Comment: Communications Equipment Review

I have been told that AMSA will not respond to an SOS from a Spot device even if it is forwarded to them. This may something to do with the Spot devices not being registered with them. Can anyone clarify this? Do I need an EPIRB if I have a Spot device?
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Reply By: Member - DW Lennox Head(NSW) - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 16:15

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 16:15
I have been at the Avalon Airshow over the past 2 days. AMSA were there.

While on the AMSA stand I asked about another similar product, Delorme InReach. The officer there told me, after checking, that an Emergency signal/message would be sent from the tracker to the satellite provider who would then pass it to AMSA to act upon. The advantage this unit has is that messages can be passed to and from it. So an emergency can be called off, too.

On this information, I would assume that the Spot unit would also be acted upon when an emergency signal is received from it.

I am not involved with the sale of this product but was privileged to have one to trial for 6 months. One thing is for sure that when I go into remote areas again, I will be buying/hiring one of these units. I successfully sent and received messages from my son while trialling this unit.

Cheers
DW


AnswerID: 505908

Follow Up By: Member - Berylvt - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 16:20

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 16:20
Thanks for that -quite reassuring! Do you know if AMSA would have access to the emergency contacts list and other information on the SPOT account?
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 09:31

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 09:31
Hullo Berylvt

This morning I had the time to look up my SPOT2 fille on the computer.

When you personalise the set-up, you have the choice of nominating contacts through either email or mobile phone for all the categories - SOS, Help (non-emergency), OK and Customised.

As I said elsewhere, one of my I nominated contacts is my eldest daughter - who happens to be an emergency operations manager in a large govt dept - and who is a very competent and level headed person. She always has a rough itiniary for where I/we are going and will contact SAR Canberra if I activate the SOS function.

It is of note that SPOT is used by many organisations who have personnel working in remote areas as an integral part of their OH&S system. In one case I know of, all contractors working for this particular organisation are required to carry an activated SPOT on the "bread crumb" setting so their supervisors have a accurate and up to date record of their location in case of an accident. They have judged that if the operator is knocked unconcious, an EPIRB is not much use as they work by themselves.

In the end though, you need to make a decision about what is best for you based on your own needs.

Cheers
Andrew
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Reply By: Member - DW Lennox Head(NSW) - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 16:29

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 16:29
I cannot add to what I have written previously but may I suggest you contact them direct. Then there is no doubt for you. http://www.amsa.gov.au/Search_and_Rescue/

DW
AnswerID: 505909

Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 17:37

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 17:37
Whats your life worth? A GPS enabled MT410G PLB is about $350 these days which you register with AMSA. At any time you can update your information through their website. When I travel I put in a rough plan of my trip so if I do set it off it will match the plan I have given them and is likely to ensure a speedie response. (IE They can be reasonable sure it is not a false alarm.)
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Follow Up By: Member - saa3011 - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 18:00

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 18:00
Berylvt, I have to support Idler Chris. Spot is nothing more than a "gadget" for informing people where you are travelling (with some additions to make people feel safe) - this is not intended as derogatory to Spot. In addition, AMSA are not there to inform family and friends, they are there to launch extensive resources to save your life if you need it. A GPS enabled PLB and/or a sat phone are the way to go. If people can afford to travel to the far reaches - what price a life??
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Follow Up By: Michaeljp - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 20:55

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 20:55
I to have a MT410G, i have registered it some years ago and i have not been back onto their website to read anything on it. But if it has a built in GPS as this unit does, is it really necessary to log a rough travel plan with AMSA? I was told the the GPS will get rescuers within 100m or less of you.
Idler Chris, im not having a go at you at all, im just asking a question.
Cheers Mick
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 21:01

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 21:01
Berylvt
I carry a SPOT, HF plus a sat phone. The most used is the HF (listening to the sked and logging into VKS737), closely followed by SPOT, with the sat phone a distant last. As Tim said, it is the multiple uses of SPOT that I find useful. If I am camping in areas outside mobile reception, I activate the "All's well" button while setting up camp. This sends this message as a sms to my daughter plus the lat/long, which shows my position on a mapping app on her smart phone. WRT the batteries, I replace the AAA lithiums before every trip and carry a spare set, as just one of many pre-departure tasks.

