The Animal Planet program North Woods Law is a great show about great people. I’m going to take a risk here and hope the Maine Warden Service won’t mind my using their misfortune do do some critical public education.

For years SAR personnel have been telling audiences not to rely on electronics to get them out of the woods. I just watched an episode of #northwoodslaw which bore out that advice in dramatic fashion.

A warden and his dog had just done an outstanding job of finding a missing girl in the woods. The weather was horrible and getting worse, and the girl was hypothermic. She needed to be in the warm and dry ASAP. At that point, the warden’s flashlight batteries went dead, his cell phone failed (battery & signal issue) and the GPS he was depending on for the return trip also stopped working. Two other rangers had to head into the woods, and locate him by shouting.

When leaving any trailhead, there is just no substitute for a real compass. Good ones have glow-in-the-dark features, and none of them require batteries. I talk to people all the time about how their cell phone has “map apps” and a compass….and a GPS…and a flashlight. Well, that phone also has a battery that will fail when you need it most.

I’m not sure if the producers “drama’d up” the story for the sake of reality TV. The narrator did mention that they eventually got out of the woods using a compass. Whether the first warden actually had one and was using it appropriately, or if the others brought one, is immaterial. The lesson here is that all electronic devices fail, usually when you need them most.

# # #