Hikers on country trails now have a quick way to communicate their whereabouts - by text message.
A non-profit collective of the telecoms industry, the Communications Association of Hong Kong, launched a new SMS service yesterday to improve the safety of hikers, a frequent concern.
Police figures show that there were 560 requests for assistance in the first 11 months of last year.
Under the SMS Hiker Tracking Service, hikers can key in the number of the nearest distance post and send it in a text message to telephone number 50222.
That will register their location with the service, which will delete the encrypted information after three days if no incident is reported.
However, if hikers get into trouble while trekking, they, their friends or their family need to call the emergency services to activate a rescue operation, which will refer to their text message to ascertain their whereabouts.
Franky Lai, the association's vice-chairman, said the service would 'speed up rescue procedures'.
The service, which applies to all hiking trails, is managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Hong Kong's trails have regular distance markers.
The SMS service is free and does not require any prior registration.
It is supported by major mobile operators such as CSL, China Mobile, PCCW, SmarTone and Three.
If no phone signal is available to send a text message, the message can be stored and sent once a network signal is detected.
The system will give rescuers only the distance post number and the time the text message was sent.
The next stage is to extend the service to lamp posts or slope registration numbers, the association said.
It is also working on a free application for smartphones.