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A New Trusted Contact Service for Outdoor Safety in New Zealand

About a year ago, DoC announced that it was pulling out of the business of taking intentions for visitors to New Zealand’s back-country [1]. It was only ever doing so inconsistently anyway, through ad-hoc arrangements at various visitor centres, but the announcement still created controversy. One way or another, all of the nominated alternatives (encapsulated by directing people to the AdventureSmart website [2]) required people to have their own trusted contacts.

For a New Zealand local, arranging a trusted contact is generally manageable. People here know other people here, and those people are generally in the same time zone, speak the same language, know the important phone numbers, and are usually familiar with New Zealand’s systems, conditions and expectations. For visitors to New Zealand, however, finding trusted contacts is often not so easy, especially for visitors who simply don’t know someone who can be trusted to reliably report if they don’t return on time. Some visitors don’t even realise how important it is to have a trusted contact.

I’m perfectly happy with DoC not being in the business of taking people’s intentions. It’s a very time consuming and expensive thing to do, especially when many of those people were never bothering to properly sign out, resulting in needless efforts to chase up and ensure they’d safely exited. It’s never been a clear statutory requirement for DoC to look after people in this way. Nevertheless, the fact that the staff of some DoC offices in touristy places have been acting as trusted contacts until recently has ensured more reliable oversight for some people visiting the outdoors than would otherwise have existed.

A year ago I wondered [3] if there might be room for a business to set up for taking and managing people’s intentions as a trusted contact. Very happily, it seems that someone else had a similar idea, and actually acted on it. This afternoon a random press release popped out, from a company/website called Safety Outdoors [4].

According to its press release, the Safety Outdoors service, due to launch tomorrow (Thursday) and accessible via http://www.safetyoutdoors.com [5], will allow people to sign up for a trusted contact as a service, with a fee per activity. [Edit 9-Dec-2012: It seems to be taking longer than advertised for the SafetyOutdoors website to get underway. Meanwhile, you could also check out Adventure Buddy [6], which is an alternative (and free) service which is also now available.]

From the Safety Outdoors press release:

…the company is committed to ensuring each and every person who signs up with them is accounted for. It is a simple, convenient and reliable system involving a free phone call, text or online registration beforehand and confirmation of finishing afterwards. It works because it doesn’t necessitate planning ahead and is available for any outdoors activity.

Safety Outdoors Director, Stuart Fraser says a major point of difference is that they are acting as the trusted outdoor contact for every booking.

“If we don’t hear from you within the registered time frame operators based in New Zealand, working in real time, follow a checking process with every contact point provided. If necessary, we can then notify the appropriate authority.”

[…]

There are several options available for users of Safety Outdoors with the emphasis on not only registering yourself but also family and friends. The cost is per activity only, and involves everyone involved in your group, not per person, making this both an affordable and easy decision.

It’ll be very interesting to see the exact business model that these people are operating under, what sort of fee structure it uses, and how well it does. Perhaps with time, if the service is well suited, there will be room for DoC ground staff to steer people towards it where appropriate, and help them with their intentions, but without DoC then being required to be responsible for following up if they don’t return when expected.

Update 6-Dec-2012: The Press Release as published on Scoop [7] includes pricing info: $10/trip up to $60 for ten trips, valid for up to 12 months after payment. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, but I guess much of the challenge would be in convincing people who need it to make use of it, and then making it really really easy for them to use it.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "A New Trusted Contact Service for Outdoor Safety in New Zealand"

#1 Comment By Don On 6 December, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

Hi there…….there actually has been a FREE monitored web based intentions system in New Zealand for a while checkout “Adventure Buddy” [6]

#2 Comment By Mike McGavin On 7 December, 2012 @ 1:45 am

Thanks Don. I had no idea. How long have you been running this one? It looks pretty cool.

I seem to be getting a 404 page not found error when I try to access Adventure Buddy through facebook, but [14] is there. I notice the thing on Facebook stating you’re now a Trusted Provider for AdventureSmart, but they still don’t seem to be listing you on [15]. Is this just because the AdventureSmart website is behind the times?

Cheers.
Mike.

#3 Comment By Don On 7 December, 2012 @ 6:43 am

Hi Mike…Adventure Buddy has been going since middle 2011, but in saying that it has also in that time been keep under the radar and only been spread by word of mouth….this being so as it grew we could iron out the glitches while growing.

Yes the simplicity of Adventure Buddy makes it simple….plus it works and the users like it. Our background as you would’ve found out is Search and Rescue so we know the right questions to ask and understand what’s required. There was an article in the NZ Wilderness Magizine in Novemeber about us.

As for the Trusted Provider for Adventure Smart, It has only just been signed off., so yes as you say they are behind the times. This is been sorted at present with logos and links..Adventure Buddy was put through a series tests etc and had to meet certain criteria to achieve this status which we are very proud of.

All The Best
Don

#4 Comment By Mike McGavin On 7 December, 2012 @ 9:30 am

Great. Thanks for filling me in and it sounds very useful. For what it’s worth so you know it’s there, I’ve added a link to [16] (of this website).

#5 Comment By Mike McGavin On 20 December, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

Hi again, Don. [17]. Nice one.

I dunno what’s happening with this Safety Outdoors service. That press release seems to have been a dud. 🙁

#6 Comment By Don On 20 December, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

Hi Mike.

Yes it is all offical now…..been a lot of work….but very proud. I do hope it gets picked up my the media abit….it needs to get out there so people know and get the benefit, especially for tourists. Iam not surprised with safety outdoors, as i said there is a lot of work that goes into to making it functional….gee Adventure Buddy has been going for a while ….but developes and grows every day….but who knows….maybe it might come to being.

Cheers Don

#7 Comment By Mike McGavin On 18 January, 2013 @ 10:04 am

For the record, [18] now seems to be online.

#8 Comment By Jane On 18 February, 2013 @ 10:54 am

Hi Mike,
Thanks so much for the post and for the link to our website. It’s taken a lot of effort and development costs to provide the service and to have it operate the way it does. We’re excited about future developments too!
Cheers Jane

#9 Comment By Mike McGavin On 18 February, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Hi Jane. No worries and thanks for all the time and effort people such as yourself are putting in. It’s great to see these things getting some traction.