The case for PLBs and EPIRBs in life threatening emergencies.

Submitted: Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 12:28
ThreadID: 131772 Views:2840 Replies:9 FollowUps:23
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A PLB is a Personal Locating Beacon which, when activated, guides rescue authorities to its location.

Difference Between EPIRBs & PLBs

Margaret and I have carried one on our travels for over 20 years. Many would agree that this is a good idea for remote travel, but not necessary for the majority of people.

We would argue to the contrary.

Last weekend, there was an aircraft crash a couple of hundred ks from Adelaide. I won't provide details because I did not see it reported in the press, but the rescue story is worth repeating.
An aircraft crashed close to an airport. It was witnessed by several people. It crashed into a nearby vineyard and an ambulance was immediately called and the witnesses headed towards the crash site, but they could not find it among the vines.

The witnesses were in telephone contact with the ambulance as it approached and told them they could not find the crash site. The ambulance replied that they knew exactly where it was, they had to enter the second block via the third gate and the aircraft was 100m in from the fence (I am paraphrasing).

The aircraft was fitted with a PLB. The ambulance was being relayed the position information.
I would encourage all travelers to carry a PLB. They are the most reliable method of getting emergency assistance. Not only do they send the message "We need help", but they tell the emergency services EXACTLY where you are, something that you may not be able to do on the telephone.

We have also taken ours with us when we travel overseas, we would not expect the same response, but at least people in Oz would know we needed help. It is important to keep authorities informed about where you are when out of Australia, but this is easy to do, on line.
Some statistics of rescues......

Statistics

In short, for around $300, this is the best insurance you can buy. 7 year battery life and no annual fees.

Example
Emergency Personal Locator Beacon

Cheers,
Peter
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Reply By: vk1dx - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 12:39

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 12:39
Peter I agree for a life threatening situation. No argument there. Hard to corrupt the location like that.

But for a few litres of water or even a fan belt I wouldn't use a "one way" device like EPIRB (or what ever the one is that just sends out a beacon - sorry if I got it wrong). That's where a satellite phone and some of these other "messaging" gizmo's will help. And you can also pass the medical history over as well with a phone. It can be a two way chat giving first aid advice to the people in need.

Our phone has the ability to send an email showing the location. Or you put it on the screen and pass it to whomever is at the other end. I would use the email myself so that it isn't corrupted.

There are cases for where all "devices" come into their own.

Phil
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 12:46

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 12:46
Of corse a great benefit of a PLB is that once activated, if you are somehow rendered incapable of sat phoning / HF or 2 way comms / Spot 2 use, etc, it will just keep on working.
Authorities react very fast to PLB / epirb activation as it's just expected to be a full out emergency situation.
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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 13:18

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 13:18
Totally agree with Peter. We carry both a sat phone and a PLB on all trips (including walks)

I would use the phone for breakdowns and the PLB for a vehicle accident where a chopper is trying to locate you.

The side benefits of the sat phone is being able to keep in contact with older relatives back home and as stated being able to have a two way conversation with authorities in an emergency.

Alan
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 16:34

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 16:34
These days you can get a sat phone and a GPS enabled PLB for not much more than $600 that will last for many years. You pay much more than that for most peoples rigs insurance and that's EVERY year.

I cannot for the life of me understand how people and insure their worldly possessions and not insure their own lives for the sake of a mere $600.

If you do not travel in remote areas with both a GPS enabled PLB and a Sat phone you are crazy and don't put a very high value on your life, or those that maybe called on to rescue you.

