PLB contact information

Hi. I have a question about the operation of PLBs (e.g. GME MT410G or similar). I understand that when the PLB is registered, one or more emergency contact names and phone numbers etc are supplied.

If the "event" happens and the the beacon is activated I gather that authorities will try to get in contact with the emergency contacts e.g. my daughter. If that happens how does this phone call appear on my daughter's phone? Does it display as just some random number calling or does it come up with some name that is easily recognizable as a phone call that she should answer?

With the number of scam callers etc around these days more and more people are just not answering the phone if it a number that is not recognised.

Does anyone have any information about this?
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Suitcase
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Reply By: RMD - Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 20:41

Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 20:41
Suitcase.
That is a very good question. I am one who ignores calls I don't recognize or those which have no letters of ID on the screen. I hope, I presume the system provides a number to you to enter in memory so any such call is presented witha name or code which you do recognize. I agree it could go unanswered if sensible pre planning.
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Reply By: Member - rocco2010 - Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 20:51

Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 20:51
I never answer a call from a number I don’t recognise.

But I do have voicemail.

One would hope the people in charge of PLB responses would leave a message.

The person from Eltham in Victoria who rings a few times a week never does.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 20:56

Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 20:56
I agree a voice message is better than nothing but consider the situation where my daughter is a teacher. If she sees an emergency number that she knows she has to answer she will do so immediately even if she is with a class. A voice message may not be responded to for a couple of hours.
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Reply By: Bazooka - Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 21:32

Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 at 21:32
Don't know Suitcase but you could always ask AMSA (1800 406 406 ) whether there's a standard AMSA number/s she could expect to see. Lack of response from the emergency contact won't stop them acting obviously.

Their email: ausbeacon@amsa.gov.au
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 10:52

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 10:52
Good advice Bazooka. I sent them a message and received a phone call back within a couple of hours. At the moment their phone call will come up as No Caller ID or Private. Apparently they are trying to get that changed. The lady I spoke to said that she would always send an SMS if the phone call is not answered and the text will state Search and Rescue. There was also the suggestion that when registering (or to contact them) to make sure that your record contains the request to always send an SMS as well as the phone call.
Damned good service. I'll go out and get a PLB now.
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Follow Up By: OzzieCruiser - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:32

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:32
Suitcase - surely you were not hanging off on getting a PLB because a nominated point of contact would not know who was calling them.

As said, calling the point of contact has nothing to do with the process of sending out rescue resources.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:44

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:44
No. It was just one of the questions I had. I have always carried a sat phone but was just organising myself to have the extra security.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:35

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:35
.
Calling your contact(s) does have "something to do with the process".

AMSA website states.......
..."Search and rescue authorities commence search operations as soon as they can. If your beacon is registered, AMSA Search and Rescue will look up your account and ring your emergency contacts immediately. If emergency contacts are aware of trip details or trip details have been submitted online, search operations can be commenced much sooner. So it is essential to keep your details up to date."

Ringing your 'emergency contacts' to determine your probable location is an assurance to AMSA that it is less likely to be a false alarm to enable early commencement of search operations.

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Allan

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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:51

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:51
Absolutely correct Allan. In trying to keep my answer short I (and Ozzie) over-simplified the process. Suitcase obviously understood the process but I should have been more concise for less-informed readers.

The point, as most know, is that a contact not responding - or no/out-of-date contact details being available - will NOT stop or delay AMSA from responding to the beacon emergency. On the other hand extra info MAY help them in their preparations. For example - the owner has a known health problem etc etc.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:56

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:56
The lady from AMSA that rang me was most helpful and the call was very informative. Obviously it is a concern for them - but there are ongoing conversations with Telstra about getting the situation changed.
I was impressed by the service.
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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 14:26

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 14:26
It's funny how we're impressed with basic, and essential, public service service eh Suitcase? I can't say the same wrt a couple of interactions I had with the TGA not long ago. The loss of experience and corporate knowledge across the federal public service is probably to blame but the lack of common sense and knowledge of their own mandate/responsibilities was astonishing.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 17:24

