Eperb use on land ?

Submitted: Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 18:31
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We will be traverling in September - October in out back QLD and NT we dont have a sat phone and if we did we would only use it in a life threaterning situation.

From what I have read on the forum in realation to sat phones they are very expensive and are superseded very quickly.

So I thought we may be able to use a EPERB like they do in boats if we had an emergency and needed urgent help.

Please let me know if this would work.

Thanks

BBB
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Reply By: kev.h - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 18:42

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 18:42
yep. no problems in open country
Kev
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Reply By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:01

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:01
If you are travelling remote, and it is your only form of insurance, make sure you spend the extra dollars and get a 406 EPIRB.
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Follow Up By: equinox - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:25

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:25
and chuck in some flares and a heliograph for good measure
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Follow Up By: BBB - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:25

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:25
Matt

What do you mean by a 460 EPIRB is that the Brand you ask for ?

Thanks

BBB
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Follow Up By: BBB - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:28

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:28
Equinox

What is a Heliograph ?

Thanks

BBB
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Follow Up By: equinox - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:39

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:39
BBB,

A special kind of signal mirror, which enables the user to pinpoint accurately targets such as aircraft. I have seen one from an aircraft before, and it would be hard to miss them.

A word of advice - if a heliograph looks cheap and nasty is probably is.
Better to get a good one which still wont cost you more than around $30.
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Follow Up By: BBB - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:47

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:47
equinox

Sorry to be a pain but where do you by aheliograph from?

Thanks
BBB
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:52

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:52
Are you for real?
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Follow Up By: equinox - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:55

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:55
BBB,

Any decent camping shop will have some. Even an army surplus shop.

Be careful out there hey. Take plenty of water with you!!
Looking for adventure.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 22:15

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 22:15
BEEBB The 406 is the later type of EPIRB that can be pinpointed more accurately and would be noticed sooner as the old type may have to wait until the approriate satellite goes over the top of your position. Check here www.gme.net.au/epirb/mt400.php
Cheers,
Who?
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Follow Up By: Scooter13 - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 22:34

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 22:34
BBB,

Have a look at thread 30466 - Matt answered this question - however I know he won't mind me quoting him...

Member - MATT M (ACT) posted this followup
Well worth spending the extra money on a 406 EPIRB because of the increased accuracy and the fact that it can identify the owner. Sending all this information (position, registration number, etc) takes a few satellite passes but the distress signal goes out very quickly. The SAR people love them because they are able to make a phone call to the numbers you nominate when you register. This often knocks a false alarm on the head before expensive SAR assets are launched or allows them to get a more accurate picture of what they are dealng with (number of people, equipment/experience you have, medical conditions, etc).

I spent several years working for the US Coast Guard doing SAR and the policy was that they would 'launch' for a 406 EPIRB almost immediately, whereas they would wait for 'correlating SAR information', distress flares, overdue reports, visual sightings, etc before getting too serious about a 121.5 hit. Although one group of rather dull thieves stole thousands of dollars of gear from several fishing vessels in Norfolk and then drove several hundred miles to their home in Boston. They were very surprised when the cops knocked on their door for a chat. Hadn't realised that they had activated the EPIRB when they pulled it of its bracket and that we tracked them the whole way!

Also the 406MHz frequency is a dedicated SAR frequency whereas 121.5 has some other uses. Most (marine at least) 406 EPIRBS also have a 121.5 MHz homing beacon that on site SAR units will use to hone in on your position when on scene. One good piece of advice offered to me when using them in a 4WD is to keep them handy to the driver's position. Not much use to you when floating off down the river in your car or forming the centrepiece of a four wheel BBQ. Still, a $30,000 signal fire is probably a good start to any search and rescue.

Matt.

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Reply By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:51

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:51
It seems to me both you and the (so far) follow up posters have little idea what you are talking about.

Outback Qld. is remote country and if you intend to venture off the sealed roads you need to do a lot more research in order to ensure the safety of your party. There is no magic wand - you cannot just pi$$ off into the bush and press a button if you get into trouble and expect the magic fairy to come and rescue you. Do some research beforehand and my first suggestion is to realise that the device you mention is an EPIRB!

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Muddy doe (SA) - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 22:23

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 22:23
Chuckle Chuckle Mike!

