A Personal Locater Beacon, is the last resort device you can rely on in the outdoors when there is an emergency requiring rescue assistance.
Mobile / Cellular telephones work great in the city, but because they operate on UHF radio channels they only operate “line of sight,” which means their connection to the network is easily blocked by outdoor terrain and forest.
A Personal Locater Beacon (PLB) Unlike a mobile phone transmits its signal directly to a dedicated search and rescue satellites, resulting in a real time alert to the National Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington.
The Personal Locater Beacon also transmits your GPS position and a homing signal.
The PLB (406Mhz) is registered to the owner, so on activation the Police(NZ rescue Leader) is automatically provided with information like;
- Your Identification
- Next of Kin / likely Intentions plan holder
- Type of Beacon
- Activity you are likely engaged in
Personal Locater Beacon activation – When is the right Time?
While its never possible to be black and white as to when is the right time to set off a PLB, it helps to consider them as the last resort in a life threatening / time critical emergency, when no other form of communication is possible. The Beacons NZ web page has a good activation guide to help you make the decision.(worth reading before you need it)
Activating your PLB;
- Do so in a location that is safe for you
- With a wide view of the sky if possible
- Don’t cover the device
- Don’t move the PLB or yourself from the location once activated
- Let the rescuers turn off the beacon
Where to carry your PLB?
It is strongly recommended that a PLB always be carried on your person;
- On your belt,
- In a strong zipped pocket
- After years of looking for a great way to not carry it in my pockets, I found Mountain High Clothing, a great New Zealand company who were happy to customise their radio harness for my requirements(*1)($55 NZ)
Never carry your PLB in your back pack, all it takes is for you to indistinctly drop your pack to;
- Climb a boulder for that great photograph..
- Nip out of the hut/ off the track for the call of nature..
- During a fall in a river
- When you Loose your footing descending a slope
- Or any number of possibilities when you are suddenly separated from your pack and fall / Injury your self.
How do you carry your PLB?
Personal Locater Beacons available in New Zealand
Firstly it advisable to always buy your beacon coded to your home country, it will however work any where in the world.
When I purchased my first beacon 10 years ago it weighed 300gm and was one of the first new generation of 406Mhz PLB’s on the market. There is now a huge range of latest beacons on the market, all of which are significantly smaller, cheaper and more advanced then my original one.
Having recently replaced / upgraded mine to the Kti SafetyAlert PLB – SA2G, (rather than install a second battery) I found it was difficult to find another beacon that was as advanced;
- Fits in the average adults hand, and weighs 140gm
- Designed for one handed operation
- Is Gps equipped(3m accuracy) – sending and updating your position.
- Displays a flashing strobe light when activated
- Transmits a homing signal
- It will transmit for a minimum of 24 hours+
- The Kti floats on its own with out additional floatation
- Lanyard with incorporated whistle
- Signalling mirror in case
- Rigid zipped belt case – 50mm webbing belt loop (and Neoprene pouch or Armband available)
- The cheapest available in New Zealand retail market:$314.00
I haven’t found any yet, have you?
Before you use your new PLB in the outdoors, the first step is to register it, (for free) which make this beacon unique to you and provides automatically provides rescue information about you on activation including;
- Your contact details
- Type of beacon
- Next of kin
- Type of activity you are likely to be engaged in
New Zealand PLB’s can be Registered online at Beacons NZ
All PLB’s have a battery Expiry date marked on the case or battery. Make sure the battery gets changed at this time.
While it is often possible to change the battery yourself, it’s a more advisable to take the PLB to the authorised service agent, and have it changed along with a full system check up.(the self test function can not test if the PLB can still actually transmit when activated)
(*1) Having commenced using the harness in Mid 2018, I am really pleased with it, it can be moved around to suit your needs – centre of the chest or off to the side, and I have found the second large pocket great for carrying my Topo. map, compass and small camera, with a small survival kit under the beacon in the outer pocket. MHC where very happy to work on modifications to the basic design also.
- How weather affects cellphones
- McMurdo Fast find 220
- Beacons NZ
- The Bloke
- Skippers Mate
- Wildlife, Federated Mountain Clubs, New Zealand