Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cell towers can be lifesavers

A dozen years back, some friends and I witnessed the immediate aftermath of a horrific head-on crash 12 miles north of Ketchum. A little girl was bleeding profusely, on the centerline, and another was trapped in one of the wrecked cars. Several locals stopped to help, but we found nobody in the group had yet called for an ambulance. I sped back to the SNRA to call 911, but unfortunately, both young girls died from their wounds. I often wondered if they might have survived if we had been able to notify emergency technicians sooner via cell phone. As we saw that dreadful day, when it comes to harsh scenarios like this, every second counts.

Soon after, I vowed to get a cell phone and keep it with me, fully charged and with a spare battery at all times, in the event of a similar crisis. Since then, local backcountry-sports enthusiasts have been snared and even killed by avalanches. Mountain bikers have flipped over their handlebars and smashed their faces onto unforgiving rocks or been accidentally pierced by sharp hardwood branches. Horses have thrown riders and gnarly motorcycle incidents have whisked away too soon some of our most beloved friends and family members. All this within close proximity to Galena and the surrounding SNRA.

Undoubtedly, some of these incidents would have had more fortuitous outcomes had not this cell phone area been crippled by non-coverage.

Moreover, automobiles have been quickly caught in ravines or pinballed off roadside snow-banks and then back into traffic, spinning at 65 mph to uncertain fates on Highway 75. Countless campers with their vehicles have tangled together with outsized migrating mammals. There have been more than a handful of bad boating incidents, when a lifesaving cell phone might as well have been tossed to the barren wind, due to zero reception bars.

Hunters have become bewildered in the frozen tundra and skiers wedged unwell in tree wells. Hardy lumberjacks have snapped bones in the cold Pole Creek range. Once, about 10 years back, a group of us sightseeing at the Galena overlook saw a lightning-caused fire blazing in the mountains, but we didn't know if we should rush off to Smiley Creek to alert the authorities, having no way of knowing if they had been informed.

Having a few cell towers dot the landscape seems a small price to pay when the lifesaving benefits are considered. We should allow no more tower delays because as we've learned all too well that every second counts. Simply letting our evermore-bustling Galena area helplessly remain in the telephonic Flintstone ages is not the answer. Rather, we should receptively embrace these beacons of safety—and if Idaho Tower can stealthily integrate some of these lifesaving communications relays into our SNRA's woodlands, then more power to them.

Mostly, the Campbells and Idaho Tower should be lauded for their adroit business acumen, positively shifting this dark reception spot of Idaho into a soaring new age.

Jim Banholzer


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