In a life and death situation a PLB will give you the quickest response by far. Setting one off a PLB alerts immediately the National Emergency Service who have huge resources and powers. They know your position and are in radio contact with the emergency vehicles on the ground and can give them turn by turn directions on how to get to your location no matter where you are.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce B5 - Thursday, Mar 10, 2016 at 12:58

Thursday, Mar 10, 2016 at 12:58
Hi Chris what sort of sat phones are around for the money and how much do they charge you to have one or what do you have ? Any brand suggest for sat phone and a PLB thanks Bruce
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Thursday, Mar 10, 2016 at 13:47

Thursday, Mar 10, 2016 at 13:47
I got my satphone through EO member Satphone Sales and could not be happier. Here is the link
http://www.satphonesales.com.au/Globalstar-GSP1600-Refurbished
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Reply By: slave - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 20:08

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 20:08
so if I take the EPIRB out of my boat and let the authorities know that I will be taking off into the bush they won't come looking for me. Also I am pretty sure PLB,s and EPIRB,s run on the same satelites so I do believe you would be found just as quick by letting both units off at the same time Slave
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 20:22

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 20:22
Hi

No one said dont use an EPIRB out of your boat and on a drive out bush (though possibly against the "rules" ?) ...will work fine on land. Probably less of a good idea to take a PLB on a boat as some don't float and battery life is less (how long can you maintain position while treading water in the middle of ocean :)

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 20:34

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 20:34
PLB and EPIRB's have the same functionality, they are designed for different situations. A PLB is designed to be attached to a person, which can include a person at sea. An EPIRB's designed for a marine environment as they float, have a strobe light, and can trigger themselves. They are usually installed of a boat/yacht and are activated automatically should the vessel turn turtle or activated by a crew member. They float, have a strobe beacon, and activate if in the water.
All PLB and EPIRB's have to be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The information you supply includes your intended travel plans. You should ensure this information is always up to date, as this is the first place they look should your beacon go off. If the beacon location tallies with the info you provide rescue can commence. If no information is supplied or it does not tally they will look for other information to ascertain if it is not a hoax or it has been set off accidentally which will delay any possible rescue if that is what is required.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 21:47

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 21:47
Yep, you register online (new or existing PLB / EPIRBs), list emergency contacts / mobiles, you can tell them you use it on water, land (vehicle and / or on foot), combination sea / land, you can upload pics of boat / vehicle, upload current trip plans (PDF etc), delete completed trips plans once home, very handy resource to have available, and a free service.
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 22:06

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 22:06
Just for everyone's information
You can take a PLB in a boat by all means but they are not a substitute for an Epirb should you be required to carry one by law
The PLB will not float with its antenna out of the water unassisted so does not comply with the regulations
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 22:27

Monday, Mar 07, 2016 at 22:27
Yep, some PLBs are waterproof and float like my KTI, it has a rubber armband pouch too that holds it when carrying or if it was operating, perfect for kayaking etc.
For boating outside the legally required offshore limit, a marine EPIRB is essential.
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Follow Up By: LandCoaster - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 11:38

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 11:38
Les and Idler.... so what happens if you take a detour that puts you 200K's outside of the travel plans you've uploaded?
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 16:15

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 16:15
LC no problems, they would contact your emergency people if added online, if no current trip info logged onto our page, they just GO SEE URGENTLY.
Even if our current trip was on the other side of the country, they still have to go, you're just making things easier by having vehicle (boat etc) pics and latest trip plan available to them.
You don't have to do any of that of course, but why not.
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Follow Up By: LandCoaster - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:01

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:01
Idler Chris posted "If the beacon location tallies with the info you provide rescue can commence. If no information is supplied or it does not tally they will look for other information to ascertain if it is not a hoax or it has been set off accidentally which will delay any possible rescue if that is what is required."

im not meaning to sound negative but your "go see urgently" is not the same as Idler's comment
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:05

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:05
I have just re-registered both of my PLB's an I didn't have to add ANY travel plans!

All the ask for is vehicle details and an emergency contact or contacts.

This was on the AMSA website.

Cheers

Anthony

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Work - a 40 hour interuption to my weekend!
Too many places - too little time

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:16

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:16
They obviously look at your files (if any), look at any trip intentions plans logged (if any), try an emergency contact (if any), and if none of that is present / confirmable quickly, they launch a rescue, usually helicopter, but inland away from then range of helicopters, this would be more likely a light plane.
I'm just taking a guess here, but there'd be something happening quite fast.

