The proliferation of cellphones, satellite phones, emergency locator devices, GPS, and similar technology has led to an epidemic of backcountry rescues for people who have called for help they don’t need, risking the lives of rescuers in the process.

Search-and-rescue outfits around the country are grappling regularly with “false alerts” and novices’ getting in over their heads because they think gadgetry guarantees safety. More and more folks are carrying personal locator beacons, or P.L.B.’s, into the backcountry. With the push of a button they can send out an emergency distress signal, but no information about their predicament.