By now, most people have heard about UFC wrestler, Evan Tanner, who was found dead in remote area of the Palo Verde moutain desert. TMZ and others reported that “Tanner sent a text message to a friend that he was out of water and needed help.”
If this is true, it really bothers me. If Tanner was in cell coverage, then the phone knows what cell towers it’s using, and therefore it could help locate the phone. It frustrates me that phones don’t have some kind of “panic” button, that could report the cell tower data the phone has, to help rescuers narrow down their search area.
Cell phone 911 doesn’t work. I have no idea if Tanner tried to call 911, but in general it’s useless. Okay, one could argue to fix that, fine. But given how I have been experimenting with cell phones and location by cell tower for a while now, I also know another thing that could be done would be simply to have the phones expose the cell tower data to the user to transmit to whoever they want. With this feature, Tanner could have sent the tower info to his friend – his friend could then use that to help locate Tanner.
Where was the cell carrier in this? Did they help the search by providing the cell tower(s) used by Tanner’s phone? If not, why not?
For my part, I’d rather get help directly from those that know me, rather than rely on the emergency services bureaucracy. I know from personal experience that real people can get a lot more done, more quickly than these official channels. If you don’t believe me, consider these examples:
- Passengers on the 9/11 Flight 93 vs. official non-response
- My 12-year-old son caught in the 2003 east cost blackouts
- Ad hoc citizen groups vs. government emergency agencies in Katrina
I’d want an option on the phone that would paste the cell tower data into a text message that I could send to who ever I wish. They could elect to pass that on to emergency services themselves. I could send them the message and then also call them to explain my situation.
In fact, of course, in many situations like this one with Tanner, one would be outside cell coverage anyway, so any kind of 911 or other emergency service is moot. But in this particular case, and in many such cases, the endangered person was within cell coverage and so cell tower data was available and could have been used to help locate them.