Lawmakers try to mandate cell phones–again.

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After the grueling two-week Mount Hood search in 2006, Oregon lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to require cell phones for climbers. Replay: after a brutal 2009 search on the same peak, above, Washington introduced a similar bill, according to an extensive story in Northwest Mountaineering Journal (NMJ). 

Although telecommunication devices are extremely useful to rescuers, they don't always work: batteries fail, signals drop, the oft-complicated technology begets errors. In addition, the electromagnetic cloud from the plethora–avalanche beacon, GPS, cell phone, UHF/VHF radio and personal locator beacon–has been reported to cause frequency interference.

The down side: mandating cell phones possibly means mandating rescues, opening up potential for lawsuits. And the story in NMJ provides good evidence that adventurers will take more risks. Nevermind that most SAR calls are not even for mountaineers: hunters, boaters, hikers and motorists top the list.

–Christopher Van Tilburg, MD

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