A family who found themselves stranded in Mt. Hood National Forrest this week turned to Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature to contact search and rescue teams. The message kick-started what would ultimately be a 24-hour rescue process.

In a press release, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said one of the family members used Emergency SOS via satellite on their iPhone to contact emergency dispatchers and share their location:

On Tuesday, March 19, 2024, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team initiated a rescue operation following reports of a missing family of hikers in the Mt. Hood National Forest. At approximately 7:30 p.m., a member of the party contacted dispatch using the Emergency SOS feature on an Apple iPhone. 

The family had hiked nearly eight miles and gained more than 3,500 feet in elevation. It wasn’t until 6 a.m. the next morning that rescuers were actually able to reach the family, finding them “cold, wet, and dehydrated, but otherwise okay.”

Due to the difficult weather conditions and terrain, it wasn’t until 7:30 p.m that day the family was rescued:

Search and Rescue personnel deployed all-terrain resources to locate the family who had started their trip on the Salmon River Trailhead, but due to conditions, they were unable to reach the family comprised of four adults (ages 19, 32, 47, and 52) and two juveniles (ages 9 and 11). Ground crews were deployed and were able to reach the family around 6:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Additional resources were called in to reach the family, including a helicopter, but it was unable to land due to weather conditions.

A snowcat from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office arrived shortly before 10:00 a.m. and immediately deployed to the family’s location.

It took several hours for the snowcat to reach the hikers due to the difficult terrain, but the family was transported back to the search and rescue command post along Highway 26 at around 7:30 p.m.

Emergency SOS via satellite enables messaging with emergency services when outside cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. Once your iPhone is connected to a satellite, you can reach emergency services regardless of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. Satellite connectivity can also be used to share your location with friends and family via Find My.

Apple has created a compression algorithm that makes text messages three times smaller to make communication faster, since bandwidth is low compared to cellular networks. 

Thanks, Ron!

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