saa3011
Quote - "AMSA are not there to inform family" That is not my understanding. When registering an EPIRB, you are required to include information about contact people, which will normally include next of kin (family). If you activate this device, one of the protocols is that S&R will contact these people to advise them and help ascertain the validity of the alarm.
So the question from the OP re contacting family in the case of using the emergency facility on SPOT is a reasonable one.
(PS. Your comment "this is not intended as derogatory to Spot" sounds to mke a bit like lawyers using the phrase "with all due respect" just prior to tipping the bucket over someone! :-)

Cheers
Andrew
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 21:30

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 21:30
As you can imagine that AMSA receive many more false alarms than real emergencies. The first thing they must do when they receive an alarm signal is to try and ascertain its validity. If you have logged on their website your travel plans and the alarm position correlates with your travel plans they are a long way down the track of validating the alarm. The sooner they have some confidence it is a genuine emergency the sooner you will receive help. It is really a matter of helping yourself by giving your would be rescuers as much infomation as possible. For example I do not have an HF radio but if a vehicle in our group does have one I include details of their call sign. The same with sat phones I include details of all of them too.
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Follow Up By: Michaeljp - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 00:59

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 00:59
I understand, cheers mate.
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Follow Up By: Member - saa3011 - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 10:53

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 10:53
Andrew, my "not derogatory" comment was genuine - they have their uses. My preference when I travel is Sat Nav for tracking, Sat Phone for contact (discussing a situation is preferable to pressing a "help I'm broken down" button, and PLB.

Michaeljp, my PLB is an MT410G and it is GPS enabled, however, Idler Chris makes sense in logging travel plans.
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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 12:14

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 12:14
The SPOT Messenger is definitely more than a gadget. It has an SOS button which works in a similar manner - albeit less directly - to a PLB. It has worked for people OS but I haven't read of similar rescues in this country from a SPOT SOS activation. That said, the EPIRB/PLB setup in Australia is a direct, well organised and tested system and when time is of the essence I prefer the peace of mind it brings. Iirc GME now offers 1 free battery replacement (if unactivated) for new MT410Gs and one other beacon in their range. Means you have an effective life of ~12 years (or you can onsell it with the new battery after 6).
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Reply By: Tim - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 18:18

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 18:18
Spot devices have a number of transmission options being check in, custom, help and SOS. The SOS function is the only one which is sent to AMSA. AMSA do respond and I know this because I was involved in a rescue late last year from an SOS activation.
All other messages only go to your nominated email addresses/mobile phone numbers via SMS.
The benefit these devices have over an epirb is that you can watch the progress of a trip and you can also request assistance in a non life threatening situation. If you break down and you have an epirb, you can't be justified in using it where as with a spot you can request help with out AMSA launching a search op. In saying all that, they are not tested to the same standards as EPIRBS and rely on the user changing the batteries when required. I always advise customers that these can be used for but not relied upon in a life and death situation.
Tim
AnswerID: 505915

Follow Up By: Member - saa3011 - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 18:41

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 18:41
Spot - on Tim.
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 19:00

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 19:00
If you have an AMSA registered PLB you give yourself the greatest chance if the brown stuff hits the fan. Everyone who travels in the outback should have one. Unfortunately many a rescuer has lost his life looking for others in difficulty. With these PLB's you give you rescuers a lot of valuable information and significantly reduces the risks to rescuers of injury and death. If you read up on the deaths occurring on rescue missions you will find in excess of 90% of the deaths would not have occurred if the person in trouble had had a GPS enabled PLB.
Satellite phones are good but cannot be guaranteed to work, I always carry one as well because they can be useful.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
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Reply By: ExplorOz - David & Michelle - Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 22:17

Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 at 22:17
The MOU between SPOT and AMSAR clearly states that they will respond to the activation of the SOS button. Also with spot you can register other events to send SMS or emails. I carry both when I have my boat but rely on SPOT for all 4wd activities.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
---------------------------------
Always working not enough travelling!

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Reply By: Nigel Migraine - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 09:25

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 09:25
Ignore the foolish and uninformed anti Spot comments above - this site seems to specialise in proponents of "The One True Way".