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 17:24
.
Hi Bazooka,

I have some association with LifeFlight here on the Sunshine Coast and from them have learned a bit about the AMSA service, which I must say, is impressive.
I understand that in responding to a distress they have a protocol of action. They firstly attempt to validate the call and use several factors including checking with registered emergency contacts. They then attempt to evaluate the circumstance and consider other possible sources of information. The action then initiated is based on a number of factors and may range from requesting assistance from local entities such as local police, station owners etc. Sending out the 'cavalry' in helicopters is not an immediate action.
However I was assured that all of this is executed very promptly as their objective is to provide an adequate response expediently.
Nevertheless, this does take some time and they may still not be aware of the nature of the predicament until they make contact with the person in distress. It is for this reason that my first emergency action is via my satphone so that I can acquaint the authorities with the nature and urgency of my situation, receive acknowledgement that they understand and are responding, and if needed, be provided with guidance in coping in the short term. I consider my PLB to be a secondary, but essential communication. This policy was endorsed by my LifeFlight contact. It is for this reason that it can be considered that emergency communicators such as the Garmin InReach which can append text information have some merit over a PLB.
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Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 23:26

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 23:26
I would assume that as I have activated my PLB they would be fully aware of my predicament. That is that I need urgent help. If I have 2 broken legs I don't want to talk to someone about it, I want a Helicopter. :)
Dave.
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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 00:01

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 00:01
Yes Allan, they would (should) always follow their protocols (hopefully systematically) before despatching help. Probably have them well-documented and mounted on wall charts and should be logging actions online as they proceed. They'd presumably be checking things like weather, potential hazards, transport options, contacting other agencies (availability of local police and doctors), etc etc as well as trying to get more details from the contact. An ounce of preparation from knowledge gained is worth a pound of effort in those situations. There would likely be rare occasions when time is super critical ("all hands on deck") but even then I'd expect some basic rules would be followed before the go button is pushed.

Agree there are obvious advantages when emergency responders can communicate directly with the SOS sender. Being stuck somewhere remote might warrant activating a PLB but it doesn't necessarily mean urgent assistance is required. PLB's are basically dumb communicators when it all boils down.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 08:50

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 08:50
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David, if you are in the middle of the Great Victoria Desert you ain't gunna get a helicopter.... they don't have the range. There are other options but they may take a little time. AMSA may call on a station to bring you to their airstrip for RFDS response. It can be useful to receive either medical advice or reassurance that help is on its way. With PLB activation alone you do not even receive acknowledgement that the signal has been received...... it is an electronic device that can fail.
Yes, I DO "want to talk to someone" If I am experiencing agonising pains. A satphone or HF to RFDS can connect to a doctor with advice that can be of assistance whilst waiting for attendance.
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Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 09:36

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 09:36
Listening to a retired policeman on the radio recount his time on remote stations.
While out on a cattle station trying to organize the evacuation of a badly injured
station hand was amazed to have a Chinook (Army) land in the paddock.
Seems they were on exercises up that way, listening in on the 2way and decided to drop in and lend a hand.
So you never know. :)
David.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 10:03

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 10:03
.
You're right David....... You never know!
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Reply By: Member - DW Lennox Head(NSW) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 04:16

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 04:16
I have a Garmin InReach SE+. If I activate the alert it goes direct to AMSA and they direct Emergency Services to the GPS location.
The Inreach has the ability to send and receive text messages and so eliminates the unanswered phone call. In an emergency, I do not want to have to rely on a maybe answered call.
My Inreach has not had to use the Emergency alert but have sent and received lots of text messages through it.
In an Emergency situation AMSA will try to establish SMS contact to ensure the correct support is dispatched otherwise all Emergency services will be sent to that location unless the Emergency alert is disengaged. They will try to make contact even if it is switched off.
It is easily Bluetooth connected to other devices but can have messages typed from it.
I have been lucky to visit AMSA and see what occurs when an Emergency alert is activated. After that, I would not bother with a PLB or satphone. It can easily be carried while Bush walking or similar.
Currently, my son and his family are flying around the Kimberley so they not only have the aircraft EPIRB but also the Inreach device. I can see where they are when they activate. It is accurate to within about a metre.
Just my reason for not having another device and preference for the Garmin InReach SE+. Cost of is plan is irrelevant for an emergency device and can be dropped off a plan any time.
Cheers
Duncan
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Follow Up By: OzzieCruiser - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:34

