Long ago, it became apparent to the Enlightened Field teams that as the arena of Ingress became more competitive, Agents would continue to push the boundaries of safety and adventure. From the highest mountains to the lowest canyons across open oceans and deserts, Agents of both factions pushed to ever more impressive and remote locations in order to achieve a competitive advantage over the opposing faction.

As our Enlightened adventures became more extreme, so did our rules and protocols for safety. When anyone steps into nature, he or she becomes quite vulnerable, including Agents of both factions. However, with everything we do, we try to take only calculated risks and remove any risks we can.

The first thing we set up was a network of watchers and Operators who would be on call whenever our Agents entered the field. Next, we created guidelines for safety. Below are just a few of them:

1. Research the locations. Find out as much as possible about:
Signal constraints.
Current conditions of trails, roads, tides, waves and legal access.
2. Make sure you have the proper gear and safety equipment.
3. Have a plan. Know times, check-in points and who is going where.
4. Have lists of emergency contacts for all involved.
5. Have safety protocols in place. The last thing you want to do at 2 a.m. is frantically look for the emergency number for search and rescue.
6. Have a way to track agents, whether it is Glympse, Delorme or GPS.
7. Have a plan of when to call it quits. Often, this is difficult to do in the moment, to know when to quit because there is “just” one more blocker. Extending a few minutes here and there can turn into hours and cause later safety issues with darkness and weather. Having a predetermined end game makes it easy to call the Op.
8. Ensure Agents take the same precautions other informed travelers take when visiting a site (E.g., if they’re climbing a mountain, are they carrying the gear used by experts? Do you have adequate water, offline maps, etc.?)
9. Ensure agents are capable of making the trip that other informed travelers make when visiting these sites (E.g., Can you climb up these mountains in -2 Celsius weather? Are you trained to fly a plane at 14,000 feet over a mountain?)
10. NEVER say something negative about an agent who calls an Op off for safety reasons. This is a video game. The real world matters more. Promote the culture of safety!

Today was meant to be a light day. Meet friends for brunch and then do a hike in the mountains north of Los Angeles, CA. I had never been to this location before. However, I prepared the best I could. Before the day started, I gathered info with various members of our team, ranging from signal constraints, which roads were closed from ice, trail conditions, distances and terrain. Overall it seemed like a mild hike: 4-5 miles with just under 1000 feet of elevation gain. It should not have taken more than a few hours. I knew the majority of the trail was on the north side of the mountain, so I brought the proper safety gear to deal with ice, slush and snow. I hoped I would not need it, but it is an El Nino year.

I arrived at the trailhead later than expected due to an unexpected closed road. On many of these mountain passes, Rangers will close and lock the gates so they do not need to spend resources all winter clearing ice and rocks on unused roads. It took a little bit of time, but with some backtracking I was able to find an alternative route.

The first 1.5 miles went quickly. There was ice, mud and runoff in various locations. The trail was deteriorating from the extra rain this season, and in some spots, it had completely washed away. However, with the proper safety gear, technique and taking my time, the trail was manageable.

At the 1.5-mile marker, I turned a corner to find four panicked hikers. Apparently moments before I arrived, a man fell 30 feet down a cliff while crossing a washed out section of the trail that had become iced over. He had various cuts from the fall, including some on his hands. The man had been stopped by a stump and a rusty mining pipe. When I got there, one hiker had activated his SPOT emergency device, but they had no idea if it had signal or if help was on the way. The SPOT was blinking, and that was all they knew. The person who had fallen started to go into shock, so we threw down an emergency blanket to keep him warm. Further help was impossible, as it was unsafe to rappel down 30 feet to get him without any place to secure an anchor. In this valley, there is no cell phone signal for any carriers, so calling for help with traditional methods was not an option. A hiker from a different group volunteered to go back to the trailhead to find and direct emergency crew, if and when they arrived.

Fortunately, the Enlightened have protocols for this stuff. I knew Operators were tracking my movements, and they knew the area I was in, but they would not know why I stopped until I contacted them. I fired up my satellite phone to get their attention. Instantly, they were there to help. They had the numbers to call rangers and emergency responders. They stayed online to relay any messages and help with GPS locations, giving updates on the injured person's status. Operators relayed that they would be sending ground teams along with a helicopter to help get the person out. Sunset was shortly after 5 p.m., so daylight was a huge issue, as it was already 4 p.m. Our first sign of the helicopter rescue crew was at 4:15, but they disappeared after spotting us on the side of the cliff. It was another 20 minutes before they returned and were in position to airlift him out. Once the basket was lowered, the crew worked quickly to retrieve him, and with a wave they were off. The ground emergency crew still had not arrived, but now the sun had set, and ice was going to be a problem. While we were there, we saw four additional groups approach the wash out, and we warned everyone away. We were the last group on the wrong side of the drop. Of the remaining hikers, fewer than half had the proper gear to be on the ice slopes at night. With temperatures falling, it became apparent that without help there would be more people who would need to be rescued from the cliff.

As I was only a short distance from the target portal I had come to get, and the hikers were safely waiting for the ground rescuers to arrive, I did what I came for, and then returned to the incident site and waited. However, by the time I returned, the ground rescue crew had arrived. Ironically, some of the ground crew left in such a rush and had been out saving people all day that they did not remember to pack a head lamp, which left us with only a handful of headlamps for the group, a testament to the fact that even experts sometimes make mistakes. I helped the rescue team set up a rope for safety and then handed over my trekking poles and spikes to others so they could cross the washed out section first. It was slow, but we got everyone across by taking turns passing my headlamp, poles and spikes with a paracord pulley. Finally, when everyone was across, the last ranger and I crossed. The rest of the trip was relatively smooth, with only one other sketchy section. Once back at the parking lot, we exchanged information and said our goodbyes. Both groups of hikers were incredibly thankful for the help and the pure luck that a video game brought someone equipped with the right tools at just the right time to help.

I am super proud of our team! I cannot express this enough. What could have been a disaster was taken care of smoothly. Sadly, this is not the first time we have saved people while out on Ingress adventures, and it will not be the last. But it is worth the reminder to the community. I love hearing the stories of both factions and their adventures, and it saddens me when I hear of agents losing their lives or being injured in the field.

I ask everyone to take the time to look at their own groups and evaluate your protocols to ensure you are eliminating as many risks as possible.

Please, Agents, keep exploring, but be SAFE!

Happy hacking,

+Andrew Krug +Linda B +John Hanke
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