Yes you and I know that an EPIRB is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Maybe our poster is talking about the cheaper Emergency Position Estimating Radio Beacon. Not quite as good!!! lol

BBB - These things are for use when there is NO other option and persons are in danger. They trigger very expensive Search and Rescue efforts and are not for use because you have a flat tyre!

Muddy
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Follow Up By: Member - George (WA) - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 23:13

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 23:13
I can certainly agree with Muddy doe and I speak from experience. An EPIRB is only to be used when your or travelling party's LIFE IS IN EMINENT DANGER. this excludes mechanical break down, flat tyres, running out of food and or water unless you are about to perish. The cost of an EPIRB rescue is around $20-40,000 depending on your location. You would not want to be landed with having to pay for a needless recue, it happens
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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 02:26

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 02:26
George,

I would have thought that running out of food and water in a remote area of our Country is definitely an "about to perish" situation.
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Follow Up By: fc_holden - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 07:49

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 07:49
What a hero, posts critism but no information of a helpful nature. we all have to start somewhere and coming on here to ask for help and then to cop the dribble from Mr Harding, hope it helped your ego!!!
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Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 08:50

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 08:50
Mike,

Thanks for that. I am not about to argue that there is no substitute for careful preparation and simply relying on having an EPIRB to cover all types of emergency short of a life threatening one is short sighted and irresponsible at best. However, the original question was, 'So I thought we may be able to use a EPERB (sp) like they do in boats if we had an emergency and needed urgent help. Please let me know if this would work'. The answer to this is 'yes' and my advice was not to bother with a 121.5 MHz EPIRB, particularly if this is his only form of backup in case of a dire emergency.

Should he fit an HF radio or Satphone? Absolutely, and the arguments for and against each are VERY well documented by yourself and others on this forum. Should he prepare himself and vehicle carefully? Yes. Should he consider travelling with another vehicle? Yes. Should he consider a 4WD course and log his itinerary with a responsible person? Yes and yes. But again, outside the scope of the original question.

George makes the point that an 'EPIRB rescue' is very expensive, and it is. But from some experience in the SAR field, a search effort based on an overdue report which may come a week or two after the emergency, with no reliable datum, is REALLY expensive.

There is no substitute for preparation, and reliable comms when travelling in remote areas is a must. But search authorities would still much prefer to be looking for an 'idiot' with an EPIRB, than an idiot without one.

Matt.
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 09:38

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 09:38
fc_holden:
Unlike you, who has simply attacked me, I offered him very valuable advice; "Do some research" – that may well save his life.

It is both foolish and naive to approach travel in remote bushland from a perspective of zero knowledge and a touching belief in a "magic box" to protect one's family in the event of problems. Suppose the "magic box" doesn't work? Suppose he is bitten by an Inland Taipan, will his EPIRB bring help in the hour or two before he dies? Of course if he knows how to deal with snake bite he can extend his time to 12 or 18 hours?

Far too often we hear of people dying in the bush because they didn't have the slightest idea how to survive at even the most basic level and this forum then, invariably, provides a wealth of criticism of them and points out how they should have done some basic research and/or training first.

So don’t get all high and mighty with me for telling someone who is planning to take his family into a remote area that he should gain proper knowledge first and not rely upon a box of electronics the name of which he doesn’t even understand.

Encouraging people to get into potentially dangerous situations simply because you and they believe they have a EPIRB which will solve all their problems is highly irresponsible. No box of electronics is a substitute for basic survival knowledge and if you don’t understand that then you should not be responding to these sorts of threads at all.

Additionally stupid people setting off EPIRBs because they have a flat battery and don’t fancy a 10km walk on a hot day and probably don’t know which bloody direction to travel anyway takes up valuable S&R resources and may mean people in _real_ trouble don’t get the assistance they need.

My posts are usually blunt and to the point and if you don't like that then don't read them but if you are going to insult me in response at least try to do it with a little style.

-------------------

Matt:
My concern is that a culture is developing where people are coming to rely upon things such as EPIRBs and GPS’s when venturing into remote areas without having any concept of the basic skills and knowledge of bush survival and that is a trend which should be countered and reversed, not encouraged by this forum.

