The pleasure craft that find their way beyond the intercoastal waterways of our fine nation’s eastern seaboard are often equipped with what is best called a “panic button.” While there are many retail names (RescueME, CrewWatcher and ResQLink are among the cleverly labeled brands), essentially, this small bit of technology, if depressed, will summon the nearest Coast Guard vessel to come to the rescue. It casts a lifeline to recreational boaters who find that circumstance, or their own personal or equipment limitations, have taken them past the point of no return. They need help – and the handheld gadget summons it.
Still, it is not to be taken lightly. Even an accidental activation of the device will bring forward all the force and glory of our federal military apparatus. Helicopters, ships and boats of every size and shape are likely to appear. And, for the boy who cries wolf, the penalties can be considerable. But in the rare instance that the storm is raging and our limits have been reached, even exceeded by considerable margin, the contraption is often a lifesaver.
Most of us will not find ourselves riding the waves of the open sea in anything smaller than a Caribbean cruising colossus. If the ship goes down, someone else is largely responsible for our safety. But when we are all alone on endless water, how are we expected to mitigate our risk? Even in our land-loving daily existence, where is our panic button? And if we press it, who will come running? Even more, have we kept the channel open and the device fully charged? If we cry out for help, do we have confidence that someone is listening?
We venture into our lives with very little worry of the risks we take. Good. Yet, shouldn’t we occasionally check the batteries in our lifeline?