I’m writing to let you know I’ve had a problem with my Delorme inReach SE that has caused me and my parents a major scare and a large headache and put 8 Russian rescuers in a dangerous helicopter for no reason. I’m hoping you might be able to help me out by testing the SOS feature on your own inReach SE if you have one, and/or by passing this message on to others you know who use these devices and seeing what happens. Here is the story in brief:
Earlier this summer, a friend and I were on an 18-day wilderness expedition in Kamchatka, Russia. We were carrying an inReach as per our permit with the Russian government to travel independently without a guide. On day 2, approximately 40 km from the main road where we were dropped off, a helicopter showed up and landed at our location. After the initial confusion and scare–the second guy out was chambering a round in his rifle, thinking we might have had a bad bear encounter–we figured out that the SOS button on our inReach had been activated, though the lock switch was fully engaged. In the meantime, my parents, to whom the device was registered, received a call from Delorme that no parent wants to hear–that their son had triggered a rescue. The dispatcher surmised that this was likely a mistaken SOS signal, and indicated that this was not an isolated incident and that she had seen mistakenly triggered SOS signals in the past. The Russian rescue team left, and we continued on our journey. We assumed that a nearly impossible combination of buttons had been pushed on the device to turn it on and activate an SOS from the menu options. We packed the device in a pot with a cut off bottle sleeve to protect from any accidental button pushes for the rest of the trip (which went smoothly and was delightful). We were billed 4,400 US dollars for the rescue.
Upon returning to the US, we learned that the problem had not been a series of button pushes to turn the device on and activate the SOS. Rather, with NORMAL pressure on the SOS button for 5-10 seconds, the SOS would trigger, WITH the lock switch FULLY engaged. This was repeatable, and would happen every time the SOS was held. I contacted Garmin/Delorme about this problem and requested reimbursement for the rescue cost, and received this reply:
Unfortunately, we cannot offer reimbursement for the false SOS on the device at this time. This is stated within section 10 (Limitation of Liability) of our inReach Terms and Conditions found within the link below. We can certainly work with you in getting you into a new replacement if you choose, however with force and some objects, even when the lock is snapped in, can trigger in SOS. It would be a good idea to put the device separate area to ensure other objects do not bump into the device causing the SOS to be triggered.
Learning that the “lock” switch was a complete misnomer, I replied that their response was “unacceptable” and that I believed that in addition to Delorme reimbursing me the cost of the helicopter, they needed to alert their current subscribers to this issue and post a warning on their website. I was bumped to a higher level in the management team who requested I send in the device to “fully review your inReach in-house”. I did so, and in the meantime was able to test another inReach SE. This device also triggered an SOS while the lock switch was fully engaged. After several weeks, I finally received this reply to my response:
Thank you for sending in the device and I am sorry you to hear about your experience.
After careful investigation, both myself and a one of the Garmin hardware engineers who designed the device determined it was not defective. The inReach required significant force to bypass the SOS slide and also the Lock Screen setting was turned on.
At this point the device appears to be working as designed, so we would not be in a position to provide you with any compensation as a result of this situation.
Please let me know the IMEI number of the replacement unit we sent you and I will go ahead and transfer the service plan over to the new device. Also let me know of any questions you may have.
This response is also unacceptable to me for many reasons. At this point, I believe the inReach SE is posing a risk to wilderness travelers and to rescue service personnel and I am unwilling to drop the issue. The money is besides the point and I do not think Delorme realizes the level of unnecessary human risk that is inherent in having a “lock” switch that does not function as stated. I have since asked another friend to test his inReach SE, and he has also found that the SOS triggers easily with the lock switch engaged. This is 3 for 3, and I’m realizing that this design flaw is in no way unique to my case.
I’m asking that you please test the SOS button on your inReach with the lock switch fully locked. If you are also able to trigger an SOS, could you please take a video of your doing so and send it my way? I am going to write to Delorme one last time, hoping they will make the situation right and communicate the need for a case or care in packing the inReach to their customers. I would like to let them know that I am not alone with this issue. I have no wish to hire a attorney, but if Delorme does not respond to my final plea, I will do so.
I’ve included a link to a Google Drive folder containing the following: 2 videos of 2 different devices triggering the SOS with lock engaged, a full transcript of my email correspondence with Delorme, a photo of the helicopter rescue, a translation of the memo from Russia’s national rescue service requesting we pay for the helicopter time, and finally, the inReach Terms and Conditions PDF, which includes section 10 (Limitation of Liability).
Thank you for your help and for passing this message on. I will update this thread on any new developments.