How many people are using computer mapping for their navigation without taking back-up paper maps – such faith in Microsoft Windows. How many people can find north without a GPS or compass?

From time-to-time on here I give pointers to Kevin Casey’s book “Australian Bush Survival Skills” (ISBN 0 9587628 1 3) but I wonder if anyone new to the bush has ever bought a copy and read and understood it. How many people visit:
www.avru.org/
and read the website especially the section on first aid, let alone take the bandages etc with them?

Boxes of electronics are not the answer (and I design this sort of stuff!), knowledge and common sense are.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 09:57

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 09:57
Mike,

Again, no argument from me. Your advice above is spot on. However, in order to change a perceived culture, perhaps the type of response you provided to me might have been more appropriate in the first instance. I am happy with blunt, but a forum such as this gives the experienced community (and I don't put myself in this basket) a chance to offer advice to those who might be heading down a dangerous path. Yep, there is plenty in the archives, but it may be that some patience and repetition of some really important fundamentals (however tiresome it gets) might just open someone's eyes and avert a disaster.

We all get sick of the 'Engel vs Waeco' style debate, but, as I say, patience is the key for a potential disaster case rather than being too direct and risk putting someone off who needs some good sound advice.

Point taken though.

Matt.
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 11:19

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 11:19
Thanks for the advice on posting style but I'll stick to this one :)
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Follow Up By: fc_holden - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 11:52

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 11:52
Thank You Mr Harding
(I do not personal know you so will not presume to call you by your first name), sorry to rattle your cage but your response to my dig did actually provide a very insightful and worthwhile response from yourself and others and I am sure us less enlightened folk are much the better off for it. Thank You for helping others who have less experience then yourself.
I am also sure the original poster is a little bit better off now as well.

Thank You
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Follow Up By: Crackles - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 22:22

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 22:22
We don't always agree Mike but on EPIRB's you're 100% right. Many think they are the first thing you pack in a 4by when heading into a remote area but I reckon they are the last. Better to go prepared & not need one at all.
Setting one off is just an admission you shouldn't have been out there in the first place. I'm yet to think of a senario where I'd ever need one while travelling in a 4x4. (& I'm heading to the Madagan line this week)
Cheers Craig........
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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 04:29

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 04:29
Crackles,

Your theory is flawed mate.
"setting one off is just an admission that you shouldn't have been out there in the first place" What a ridiculous statement.

Does that same theory ring true for all the watercraft, both large and small, that also use these devices as a means of last resort, to call for assistance?
And every Aeroplane would carry a similar device.

The EPIRB is designed exactly for such an emergency and is a cost effective and efficient means of doing so.

I can think of many scenarios where someone, travelling in a 4x4 an despite all their preparation and other safety equipment, may need to use one.

If you are smart enough to think you can always get yourself out of trouble, that's all well and good, but for mere mortals, the investment of $300 for something that is hopefully never needed, gives those mortals an extra sense of security.
Bill


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Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 08:19

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 08:19
Crackles,

I was going to stay out of this debate from here on, but Sand Man is right. If you place such emphasis on preparation, why would you not be prepared for the one situation where such technology might save your life? Maybe you can't think of a situation where an EPIRB was needed, but the one you didn't think of is pretty much always the one that will get you.

I don't wish to misquote Mike, but I don't believe he was saying you shouldn't take one at all, but that you shouldn't think it is a magic bullet that will make up for your lack of knowledge and preparation. Mike may wish to correct me on this. Again I make the point that one of the worst scenarios for a searcher is not having an accurate (or any) datum from which to start. The resources and time involved in such a search expand exponentially and chances of success are correspondingly reduced.

If you head off with the 'It can't happen to me, I am too well prepared approach', then good luck to you, but rest assured that it can.

