Personal locator beacon fast tracks rescues

CareFlight Chief Aircrewman Brian Guthrie said he had seen the benefits of a PLB first hand in locations with little or no mobile reception.

“We rescued a group of people during the Roma floods two years ago,” Mr Guthrie said.

“They had a PLB and we were able to very quickly hone in on their exact location.

When activated, the PLB sends a signal to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia), which organises for a rescue service such as RACQ CareFlight to respond.

RACQ spokesperson Niki Kormendy said PLBs would give motorists or motorcyclists on road trips reassurance that help would be on hand if needed, regardless of local mobile network coverage.

“Preparation for long road trips – particularly those through remote areas – is essential,” Ms Kormendy said.

“In addition to preparing your vehicle, planning your route and rest stops and checking road conditions and weather reports, motorists should take a PLB in case of an emergency.

Ms Kormendy said those regularly using quad bikes or riding horses and motorbikes on large rural properties with patchy mobile phone reception could also safeguard themselves by carrying PLBs.

RCC Australia urges people to buy the latest GPS encoded 406 MHz versions that can give your location to within 120 metres in a matter of minutes.

“The accuracy of a GPS encoded beacon means that something can be done on the ground even if the weather or darkness make it too dangerous to fly,” AMSA’s Emergency Response Division GM John Young said.

Mr Young recommended registering your beacon as soon as it is purchased.

“Registering your beacon with AMSA means that rescue officers will not only know where you are, but also who you are, what your vehicle looks like, and who to contact in an emergency,” Mr Young said.

“This can save precious time and prevent an expensive search being launched if you activate your beacon inadvertently.”
Personal Locator Beacons retail for around $300.

“I have one myself,” CareFlight Aircrewman Brian Guthrie said.

“It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.”

For more information about PLBs go to Australian Maritime Safety Authority.