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:34
Again someone who has no idea how the system works - being able or not able to contact a point of contact has nothing to do with the actual rescue process - it all happens irrespective.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:47

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 11:47
Bit harsh. I had a question. Bazooka put me on the right track. I thank him for that. Now I have the right information from the right people. Thanks
Suitcase
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Follow Up By: OzzieCruiser - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 13:19

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 13:19
DW said " I do not want to have to rely on a maybe answered call." Implying he thinks a call has to be answered by the contact before rescue commences.
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Follow Up By: Candace S. - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 14:08

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 14:08
"I have been lucky to visit AMSA and see what occurs when an Emergency alert is activated. After that, I would not bother with a PLB or satphone"

Could you elaborate on this? And, when you say PLB, what exactly are you referring to? The transmit-only 406 Mhz beacons, such as those made by McMurdo or ACR? Or something else?
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 15:03

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 15:03
"And, when you say PLB, what exactly are you referring to? "

PLB = Personal Locator Beacon. When activated they transmit on 403 MHz to the COSPAS satellite network which can determine the beacon's position within about 5km accuracy. If GPS equipped they include position data in the transmission, accurate to a hundred metres or so. All that I've looked at also broadcast a swept tone homing signal on 121.5MHz. They are transmit only.
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Follow Up By: Candace S. - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 01:19

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 01:19
Yes, Frank, that is what I think of when I hear "PLB." But I've also seen that term (mis)used to describe SPOT devices and the like.

In Australia, I've seen "EPIRB" used to describe PLB's intended for land use. But my understanding is that EPIRB more accurately refers to devices meant for maritime use. Apparently GPIRB is the upgraded term indicating a GPS-enabled device. :)
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Follow Up By: Gbc.. - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 18:16

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 18:16
Epirb plb same same. Epirbs have a bigger battery and must float but the signals are the same. Marine/terrestrial doesn’t matter they both work everywhere. Epirb is a minimum requirement on boats. I would be amazed if there are many non gps units left operational any more. There is no chance I would use a satphone based Garmin in an actual sar situation over a plb. Epirbs transmit constantly on 2 Chanel’s and will guide a rescue aircraft in with zero vis. A Garmin sends a single message to a call centre in Florida that doesn’t update unless you send again. There is no argument in an emergency situation that the proper emergency beacons are the best.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Jul 04, 2021 at 08:44

Sunday, Jul 04, 2021 at 08:44
Epirbs are required to run for longer than PLBs too.
Also pretty sure I read once or twice some offshore ones will turn on automatically if immersed and floating.
Not being a boatie, I don't know if they have some sort of tether device and allow automatically go into floatation from a mount or some sort.
I've seen them loose in adverts.
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Follow Up By: Gbc.. - Sunday, Jul 04, 2021 at 10:16

Sunday, Jul 04, 2021 at 10:16
Some classes of commercial vessels must have them in float off position. Rather than water activation I believe they are like the old lifebuoy lights in float off position. They are stored upside down then flip up in water and the contacter drops onto the battery. It works well on ships where being covered in water is situation normal. Yes, bigger batteries and longer run time for epirbs as mandated by the act.
All of my epirbs over the years have been wrapped in fine string to tie to yourself if you end up floating with it. They all (epirbs and plb’s) also have flip up antennae which helps with signal attenuation. Anyone who has lived with sat phones knows all about aerials, but amazing these mini communicators don’t ‘need’ them?
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2021 at 13:25

Sunday, Jul 04, 2021 at 13:25
.
Read all about ANSA beacon requirements here.

And that page has a link on it to "float-free" beacons.
Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 18:35

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 18:35
I have 2 PLBs, and the best thing you can do is go online via the portal and register each trip you do.
You can upload pics of your vehicle (to make finding you easier), upload a PDF itinerary, and make comments such as 'in this region from * to *, if the PLB is activated, it will be a genuine emergency'.
Any other relative info like medical conditions etc.

