9-1-1 at the park

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Cell phone coverage  is spotty when on the Half Dome trail. I see folks yacking in the canyon on the Mist Trail. I have ATT and it is limp. Did you know there are cell towers in the park? Along the busy routes where they can generate some income. Disguised behind trees, those sneaky phone  companies are providing coverage in areas that I’d never expect.

Apparently Verizon has spent the most for coverage with the others lagging back. Most rescues at the park are started by a call to 9-1-1. I have only had to do it once – last summer a woman had heat stroke on the trail below subdome just north of the  treeline. I got linked up with the dispatchers at the Emergency Communications Center.  Help was soon on the way. Here’s some stats on the Center’s work.  In 2009, Yosemite’s dispatchers handled over 76,000 phone calls. They are tasked with covering Lassen, Devils Post Pile as well as Yosemite. That includes 22,000 total incidents,  2,500 9-1-1 calls, 700 Medical Assistance calls,  250 Search and Rescue Incidents, 600 Motor Vehicle Accidents, 17 Fatalities, 34 Wildland Fires,  8,900 Vehicle Stops and 200 Structure Fires.  A tip of that to the ECC!

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Whenever you call me, I’ll be there …Whenever you want me, I’ll be there …Whenever you need me, I’ll be there …I’ll be around.” -The Spinners

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


4 Responses to “9-1-1 at the park”

  1. ESP Says:

    NO ONE should EVER count on using a cell phone for emergency situations in the wilderness. I’m shocked that someone who has spent so much time in the wilderness would even suggest this. There are VERY FEW wilderness locations in Yosemite where you will get service and if you have AT&T, forget it! Your best bet for help in most locations is to send someone to find a ranger with a park radio.
    FYI – The cell towers in the park are co-located with radio towers in 3 strategic locations (Sentinel Dome, Mt. Hoffman, and Crane Flat) and none of them are disguised as trees.

  2. mrhalfdome Says:

    ESP – Please identify yourself and your credentials. I am addressing the Half Dome hike, not the back country. This is not 1890 – use whatever aids you can to get help. Try the cell phone and if all else fails send a runner with a written description of the situation and vitals.

    Have you ever sent someone down from SubDome to the Little Yosemite Valley Ranger station for help? How about 2 hours down then 2 hours for help to arrive. You are not seriously saying that using a cell phone is foolhardy? Radio waves travel way faster than feet. So on June 20 last year we find a woman suffering Heat Stroke on the trail below SubDome. I use my cell to call 9-1-1. Relate the conditions to them and a ranger is immediately dispatched from LYV to provide help. Duh.

    Did you know that MOST of the rescues at the park are initiated by cell calls? What do climbers do – send a fellow climber down to get help?? Cell coverage is getting better each season. I now see people in the Canyon on the Mist trail talking.

    Thanks for the clarification. Again, who are you? I was told by a Verizon engineer that the cell network at the park is set up by each carrier for their network and that Verizon paid for the honor of better coverage. The park ranger radios are supported by a repeater cluster that allows park coverage.

  3. Kathy Littrell Says:

    I was told and it seems to be true that both AT&T and Verizon work in the Valley. I have both services and carry both phones when I hike and if need use whatever one has reception. I did find that Verizon has better reception on the trails and once you leave the Valley floor. And Rick, if you recall, my Verizon had receptions in some areas when we were in Tuolumne Meadows. I agree with Rick, if it works, use it, it is fast and easy, especially for the Yos Valley trails. But also, be smart and carry the essentials with you and don’t make it your only emergency plan.

  4. Christine Says:

    Hi there. Great website. I’m getting ready to do Half Dome in a few months, and this has been really helpful.

    In regards to the cell phone coverage, when I was last in Yosemite (Feb 2009), I had pretty decent coverage with AT&T. Granted, most of my time was spent in the Valley. The Verizon phone in our group had coverage, and the Sprint phone had spotty coverage. I think it has something to do with the type of phone you have, as well as the carrier.

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