You should be using Garmin Incident Detection - here's why

January 19, 2021

You should be using Garmin Incident Detection - here's why

I recently crashed while out training. I was on a rarely used trail, alone, and I hit my head hard enough that it took me a few worried moments thinking "do I have a head injury?" before I could re-assemble myself.

As a result of the crash, a feature on my Garmin Edge 520 GPS turned on that I had completely forgotten about - incident detection. I set it up years ago when I first bought the device, and promptly forgot about it.

I could hear the warning beeping in the background, but wasn't sure what it was. Turns out it was Garmin's incident detection alert, which monitors your GPS activity for sudden stops and impacts (i.e., a likely crash) and then tries to notify contacts that you've identified previously that you may be in trouble, via SMS text message. It knew I had hit the deck, and was warning me that my "SOS" message was about to be sent to the contacts I had entered, unless I pressed a specific button to stop it. 

Garmin's incident detection notified my spouse of the accident via SMS

Fortunately, I'm OK, and emergency services was not necessary. I was able to simply walk out of the trail. But the incident detection worked exactly as advertised - my wife received the text message, and was able to click the included link to see my position on Google Maps. In this particular circumstance, I was in good enough shape to make a phone call - but if I'd been incapacitated, she would have been able to find me. That's invaluable. 

Now that I'm home and recovering, I'm spending some time thinking about the risks we undertake when we leave for rides alone. I'm going to get back in the habit of leaving an itinerary when I plan to leave the more heavily-trafficked routes.

I've been doing almost 100% of my riding alone, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under more normal conditions, perhaps half my rides would be in a group setting. Riding with others adds a measure of safety, especially in very remote areas where there might not be any cell service (where Garmin's incident detection therefore cannot work.)

If you have a compatible device, please consider turning incident detection on. Garmin offers this feature on select Edge cycling GPS units, as well as some smartwatches. Specialized has an integration for their ANGi system that works with Wahoo Fitness GPS devices in a similar fashion, and there are other solutions that pair your GPS with your mobile phone as well. Please take a moment to check if your device supports this, and do it today. 

Incident detection limitations

These technologies have some limitations - sending an email or SMS text relies on having cellular data service available, which might not work in remote areas. These systems also don't "dial 911" for you - the party notified by SMS would need to do that, if needed. 

If you have one of these devices, please take a moment to doublecheck that you have incident detection enabled, and a list of contact(s) loaded up to contact just in case. If you don't currently own an enabled device, I'd certainly make sure any future device includes this feature. 

Ride safe! 



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