San Francisco firefighters credit mobile tech to Fort Funston rescue
SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco firefighters credit mobile technology with a rescue. It’s a piece of technology that most people walk around with every day, and now first responders are using it to direct them to people who need help.
Fort Funston in San Francisco is a beautiful place to hike, but after dark it can get disorienting. This is apparently what happened to a woman on Wednesday night.
San Francisco firefighters said the woman called a non-emergency number saying she was lost. Dispatchers were able to use a system called Rapid SOS, which pinged his phone and led rescuers directly to his location.
She was found cold, but otherwise OK.
Battalion Commander Glenn Kircher says it looks like everything worked out exactly as it should.
“That’s where the technology works in our favor, and it worked perfectly,” Kircher said.
The system only works if a caller contacts dispatchers via 911 or a non-emergency call.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s iPhone or Android, any cell phone will pick up the ping,” Kircher said.
This pinged location is then passed on to rescuers trying to get to the victim, even showing up on rescuers’ phones and highlighting a route.
“As long as it gets a signal and you can make a call, we can find you.” Kircher said.
Fort Funston hikers say the technology is a welcome last resort.
“I could see how someone could get lost or not find their way around easily, and knowing that you might be hacked off to be found would make me feel better,” Liz Moore said. “Especially if I was here alone.”
The system only works when the caller agrees to allow their phone to be pinged, and even then it does not actively track the phone.
Instead, it pings the phone’s location at the time, and if someone is lost, it’s told to stay in that exact location so rescuers can find them.
“One hundred percent that’s what we need you to do for the most part. And trust, once we ping you, we’re coming, you’ll hear the sirens, you’ll hear us moving,” said Battalion Commander Kircher. “Again, the main part of it all is that you have to stay in this place.”
With warm weather, the weekend and Labor Day fast approaching, lifeguards say anyone hiking should follow a few simple common sense tips.
First and foremost: stay on the trails, San Francisco lifeguards say more than 90% of their rescues involve people who go off trails and paths. Stop along the way to look for landmarks so you can describe where you are if you need to, and finally keep your phone handy to call for help when you need it.