CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Geocaching is the place where the digital world and the physical world come together to create a unique type of treasure hunt.
It's a world-wide phenomenon that entertains people and families every weekend. Geocachers are continually trying to educate people about geocaching and the proper way to do it. They work with law enforcement to make sure this family fun sport is done within regulations.
Typically, the treasure hunt is created by volunteers all over the globe that hide treasure boxes in various public places. These treasure hunts can be a great way to experience the great outdoors, use GPS and a compass, and experience something new and different. However, it can also cause safety concerns for those placing the treasure and those seeking it.
All you need is a smartphone with GPS and time for an adventure. However, if someone without the best intentions is behind the geocache, you have to be aware.
WBTV's cyber expert, Theresa Payton, explains what you need to know so you can be safe while experiencing your internet inspired treasure hunt.
1. Law enforcement has reported lots of false alarms where citizens see a suspicious box hanging off electrical or water equipment.
2. You are relying on strangers to tell you to go look for treasure and many of the improperly placed geocaches are deep in the woods or remote areas of a park.
3. The concern expressed by some is that geocaching desensitizes people and they stop reporting suspicious boxes because they assume it is a geocache.
4. Geocaches, if placed by those who don't know how to safely and properly place them, are popping up in sites that are dangerous such as attached to road signs, water sources, or electrical/gas sources.
HOW TO GEOCACHE SAFELY
1. Consider controlled geocache adventures. Use the reputable geocache website listed below. Places like the National Whitewater Center have created their own experiences for visitors.
2. If you see a suspicious looking box, don't assume it's just a geocache, please report it.
3. Do not broadcast on the internet, in advance, that you are going geocaching and the sites you are going to. Please always geocache with friends. Safety in numbers!
4. If you are hiding the buried treasure by placing a geocache, never attach it to water, gas, or electrical sources because you create a safety issue for yourself and others--and, you may be breaking the law
5. Think first before you go galloping into the woods with an odd looking box, you may look suspicious and need to answer to authorities!
6. Prepare in advance: have your phone fully charged and/or extra batteries for the phone or GPS you are using. Dress appropriately for the weather. If you are going into remote areas, have items such as water and flashlights on hand just in case you get lost. It's also a good idea to have a big stick and a pocket knife just in case you need it. Always have a first aid kit on hand or in the car.
7. Consider a back up plan in the event you cannot get a cell phone signal. Create a rendezvous point and specific time to meet. Walkie talkies for your party can also be very helpful.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service lists guidelines if you want to geocache at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/psicc/home/?cid=stelprdb5279753 and tips for safe geocaching at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/shoshone/home/?cid=stelprdb5330263&width=full
WORD OF THE WEEK: #FF
This is a hashtag term on Twitter meaning "Follow Friday" but also interpreted as a "Fun to Follow". Friday is a traditional day on Twitter to do a shout out for your favorite products, celebrities or other people you like to follow on Twitter. You may see someone say, "You are true #FF" meaning "You are a true fun to follow for Follow Friday".
322 Shipyard Boulevard