Solo stalking? Stay safe
Audrey Watson extols the joys of lone stalking and tries out a tracking system designed to keep you safe when out alone in remote locations.
One of the joys of deer stalking is being out in the woods on your own, enjoying the solitude as the world wakes up or settles down for the night. It’s not that we are loners, it’s just the nature of the sport. It’s easier to go unnoticed by deer when you are alone.
However, there is a downside. What if you fall and hurt yourself, your truck runs off the road or you just feel very unwell? How do you get help?
At BASC, we have a range of risk assessments to cover all aspects of our work and, for deer stalking in particular, we consider the risks associated with using high seats, doing group culls, landowners’ site-specific assessments and, most importantly, lone stalking.
Stalkers often use the ‘buddy system’. They nominate someone to act as their buddy and gives them details of their plans, route and vehicle. The two agree a system of timed checking in and checking out during the stalk, such as sending an “I’m okay” text every 15-30 minutes. If the stalker misses a check, the buddy tries to contact them. If the stalker responds and all is okay, things carry on as usual. If after an hour, the stalker cannot be contacted, the buddy escalates the matter and contacts emergency services if necessary.
Lately, technology has been developed which allows stalkers and other lone workers to be monitored more easily via mobile check-in and GPS tracking.
There are a range of systems on the market now and I was asked to trial the TRACKPLOT© system recently on the BASC members’ deer stalking scheme on the Isle of Arran. By integrating a GPS unit with a dedicated app and the company’s unique Trackplot portal, the system was able to track my movements in the forest in real time.
It is a complete lone worker monitoring solution offering a range of communication methods and does not need mobile phone reception to work. This is especially important for people who work in isolated areas with poor or non-existent signals.
The Trackplot portal control and command centre delivers notifications, a check-in and check-out facility, and alerts. Should a lone worker become incapacitated, an automatic escalation procedure raises the alarm. Users can check in and check out using a smartphone, dedicated GPS device, landline, text message, computer, laptop or tablet. If your device has GPS your position can be tracked, too.
I used two methods to check in and out – tapping the app on my phone and also pressing the Check-in button on the little orange ‘Spot Gen3’ device in my pocket. At regular intervals, my phone buzzed with a text reminding me to check in. If I failed to do so, within minutes my buddies received a text or email to tell them I was overdue.
To summon help, the SpotGen unit and the app feature an assist button which lets buddies know you are not in serious trouble but need some assistance. It also contains an SOS button which means you are in danger and need urgent help. These buttons are housed under a flap so you can’t press them accidentally and your current or last known position is logged by the GPS.
My views on the system
Once I got the hang of checking in, I found the system very easy to use and was reassured that people knew where I was at all times. The unit can log its position in real time and I could then use the portal afterwards to see just how far I had walked in the week. I found this really useful.
In conclusion, the system is easy to use and reassuring. Yes, it costs to use it but that is a small price to pay for your safety.
10 top tips for lone stalkers/workers
Planning and preparation
- Know your own limitations and plan accordingly
- Assess the weather and time available
- Choose an appropriate area
- Take a mobile phone or other form of communication
- Leave details of the route or area you will be stalking with a ‘buddy’
- State what time you expect to return
- Give details of what to do if you do not return when expected or when someone should worry
- Be prepared to return early if the weather turns
- Stick to your plan. If you must change it, let your buddy or contact know immediately.
- Warm and waterproof clothes
- Sustaining food/hot drink
- Safety equipment – mobile phone or radio, compass, map, torch, first aid kit, flares, survival blanket, whistle.
What can you do?
We need you to respond individually to the consultation and share your experience. Here are the two things you can do:
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- Fill in this template document providing your own personal experience and send it to Defra.