Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking systems can be used by DofE groups as an additional safety tool.
However, great care must be taken to ensure that they do not compromise either the number of supervising adults or the team’s feeling of isolation and self-reliance.
Within a DofE context, GPS should be thought of as additional safety equipment, rather than as a navigation tool.
A GPS tracking device can be placed in a participant’s rucksack. This can transmit location information to a GPS receiver and then on to a (usually encrypted) secure server.
This data can then be transmitted securely to a computer via an internet connection or hand held device.
Supervisors, Assessors, Leaders, Licensed Organisations and emergency contacts can then monitor the team’s location and progress.
Using tracking systems can be an effective way of supporting team safety.
Most systems have a panic button or some (editable) emergency phone numbers that can allow the group to call for help in the even of an emergency.
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Care must be taken to work out how Supervisors and Assessors will have access to the tracking information while supporting expeditions.
Everyone involved must be trained in using the tracking device and accompanying software.
Tracking systems that use the mobile phone networks should not be used as reception is too unreliable.
If using tracking for DofE, it should be used with some caution. Whilst it can enhance remote supervision, giving teams more space and less adult contact, a tracking system does not tell Supervisors how the group is feeling or how individuals are coping.
Tracking systems must not allow a false sense of security to set in.
For participants, knowing they have a tracking device can undermine the spirit of isolation and self-reliance felt by their DofE team and themselves.
Getting lost and sorting it out themselves is part of many expeditions. Knowing that they are being monitored may reduce the feeling of having to get themselves back on route.
Tracking systems are not there to stop teams making mistakes, but are there to help if a situation deteriorates or if help is needed.
While the DofE allows DofE groups to use tracking systems to support the safety of their expedition teams, it is not a requirement, nor it is a substitute for the required emergency training and competent supervision.