I've loaned one of my PLBs to others a few times, and register their basic trip, including their emergency contacts.
They WILL respond anyway with urgency, whether they can't contact a nominated person, or if you don't have a trip registered.
The emergency contact is more for Police to call to advise there has been a beacon activated.
AnswerID: 637038

Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 18:59

Friday, Jul 02, 2021 at 18:59
.
Yes Les, that is good recommendation about registering detail of intended trip.

But I am confused by your last line. What "emergency contact"? And police won't know that there has been a beacon activated unless AMSA advise them. How am I to interpret this?


Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 11:04

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 11:04
Hi Allen,
On the beacon registration, and / or in the trip registration info.
AMSA will give that to Police to contact the nominated person in case of emergency.
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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 12:12

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 12:12
.
Here is an AMSA account of an incident at Rawlinna WA in 2018.

...."Broken down 4WD vehicle, Rawlina, Western Australia ...23 November 2018

We detected an unregistered distress beacon in remote Western Australia near Rawlina. WA Police held overall coordination, but requested our help with tasking the of our Perth Challenger 604 aircraft to determine the nature of distress.
The Challenger located two stationary vehicles with two people nearby. WA Police prepared a ground response with a local land owner. Our Essendon Challenger 604 aircraft was also tasked to provide ongoing communication support at the scene.
The ground party reached the incident location and provided assistance with tyre replacement, fuel resupply and navigation."....

Note that response was arranged using a "local land owner". Rawlinna is 1000km from Perth and well beyond the range of helicopters.
Also note that the aircraft was also tasked to provide ongoing communication support at the scene. This probably means communication between the ground response party and AMSA. I do know that sometimes an air-drop is performed with essentials which include a communication means such as a satphone or radio.
And was it even an urgent life-threatening event?.... Well "tyre, fuel and navigation". You be the judge.

So, it seems that with even foolish behaviour, our Government will rescue you.... but it may take time. In this case, time to dispatch and fly an aircraft to the scene then to get a ground party there.
It's just fortunate that this event was not a urgent medical matter or snakebite. If the initial alarm contained detail of the matter then both response time could be quicker and include appropriate support if of a medical nature.

It can be interesting to read some of AMSA's incident reports.




Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 13:09

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 13:09
.
And here is another of interest from AMSA.....

...."Injured motorcyclist—Personal locator beacon activation, Simpson Desert 27 April 2014

We coordinated the rescue of an injured motorcyclist attempting to cross the Simpson Desert in a party of three cyclists. The rescue coordination centre detected the activated GPS encoded personnel locator beacon 207 kilometres west south west of Birdsville, Queensland on 27 April.
Our Melbourne-based Dornier SAR aircraft dropped a satellite phone and radio to the motoring party to ascertain the nature of distress while Queensland Police and ambulance personnel departed from Birdsville in two four wheel drive vehicles to the location.
In the early hours of 28 April, the Dornier aircraft located the motorcyclists’ camp site where two persons waving flashlights were observed. Police and ambulance arrived a few hours later and advised that one rider was injured with back problems. The patient was flown to Birdsville by helicopter, and the other two group members followed the Queensland Police to Birdsville to re-supply and obtain a replacement distress beacon."....

Again, the aircraft dropped a satphone and radio to "ascertain the nature of distress". Clearly this is desirable information in such events.

In browsing these AMSA reports it becomes obvious the the majority of events are to marine incidents followed by aircraft crashes. Very few are land-based. So we lot are perhaps being wise to keep our feet on dry land?
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 18:08

Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 at 18:08
The one at Rawlinna, "The ground party reached the incident location and provided assistance with tyre replacement, fuel resupply and navigation."...."

I bet that went down like a lead balloon.
Lack of planning and poor preparation should not be emergency services problem.

Most people seem to have common sense with PLB use.
They know it should be used only if other methods of comms or self help can't be utilised, or if a situation is medically urgent.
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