Matt.
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Follow Up By: Crackles - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 17:54

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 17:54
No SM the same theory doesn't go for boats & planes as they have additional circumstances that make EPIRBs ideal, sometimes indespensable to the point where they should (& in some states are) compulsory out in open water. Even for remote area bushwalking they are a device that would be hard to replace by any other option.
When someone in a 4x4 sets off an EPIRB it's normally because of a lack of planning, insufficient training, not taking the right equipment or precautions. Too often they take the EPIRB because they are cheaper & less time consuming than all those other options to put in place.
Don't get me wrong, it's just like doing a hazard assesment. You look at what might go wrong & put proceedures in place to eliminate the risks. If after minimising the risks you still believe you need an EPIRB then take one, just don't put it 1st & leave out all the other important stuff.
Believe it or not it is possible to do away with an EPIRB all together travelling remotely in a 4x4 & it starts by travelling in a group....................
I pose these questions. If EPIRBs are so indespensable as a safety device when travelling outback OZ, then why don't all the locals that live out there have one? Why is it mostly just the tourists?
Cheers Craig..............
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:04

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:04
"When someone in a 4x4 sets off an EPIRB it's normally because of a lack of planning, insufficient training, not taking the right equipment or precautions. Too often they take the EPIRB because they are cheaper & less time consuming than all those other options to put in place. Don't get me wrong, it's just like doing a hazard assesment. You look at what might go wrong & put proceedures in place to eliminate the risks."
- that's about as logical as saying "learn to drive safely, maintain your vehicle well - then you won't need to wear a seat belt".

Having spent 20 years in Search & Rescue organisations, I can assure you that they would much rather know immediately that someone is in trouble and head directly towards them, rather than look for a needle in a haystack.

For goodness sake - we are talking about $250 - a couple of tankfulls of fuel.

Just because situations which justify EPIRBs are extremely rare, don't convince yourself you will NEVER need one.

Mike
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Follow Up By: Crackles - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 22:49

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 22:49
No Mike, EPIRB's are nothing like your seat belt analogy. They are an item required by law. No doubt they would fit EPIRBs on cars standard too if there was a real need. And it's because these situations are so rare that most people don't need one. Commercial Jets fall out of the sky occationally but you don't see anyone wearing parachutes :-)
But again in you rush to justify your purchase you missed the entire point. There are other options more suitable available. (Including but not restricted to)
EPIRB.......2+ hours wait min for any contact......cost to the community.$5000+
Sat Phone...Instant contact.....minimal cost to community.
Cheers Craig.......
Still waiting for an answer to the questions or any plausable senario's.
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Follow Up By: Muddy doe (SA) - Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 00:55

Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 00:55
"Still waiting for an answer to the questions or any plausable senario's.

If I were in a remote area I would have an EPIRB for LAST resort communication in the situation where all other options are exhausted and there is no prospect of help being available for several days.

In particular I can think of water damage to vehicle which would kill off radio and possibly sat phone options (vehicle washed away in failed creek crossing or flooded by rain storm where I could not get to higher ground.) EPIRB are waterproof.

Vehicle rollover would be another scenario where radios and satphone may be damaged beyond use but a toughened EPIRB device would still function.

Vehicle fire where you have a very short time to grab gear. EPIRB should be mounted where it is easy to get at very quickly.

Also if you do need recovery a combination of satphone/HF and EPIRB is a possibilty if you don't know your exact position Your GPS may have been smashed in a rollover but sat phone is OK to call for help and the SAR team asks you to activate the EPIRB to get fix on you as SAR resources get close to your location.

As I originally posted in my reply to Mike, people should not rely on an EPIRB to get them out of the crap for problems they can fix themselves with some effort or they are not actually in immediate danger, but I would certainly be packing one if I was not with a group and was going remote just in case the unexpected happened - no matter how prepared or experienced I was.

Muddy
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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 04:15

Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 04:15
Crackles,

Again I will take up an issue you raised which is also illogical based on the theory you are using.

What you are saying is that it's not OK for someone in a 4x4 to set off an EPIRB because they should have been better prepared, etc. etc.

Well based on your logic, shouldn't the bush walker be better prepared and carry a Sat Phone rather than an EPIRB.

