Berlin search crews found four missing hikers at Ragged Mountain Sunday. They were tracked through a cell phone GPS.
Lost hikers has become a familiar call for the South Kensington Fire Department. At this time of year, with the daylight not lasting as long and the temperatures falling quickly at night, it is important for hikers and walkers prepare for their trek.
"Luckily we have GPS and we can lock onto their cell phone coordinates pretty quickly," said South Kensington chief Brian Chapman after an earlier rescue this year. "Sometimes it takes 10 minutes and sometimes it takes longer. The trails are all marked pretty well so if they are on one of the trails we can usually find them pretty quickly. If they stray off the trails and start doing their own thing, then it can become complicated."
Ragged Mountain can be tough to tame for inexperienced hikers and climbers even though the trails are marked.
"Last year about five Sunday nights in a row at 7 p.m. we would get a call that someone was lost in the woods," Chapman said. "I used to joke, I was going to set up a barbecue at the base of the mountain on Sunday nights and just wait for the call to come in.
"If hikers are not familiar with the trails and it starts to get dark, they can get stuck. Once the sun goes down, it gets dark in a hurry. If you don’t have lighting, it will be tough to see where you are going. We have had two fall victims that we have had to call Life Star for and there are small rock cliffs that you can climb.
"It's like anything else, if you are experienced it will never be a problem but if not, there are plenty of things that can go wrong."
Chapman said the SKVFD has hung a sign at the bottom of the mountain telling hikers what to have before they start their climb. It includes a fully charged cell phone, a jacket in case the weather changes and other things that will make for a safe trip.
The Berlin Police Communications Unit dispatches responders for Police, Fire, and Medical emergencies. When people call 9-1-1 the most important thing BPD needs to know is your location. The first thing they ask when we answer 9-1-1 is “9-1-1, what is the location of your emergency?” before we get any other information. In this way, if they were to get cut off or unable to get any other details about what is going on, at the very least we can send a response to check the location of your call.
The most difficult 9-1-1 calls to handle are those from callers who blurt out information in an unorganized manner. The dispatchers are trained to ask questions that will locate and prioritize an incident. Callers should listen to the questions that the dispatcher is asking them and provide brief and clear answers to those questions. In the case of medical calls, we transfer the call to Hunter’s Ambulance Service who provides life saving instructions to the caller after responders have been dispatched. Therefore it is important to patiently listen to the instructions the dispatcher is giving you.
Connecticut is one of only a handful of States able to handle 9-1-1 wireless calls from cellular phones as well as the regular “wired” calls. When you call 9-1-1 from a wire line telephone the call is automatically routed to the “Public Safety Answering Point” (PSAP) in the town in which the call is placed. The designated PSAP for the Town of Berlin is the Berlin Police Department. When you call 9-1-1 from a wireless or cellular phone the location technology is much different. Connecticut is one of just eighteen States that has progressed to phase 2 wireless 9-1-1 which allows the PSAP to pinpoint the location of the caller in addition to the location of the nearest cell tower. As of November 2004 every Connecticut Public Safety Answering Point has the capability of handling 9-1-1 wireless Phase 2 calls. All modern cellular phones have this technology built in.
"In the old days, calls would just ping off the nearest tower and you had to try to triangulate from there," Berlin Police Dept. Deputy Chief john Klett said. "Now with the new cell phones and system, if you hit refresh it will tell you where the call came from or pretty close to it. It will give you a latitude and longitude reading which is a big help."