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Christopher
Christopher Gooding
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Poor cell reception becomes recipe for vacation disaster

SPRINGHILL – Possibly one of the worst camping trips ever is a cautionary tale for Nova Scotians: keep an eye on your cell phone coverage.  

Fate was against David Heffernan's family camping trip. Poor cell phone reception, a couple of hooligans and confusion over which RCMP detachment would respond to his request for assistance saw their weekend getaway ruined. RCMP say poor cellphone service was the real culprit behind Heffernan's experience, while one cellphone provider offers some tips for others in the future.

Springhill’s David Heffernan and his family were seeking something more than an RV park or campground when the Canada Day long weekend approached, and cast their eyes towards the wilderness surrounding Simpson’s Lake near Wyvern.

But some unruly off-roaders turned the placid evening into panic.

“There was a truck tearing up the area,” Heffernan said. “They were down by early, and I get it. Boys having fun. I’ve been there myself.”

The fun ended for the Heffernans, however, as the night wore on and the off-roader started kicking up gravel at the family camper.

“At one point they came within three feet of hitting my trailer,” he said.

Heffernan had reason to believe the operators had been drinking and, with his family’s sense of security on the line, he dialed 911, and found out he had no cell phone reception.

Heffernan and his family had no cellphone reception at their campsite but felt the danger of the off-roaders couldn’t go unreported. Heffernan hiked up the road, with the off-roaders keeping a close eye on him until he could get a signal. When a tower did make contact with his phone, he dialed for help and was connected with dispatch. On the other end, RCMP files record Heffernan’s reception was spotty, at best – and that he was picked up by a tower in Cumberland County.

“Unfortunately, the first hour of no response was because we were tracking them down,” Cpl. Addie MacCallum with the Colchester RCMP explained. “(The file) was originally posted to Pugwash detachment. It’s not uncommon, because of a cellphone call.”

Unfortunately, the Heffernans were just beyond the Cumberland County border and into Colchester County.

“Oxford (detachment) members found out where it was and found out it was in Colchester County and the file was given back,” said MacCallum.

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Meanwhile, the Heffernans were ready to pull stakes. It was now after 2 a.m. The off-roaders hadn’t let up and the family felt terrorized.

“I had confronted them and the family wanted to go home,” Heffernan said. “They were upset.”

Heffernan called 911 again from the road and by the time he got home he was in contact with RCMP using his landline.

“I was told they would do a follow up,” Heffernan said. “I don’t know if they actually did.”

July 1st can be law enforcement’s busiest day of the year, MacCallum explained. Add in a long weekend and it's a recipe for tight resources.

“We had quite a few calls, especially some high profiles,” MacCallum said.

When dispatch learned the Heffernans were home safe, a decision was made to follow up on the file later. Heffernan, however, is upset no one could help him when he felt his family needed it the most.

“That was our first trip out camping as a family (in the woods). No more of that foolishness.” David Heffernan

“That was our first trip out camping as a family (in the woods),” Heffernan said. “No more of that foolishness.”

“To be quite honest, it’s usually pretty clear-cut. Somebody’s going to get the file…” MacCallum said. “In this one, obtaining initial information was difficult. Dispatch has to sort through it. In that particular case, there just wasn’t service close enough.”

Exchanging case files between detachments is procedural, MacCallum said, citing the Cobequid Pass as one example and Cape Chignecto Provincial Park in Advocate Harbour as another. Hikers of the Fundy Shore trail system can sometimes have their calls picked up by Annapolis Valley dispatch, leaving it up to the dispatcher to sort through the information to find out which detachment needs to respond.

It takes time, MacCallum said.

 

Travel Tips from Telus

Bad cellular reception, confusion where the call was coming from and a campsite on the edges of the Cumberland-Colchester county line struck against the Heffernan’s outing when a pair of jerks decided to have some good ol’ boy fun at their expense. A review of Telus’ cell phone coverage – who the Heffernans use – reveals its cell phone tower coverage in Nova Scotia is perhaps the best in the county, but there are pockets of no service, like where the Heffernans were camping.