AMSA *do* respond to Spot emergency calls - what'd think they're going to do? "Yeah, we got this Spot thingie with a full GPS co-ordinate, but we didn't bother to follow it up - shame he karked it". Gawd!


For Australian vehicle land travellers a Spot device has a number of advantages over an EPIRB. Most likely our problems will stem from things such as being bogged or broken down in a remote location. Usually this is not a life threatening situation but it may become one in a few days if we do not get help. With an EPIRB your only option is to press the button - if you do that on day one you'll look a bit silly if help happens by ten minutes later. On the other hand if you wait until your water has almost run out it may be too late.


With a Spot you press the "Help" button on day one and your mate, family, whoever immediately knows *exactly* where you are and that you have, at this time, a non-life threatening problem. S&R has not been triggered because there's no need *at this time*. Now, ideally, you should have a HF radio or sat phone and then you can explain your predicament.


otoh if your situation is immediately life threatening; vehicle accident, snake bite etc the Spot has an "Emergency" button which will institute a full S&R in just the same manner as an EPIRB.


On top of that the Spot has a "Check in" button which sends an "OK" message and your GPS sourced location to family, friends etc via both e-mail and/or SMS. So if you sent one last night when you made camp but don't send another one (unconscious/trapped - vehicle accident?) at least S&R have an idea where to start looking. An EPIRB does not provide any of these non emergency facilities - it's a one-shot device and should only be triggered in the event of major and serious emergencies.


The situation for sea and air travel is quite different and an EPIRB is either mandated and/or the best choice in these situations - however the addition of a Spot would allow you to send "Check in" messages to reassure family and friends.


I have owned a Spot since they came on to the market, three years past iirc, and have used its "Check in" features successfully and extensively - I have also, very recently, been involved with S&R in one Spot generated emergency situation - all went well and serious issues were avoided because the "Help" signal was triggered before a full emergency developed - which, without doubt, would have occurred and then we might have been recovering corpses.


If you choose a Spot device I suggest you go for the stand-alone unit and not the one which mates with a smartphone - keep it simple is the ethos.
AnswerID: 505945

Reply By: Member - Berylvt - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 10:19

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 10:19
Thanks everybody! That's great information and discussion. One more aspect I'd like your combined opinions on- what about overseas- remote areas such as Tibet or Mongolia. Who will get the distress signal and activate the S&R - if anyone! And does either device have advantages in this situation?
AnswerID: 505950

Follow Up By: Nigel Migraine - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 10:33

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 10:33
Forget it.

Head into the Second or Third World and you're on your own mate.

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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 13:49

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 13:49
Hullo Berylvt
I suggest you go to their website and get the information direct from them. I seem to recall that they have arrangements with a number of countries but with whom specifically and how that worked is best sorted by you personally.
Cheers
Andrew
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FollowupID: 782877

Follow Up By: Cravenhaven - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 18:47

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 18:47
As to "WHO" will get the distress signal:
- The SPOT sends its updates (whichever message type/button is selected) via satellite and the receiver is always the SPOT organisation.

It doesnt matter where you are in the world, provided the SPOT device can access its satellites (ie you're not inside a cave, or a shielded building etc) the messages will be sent. I used one for tracking purposes when I went on a trek to Nepal a few years ago, and also on a Trans-Siberian trip from St Petersburg to Beijing via Mongolia.

As to who the S&R organisation would be in a particular country, it would be best to ask the SPOT organisation themselves.
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Follow Up By: Member - Berylvt - Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 19:13

Sunday, Mar 03, 2013 at 19:13
At least with the Spot system you know there will be a western country (USA) involved as well as the third world country. And our emergency contacts in Australia will also know that there is an emergency and can try to help things along from here.

I'm not sure what would happen with an EPIRB in a third world country though, and I doubt anyone at home would know about it, nor any western authorities until it was too late. However I will continue to look into it.
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Reply By: Member - Murray M2 - Friday, Mar 08, 2013 at 00:33

Friday, Mar 08, 2013 at 00:33
re the Spot , Having paid outright for it and then pay the insurance I am on the understanding that I am covered for up to $110000.00 recovery costs for any major incident.

AnswerID: 506296

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