Inexpensive high tech safety gizmos for wilderness lovers

Dear Street Smarts, Q: You may have had your fill of emergency communication options but here are two cheaper options, particularly useful if you're not quite in shape to dial a number or send a radio message -- perhaps it's an effort to even press a button. They both work like this: press a button to get help, as simple as possible, no message required. Both offer global coverage, not just Empire Grade or trails in Castle Rock or back roads in the San Lorenzo valley.
  1. SPOT, Satellite GPS Messenger, This uses a satellite phone network – Globalstar -- to send your GPS location when you press a button. Basic model, $119, lets you send an SOS or Check-in with family and friends. Other models have more features. Buy online direct from SPOT. Satellite phone network is private, so may take up to 40 minutes for a satellite to come into view. The SPOT transmitter will keep sending message. There is a service fee of $99 per year.
  2. Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB. Made by many different companies, it costs $250 and up to buy. There is no annual service fee. More powerful than SPOT, at 5 watts, instead of 0.5 watts, it reaches two separate U.S. government satellite networks, as used by Air Force and Navy to find downed aircraft. When you register your PLB with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration search center, you give them up to three phone numbers. If you send a distress signal, they try the phone numbers first. If no answer, then they call the local law enforcement agency with your position for local agency follow-up. Camping and boating stores, like REI and West Marine, often have PLBs for sale.
Peter Nurkse via email A: Thank you for the extended education, Peter. Road work at Highways 9 and 236 Caltrans will be doing some grinding and paving work at the junction of Highway 9 and 236 on Friday, Oct. 12 As a result, Highway 236 will be closed between Highway 9 and Pine Street. Also, the northbound left turn lane from Highway 9 onto Highway 236 will be the through lane for southbound traffic on Highway 9. The work will occur from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. A detour will take traffic onto Forest Street or Lorenzo Avenue. The CHP will assist with traffic control. Motorists should expect delays of up to 15 minutes. Parking will be limited on southbound Highway 9 during construction. Caltrans reminds motorists to move over or slow down when driving through highway work zones. For information about this and other projects, call 423-0396 or visit
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