Me I don't really see the need to take a sat phone at this stage in my life, we plan properly and have contingencies in place.

ACD1, when you log in, (you have to set up and register) you can upload vehicle pics, pdf files of trips etc.
All this could assist finding you.

Down the bottom of the page there's a notes section, where I guess any relative medical info could be placed.
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 08:04

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 08:04
You take a sat phone so that you can help yourself out of trouble, EPIRBs are for life threatening situations!
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 12:23

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 12:23
To LandCoaster’s comment;

“Les and Idler.... so what happens if you take a detour that puts you 200K's outside of the travel plans you've uploaded?”

If I was to activate my beacon the first thing the AMSA will do is pull up my profile, look at my contact details, establish contact with me or next of kin, and importantly, if I have uploaded a plan they can check to see where my planned trip was.

Having a plan highlights that you are in fact travelling.

I might be a 1,000ks away – but what it does is correlate an activation with a travel plan, a pointer that this is likely to be a "real live emergency" rather than an accidental activation in the backyard at home.

I always upload a plan as it is easy enough to do, they will only ever see it if I activate!

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Reply By: Ron N - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 00:52

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 00:52
Peter's point is well made. There is another vital case where a PLB is crucial - when you have a crash and end up well off the road in vegetation or down an embankment.

There have been multiple cases of car crashes where the vehicle was unable to be seen from the road and both passers-by and SAR people were unable to find the vehicle, even after reports came in, of a crashed vehicle.

In many cases, injured people have been unable to free themselves from the vehicle, or were injured badly enough to not be able to move any substantial distance. A PLB would have been of great use in many of these cases.

My BIL was Snr Sgt of Northampton police station back in the late 90's and the police got a report of a crashed vehicle North of Northampton along the Gt Northern Highway.
The police, with BIL in charge, went looking for the wreck.
Despite only moderate thickness of scrub and bushes, they were unable to find the vehicle.
The police spent considerable time searching from their vehicle along the highway, looking for marks or crushed bushes - yet they sighted nothing that they thought was of value to the search.

They gave up, believing the original report was from a passer-by who had made a mistake, or who'd sighted something like an abandoned car wreck from many years previous.

They went home and told their superiors there was no car wreck to be found. Then a couple of days later, someone phones in and reports a missing person who had been travelling North from Northampton.
This person hadn't arrived at their destination further North, and they were normally very reliable.

The police went back out to the original area where the crash was reported and utilised a bigger team and with aerial support.
There was a fresh wreck there, off the highway, and the police in the air sighted it, and guided the ground team in.

The car had crashed off the road, become airborne and had virtually floated over the roadside vegetation and had ended up a long way off the highway, and it was virtually impossible to see from the highway, unless you were in an elevated position.

Investigation of the wreck found the driver deceased. Then the manure hit the fan, with the relatives claiming the driver could have been saved, if he'd been found in the initial search.
That is a moot point, but it's definitely a possible scenario.
It was never determined whether the driver died from a medical event that caused the crash, or whether he went to sleep, and ran off the road, and died as a result of the crash.

However, BIL got a severe rapping over the knuckles from his seniors, that he thought was undeserved. He reckoned they did all they could with the resources they had at the time - and it wasn't until more resources were thrown in, that the wreck was found.

Perhaps a PLB would have helped in this case - perhaps not. But carrying one would sure add a level of additional assistance.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 10:35

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 10:35
What is a BIL?
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 11:32

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 11:32
Brother-In-Law.
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Follow Up By: Member - Munji - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:19

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 17:19
Was your BIL initials BC
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 19:59

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 19:59
Never heard of that before - should expand when first used if not common. When I googled it I got "Baby In Love" and that didn't seem to circumstance.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 21:20

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 at 21:20
"Was your BIL initials BC?"

Munji, that's correct. My wife's brother.

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: Member - Blue M - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 04:11

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 04:11
Someone may be able help me with my question about PLB's.

