc.html
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:48 am
Hey Boom, have you got a link for a detailed account?

The reason i'm asking is that hikers and climbers can take precautions, and still get killed. When i was living in Southern Illinois, a hiker was killed in an accident which would not have normally killed anyone. He and his buddies were walking along the top of a bluff, when he slipped on some loose stone, and went over the side. They were roped together, each of them carrying a loop of about 30 or 40 feet of rope. By the time his buddies got a good grip on the rope, and solid footing, he was dangling from the top of the bluff, and has some scrapes, but was otherwise uninjured. They swung him sideways to a scree slope, and as he was scrambling up, he was bitten by a rattlesnake.

In that part of the country, those are timber rattlers, not the puny little sidewinders or diamond-backs like the ones in the Southwest, whose bites you would probably survive. He was dead ten minutes after they hauled him up to the top of the bluff. So, they were not acting irresponsibly--that was a circumstance in which he could not have survived unless someone had been right there with the appropriate antivenin. One could argue that they should have had it, but snake bite is fairly rare there. He must have startled the snake. I was climbing a scree slope myself once, and was just about to put my hand on a stone near a crack in the bluff wall, when a timber rattler slid out of the crack, and down the slope past me. Apparently, he/she didn't feel threatened enough to bite.

http://forum.ih8mud.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=205778&stc=1&d=1201464781

Although this one is extraordinarily large, timber rattlers five feet in length or longer are not uncommon.
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 09:50 am
@sozobe,
Thanks, Boss. So, it appears that this was a "shoulda known better" situation.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 10:01 am
Hey now! Diamond's no dummy! He was obviously quite embarrassed about his predicament and that's why he didn't notify me by barking (he knows better than to bark at me, anyway) but he kicked it into gear when he heard a non-family voice.

DrewDad, you can rent the locators practically everywhere for $5. There really isn't an excuse not to take one.

Rescues where beacons were used barely make the news -- there isn't enough drama. People hike up and bring them down. Maybe they should sensationalize these easy rescues: look at how smart these people were! The only one I really recall is some hikers who got lost in a white out and built a snow cave, because the caves become invisible they surely would have died had they not had a beacon.

The last time they tried to pass a law was after those hikers from Texas (?)died a few years ago. If I recall the law was to say that beacons were required November - March, if climbing above 10,000 feet. There wasn't a penalty for not having one other than that you were responsible for the cost of the rescue if you needed to be rescued. Full blown rescues are extraordinarily expensive. I thought it was a pretty sensible law.

But I agree it is human nature to say "You can't make me _________!"

PMR does note that most hikers die from accident and wouldn't be able to activate the beacon anyway.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 10:02 am
@Setanta,
Timbers are highly threatened because of "Snake handlers" and collectors messing with their communal dens. This is usually a very docile snale and most bites are suffered by those religious douche bags that carry the damn things in their mouths in a hillbilly chuirch service. In Pa they used to have a Rattlesnake roundup and the usual catches were copperheads, massassauf=gas and timber rattlers. Theyve since done away with most of the roundups and those that still exist are conducted in associuation with mmed schools and pharma companies and all the snakes are returned to their dens after milking.

That poor sumbitch who got swung over to a breakdown pil;e and then probably just accidentally got nailed by a sunning snake. Thats sad. But hey, he died doin what he wanted to be doing.

Handing out E-perbs to hikers in particularly dangerous areas is a good idea. I think that if thye Nat Park guys woiuld control the number of hikers to the number of E-perbs they hand out, that would be a neat way to keep track and to have a first notice if any catastrophe should occur.

We keep E-perbs in the boat in survival suits. Thats only minimal; competence.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 10:05 am
@farmerman,
Heres some EPIRBS for sale. You can get em from 150 to over 900 bucks. What's yer life worth in a dangerous situation?

http://www.defender.com/epirb.html
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 10:13 am
I couldn't quickly find anything that adds up the final cost of a big rescue (they don't like to talk about the money) but I did find this from the 2006 rescue:

Quote:
The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, one of the main agencies spearheading the search for the three climbers, estimates it spent roughly $5,000 a day for the first three days and about $6,500 a day after that.

But that’s only part of what will be become the final price tag, in part because much of it is being done by volunteers and the military, which in the past has tagged such missions as training.



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Ionus
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 02:59 am
The human species took risks that enabled it to travel all over the world long before it was safe to do so. Our young had to bear this, as most died before 20, and 40 was a ripe old age from the point of view of life expectancy. Sometimes, stupidity works. Mostly it doesnt. Risk takers are a pain to share the road with, but they did get us where we are today.
0 Replies
 
 

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