Pokemon Go craze raises helipad safety concerns

Pokemon Go craze raises helipad safety concerns 14 Jul, 16, Source: HeliHub.com

The latest smartphone game craze Pokémon Go has raised safety concerns at some hospital helipads – but is it justified?  The game, which sees users chasing game characters in real life, is a clever mix between a game and a smartphone real-life mapping application. The Pokémon characters show up seemingly at random, encouraging users to physically get to the locations (known as PokéStops) to “capture” the character.  As this YouTube video from famous film maker Casey Neistat shows, the craze is doing a good job getting users (mainly teenagers) out to get some fresh air, but their eyes are fixed on their phone screens and seemingly oblivious of the world around them.

In an article by WFAA television, staff at Denton Regional Medical Center in Texas are concerned that Pokémon Go may be unaware of causing an obstruction to emergency vehicles, and in one example, they identified a Pokémon Go character appearing on one side of the hospital helipad.

Our own investigation of the craze suggests that this is being taken out of proportion.  Consulting with users here in the UK – where the app only became available this morning – finds that you can “capture” these characters at a distance – reckoned to be in the range 50 to 100 metres, perhaps more.  It seems logical that if you have a safety issue with helipad operations, you would fence off a particular area to block people accessing it.  Yes, a teenage craze may ignore fences, but a fence is a major step in the right direction.  If you haven’t fenced off your operating area, then don’t go suing Niantic, makers of the app, just see logical operating sense and put up a fence.

Some locations are less appropriate, though.  PokéStops have appeared at both the Holocaust Museum in Washington and the 9/11 Memorial in New York.  “Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism,” Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, told the Washington Post. “We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game.”.  Even if the Holocaust Museum gets game developer Niantic to remove its PokéStop status, that won’t purge Pokémon from appearing there. Pokémon appear when the app is active. Eliminating Pokémon from the museum would require users to stop opening the app at the museum.

Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com

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