Does a PLB use the same satellites as Sat Phones. ?

If so, would it be correct to say, Sat Phones & PLB's may not save you 100% of the time.

Why I say this is, I worked for the Railways as a Track Protection Officer. One place where we worked, just 45k's out of Sarina there was a bad dead spot for all hand held radios and all mobile phones.
I, as others, would have to leave site and travel approx. 15 k's to get some mobile signal.

Our Boss decided to rent Sat phones for those who needed them most, to over come the lack of communications. There were two different brands of Sat Phones used.

The one I had came with a cradle and outside antenna, and for the 4 weeks we worked here, it and the others never worked once in this location, still had to drive maybe 5 - 6 k's to get reception on the Sat Phone.

I never handed mine back in and over the next couple years, I found maybe 10 areas that were 100% dead spots, (Sat Phone) just along side of the railway lines.
These areas varied in length from 100m to several kilometers

I'm sure that there would be may other spots like this elsewhere in Australia.

So if someone was to get injured and required help in these particular areas, and did have a PLB with on him at the time, would it work.? Possibly Not

I think as much as one can prepare for something to go wrong, no one can be 100% guaranteed, the outcome will be in your favour on the day.

I know how important they can be in all other areas that do work.

Cheers




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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 11:14

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 11:14
Blue,

Epirbs and PLBs use a dedicated Search and Rescue satellite system, by international agreement. Subject to screening from topography and other immediate environmental issues they will work anywhere.

They are independent of any satphone system.

From this Epirb website :

[quote]
How does an EPIRB work?

406 MHz EPIRBs work with the Cospas-Sarsat polar orbiting satellite system, giving true global coverage. There is an alert delay of about 45 minutes dependant on when the satellites come into view on the horizon.

The satellite can determine the position of your EPIRB to within 5km (3 miles). The coded message identifies the exact vessel to which the EPIRB is registered. This information allows the rescue services to eliminate false alerts and launch an appropriate rescue.

GPS-enabled EPIRBs have a built-in transmitter which will typically alert the rescue services within 3 minutes and to a positional accuracy of +/- 50 metres (updated every 20 minutes) given a clear view skywards.

Some EPIRBs also have a secondary distress transmitter. This transmits on 121.5 MHz and is used for "homing" purposes. When the rescue services get close, this allows them to direction find on the signal. Some EPIRBs also have a high brightness LED flashing light that aids final visual location.
[/quote]

PLBs use the same system. See link

Cheers
FrankP

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Reply By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 12:36

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 12:36
Whilst a traditional definition of remote is “situated far from the main centres ofpopulation”.

Don’t confuse “remote” with “difficult to locate”!

You could be as close as your nearest bush reserve in one of Australia’s major cities with millions of people around and no-one can locate you due to vegetation, you’ve fallen down a gully, or any number of scenario’s – in which case you might just as well be remote.

PLBs and the like are useful anytime you are off the beaten track, whether in the bush down the road from your urban home or in the middle of no-where…

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 17:31

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 17:31
Yes. The incident I described in the OP was certainly not "remote" by any normal definition, yet the EPIRB certainly ensured that medical attention got to the victim faster than it would have done without it.
And even though the victim was conscious and probably had a telephone, he could not have described his position any more accurately than the witnesses that could not find him.

Cheers,
Peter
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 18:01

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 18:01
Completely with you on this Peter...and good you raised it.

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: Member - Terry W4 - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 18:42

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2016 at 18:42
Having worked in aviation safety promotion with the then CAA back in the 1980s up until 1992, and this coincided at the end with the transition from the analogue to the digital COSPAS-SARSAT (Russia - USA) joint venture) I am a strong supporter of carrying a enabled EPRIB and have a good one in my Prado. Always had one in any aircraft I flew of course and use to run both training exercises and Search and Rescue competitions.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 12:03

Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 12:03
Another example....in the Blue Mountains this time.
They can hear her, but can't find her.
They even had telephone contact with her.

Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 Motorhome
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