Jill Yetman, senior communication manager for Telus, explained cell phone technology is “line of sight,” meaning it can’t pass through hills, mountains, or heavy forest areas. But she does have advice to help customers in rural areas in dire need of a signal:

• Look for open, high ground;

• While your cell phone can be an important tool, don’t rely solely on your cell phone as your main emergency resource;

• It is strongly recommended that travellers have a dedicated Global Positioning System device specifically designed for location services when traveling to or through remote areas;

• Take time to fully understand the service coverage from your provider in any area where you intend to travel – most carriers have online maps of service coverage.

A map of Telus’ coverage in Canada can be found at http://businessmobility.telus.com.

Organizations: RCMP, Telus, Global Positioning System

Geographic location: Wyvern, Cumberland County, Colchester County Pugwash Oxford Cape Chignecto Provincial Park Advocate Harbour Annapolis Valley Nova Scotia Canada

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Recent comments

  • RW
    July 18, 2013 - 20:45

    PLEASE POST your comment. DON't take it so personal???? Are you kidding me.....drunk drivers coming within 3 feet of his trailer with his family in it. THAT IS PERSONAL.....wow??? So when you see a family pull up in their camper then it's a good idea to get the locals together and then get drunk and scare them off??? I thought there was areas there for the public to camp? Craziness!!!!

    • Please Post
      July 25, 2013 - 10:22

      First off, how do you know they were actually drunk? Speculation only... How would you feel if I set up a camper in your back yard every weekend, leaving behind broken bottles and tons of garbage? Would you welcome me with open arms? Didnt think so... I am not saying what happened was right, all I am trying to do is to get you over entitled people to see is that there are two sides to a story. I am sure there would be no issue if they leased some land there like everyone else in the area to camp...

  • Hmmm
    July 18, 2013 - 07:04

    Just a thought.... I am familiar with the area. The issue that the "drunk Hillbillies", as "Typical" calls them, may feel is that they pay to have their camps on this lake. I have seen many times campers pulled up blocking off the only beach area available to the public. When I take the dog for a swim at tis spot there is always a huge mess, garbage broken bottles etc...I do feel bad for what happened to DH but he should maybe not take this so personally and try to see it from the locals point of view. Maybe DH should consider leasing a spot on the lake for his trailer if he wants to camp there?

  • dh
    July 17, 2013 - 20:16

    to many call the next day to so i was told. and the truck was in the ditch after i left later on that night so if they had of went up the next day guess what maybe they would have got them.

  • Typical
    July 17, 2013 - 17:09

    That area is full of drunk hillbillys on 4 wheelers and 4x4's with no respect for anything or anyone

    • Please Post
      July 18, 2013 - 07:40

      Just a thought.... I am familiar with the area. The issue that the "drunk Hillbillies", as "Typical" calls them, may feel is that they pay to have their camps on this lake. I have seen many times campers pulled up blocking off the only beach area available to the public. When I take the dog for a swim at tis spot there is always a huge mess, garbage broken bottles etc...I do feel bad for what happened to DH but he should maybe not take this so personally and try to see it from the locals point of view. Maybe DH should consider leasing a spot on the lake for his trailer if he wants to camp there?

  • first last
    July 17, 2013 - 15:51

    Don't the RCMP cover the whole country? Why argue about minutes between someone's base office when there is an ongoing distress call? Send a response and do the paperwork later.

  • jr
    July 17, 2013 - 14:56

    The biggest issue with this, is the fact that by the time the RCMP get off the pot and look into the incident, the perpetrators have fled and they now will tell you that there is nothing they can do as they could not find anyone, I went through this with the local police and they told me the only way they would do anything is if I could get it on film. Hmmm, do we not pay them to do this job? Since when has it become the job of the public to do the investigative work of the police? If they had of asked where you were and then sent this to the correct office, then maybe, just maybe they would show up.