Monday, June 23, 2008

Tourist Learns that Lack of Planning is Not an Emergency

This afternoon some poor schmuck tourist from Illinois learned that lack of planning on his part does not necessarily constitute an emergency for others. It seems that this particular tourist decided he'd like to take his rental car on a road trip up the haul road to see the sights. He must have ignored the big signs warning that fuel is not available between Fairbanks and Coldfoot, as on his way back toward town his rented Ford Torus ran dry near the Wickersham Dome trailhead.

His first response, which would be perfectly appropriate in most of the Lower-48, was to call the Alaska State Troopers on his cellular phone. After she finished laughing, the dispatcher explained that she would try to find some help for him, but to not hold his breath. She contacted the only industrial facility in the area (where I happen to be employed) asking if we could free up a worker to bring the poor schmuck tourist a can of gas.

It is a pretty good idea as far as it goes, but there are two problems with it. First, we are short staffed and do not have enough personnel to send someone on such an errand and perform our own job. Equally important, we do not have any gasoline at the facility. All of the equipment we use is powered by diesel.

We did have a worker traveling in the area who stopped to make sure the poor schmuck tourist isn't suffering from some medical emergency, hasn't been eaten by a bear or mugged by a porcupine, or is otherwise in real danger. Once he determined that the poor schmuck tourist is healthy and likely to remain so he passed on a message from the troopers. All units are busy elsewhere and they will not be sending a rescue party, gasoline, nor even Officer Friendly to investigate. He's pretty much on his own for securing assistance.

In other words, lack of planning on his part does not necessarily constitute an official emergency up here in Alaska. I sure hope he figures it out before taking off on a back country hiking, fishing, hunting or canoe trip. In Alaska there are many circumstances in which help is not readily available. That's why Alaskans are frequently referred to as "self-sufficient".

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