Missing person in the Indian jungle - the value of the Travel Oracle ‘Mayday’ function.

Missing person in India
When a traveller got lost trekking in the jungle in India they set off the ‘mayday alert’ on their Healix Travel Oracle app to request assistance. Battling against unreliable phone signal and limited phone battery, we were tasked with navigating them back to safety remotely. When communications were lost, we worked alongside our medical team and local assets to prepare for various eventualities based on their last known location. After a few hours, the traveller safely met with hotel staff road-side and we were able to stand down. This case illustrates the worth of the ‘mayday’ function on our Travel Oracle app.

The whole story: In September 2018 we dealt with an assistance case where a traveller had become lost in the jungle in the far north of India after what was supposed to be a one-day trek. They set off a ‘mayday alert’ on their Travel Oracle app to request assistance after spending the night on the floor of the jungle, and we were tasked with navigating them back to their destination and providing remote support.

Owing to the location of this traveller their phone signal was unreliable, and to preserve their battery life we scheduled 3-hourly check-ins with their phone in airplane mode for the rest of the time. Using the Mayday function, we succeeded in plotting their GPS locations for three check-ins across six hours, but during the final few hours of the projected journey the traveller missed their check-in and we could not contact them to verify their safety.

Lost communications protocols were initiated

Our first reaction was to initiate the lost communications protocols that we had established at the beginning of the call – their alternative US phone number, and the phone numbers we had taken from their travel companion. When both of these failed we attempted to contact them via various mediums – WhatsApp, SMS and telephone in case they had no internet connection but were able to receive other forms of contact. Simultaneous to this, we stepped up contingency planning in the event that they did not get back in contact and did not arrive at their location as scheduled. We established an escalation protocol linked to timelines and agreed that if we had not heard back within six hours, we would deploy nearby security assets on the ground.

We continued to update their Security Manager of the lost communication situation and presented them with the option of deploying assets sooner if they wanted to. We also worked with our medical team to establish where the nearest medical centres were to the traveller’s last known location and consulted about the medical risks of being out in the open at night, and more importantly about their water situation and the risk of dehydration. As they still had some water left, we advised the travellers on how best to conserve it.

Prepared for emergency medical evacuation

Our medical team consulted with our local agents in relation to air ambulances so that we were prepared in the event they should be required for a medical evacuation and coordination of this part of the operation was discussed with the security team.

We also reached out to the traveller’s hotel, advising them of the missing person’s projected path and asking them to send a car to the nearest vehicle access point and provide us with updates if they made contact. The client checked in within two hours, having met the hotel staff on the roadside and reported that their phone had been out of service. Our medical team ensured that he was in good health and did not require any further medical attention.

Why Healix Travel Oracle?

The benefit of the ‘Mayday’ function on our Travel Oracle app is that it sends the individual’s GPS location, as well as audio and images from their surroundings. This information enables our Global Security Operations Centre (GSOC) staff to render assistance accordingly, via either telephonic assistance, the standing up of a specialist Incident Management Team, or deploying local assets if necessary. This case highlights how the more details clients have provided, the easier it will be to track down the individual.