I don't know where your coming from mate.
Bill


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Follow Up By: Crackles - Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 10:19

Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 10:19
SM I see bushwalkers in remote areas as being different due to the inability to carry other communication devices that will work, poor satalite coverage in gorges, under trees, power issues etc. When they are injured others passing by can't simply give them a lift like in a 4x4. With limited gear on their backs rescue is often more time critical (hyperthermia) where as people have the opputunity to carry suitable gear in their 4bys. (full 1st aid kits, extra clothing, food & water etc)
Your twisted logic suggesting I believe that a 4 wheeler shouldn't set off an EPIRB is incorrect, I'm am however suggesting the likelyhood he'd need to set one off would be extremely rare if not totally unrequired if he went prepared in the first place.
Muddy you've made some excellent points (one of the first to do so ;-) it's just now the odds of those events happening to a well prepared traveller........pretty rare. Odds of being hit by a car crossing the road.....alot higher, but we don't all walk around wearing helmets & padded jackets just in case.
I suppose it all comes down to how people percieve the risks of travelling outback & the likelyhood of it happening. The fact that the locals out there don't carry them most of the time may be an indicator to the true risk. Either way discussions like this will no doubt highlight to the inexperienced that they need to do much preparation long before buying any electronic devices.
As much as this debate is just getting interesting I must go.........off to the Simpson Desert this afternoon (without an EPIRB). So if you see on the news in 4 weeks time a search for a group of overdue 4x4s out near camp 7 on the Madigan line, feel free to say I told you so :-))
Cheers Craig...........
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Reply By: OzRoamer - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:59

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006 at 20:59
You can hire an EPIRB for about $40.00 per week. We hire the GME MT310.
Let me know if you need more details.
AnswerID: 178339

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 02:22

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 02:22
All other debates and arguments re usage aside, the most cost effective and portable unit available at present is the KTI MINI SAT-ALERT RB3 Emergency Beacon available online from the ExplorOz Shop.

Forget the 406 mhz System for the time being. They are too bulky and too expensive IMHO.

The older style are still effective and as others have mentioned, if you have the means of additional attraction, such as a flare, signal mirror, or even burning your spare tire, or sump oil in an emergency, you will be spotted.

The KTI units are incredibly compact and come with a carry bag that can be worn on your belt, or hung around your neck, if you are away from the vehicle.

When full conversion to the new 406 mhz frequency is implemented in a year or two, these units will become cheaper and more compact and with the proposed "trade up" facility of a cash incentive to swap from the "old" to the "new" THAT will be the time to convert.
Bill


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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 02:38

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 02:38
By the way,

It should be pointed out that signals from the "about to be superceded" analogue system are not only detected by an orbiting satelite. Any Aircraft monitoring the 121.5 MHz frequency will not only pick up your signal, but can be led directly to your location. (Source - Australian Maritime Safety Authority)
Bill


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Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 08:27

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 08:27
Agree Sand Man, but a 406 EPIRB will also transmit on 121.5 as a 'local' homing beacon.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:54

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:54
The ONLY EPIRB currently available at a reasonable price that will fit in a shirt-pocket is the GME MT310. There is no point having in EPIRB in remote areas if you leave it in the car - and then get caught out away from the vehicle.

I have the KTI also - I leave it in the car because it is too chunky too fit in the pocket.

Beware of the so-called "strobe" option on the KTI - it is just LEDs - NOT the high intensity discharge tube that you expect from a strobe.

Mike
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Follow Up By: Scooter13 - Saturday, Jun 17, 2006 at 01:02

Saturday, Jun 17, 2006 at 01:02
Sorry to burst everyones bubble...

I just puchased a GME MT400 (406mhz) off ebay for $450. It does not need to be immersed in water to work (thought it will float and is waterproof) and does not need to be grounded.

Additionally, GME is in the process of releasing a 406mhz PLB - MT410 - should be in the shops soon - will probably be cheaper than the EPIRB...
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Reply By: Kiwi Kia - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 07:01

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 07:01
Unfortunately I do not have enough time to write a proper answer at the moment but PLEASE do some research before buying an EPIRB !!!

An EPIRB is great for letting rescue people that you are in serious trouble BUT;

The OLD 121.5 MHz system sattelites will be decomissioned soon.
If buying an EPIRB it MUST be the new 406 MHz system.

You are likely to see a lot of the old (soon to be useless) systems for sale rather cheap, don'y buy them.

I will try and write a better answer tomorrow.
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Follow Up By: agsmky - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 07:44

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 07:44
""If buying an EPIRB it MUST be the new 406 MHz system. ""

not exactly correct.....more like SHOULD or HIGHLY SUGGESTED, though i suspect your followup message will expand on your original message :-)

andrew
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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 04:42

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 04:42
Kiwi,

Here is some more information for everyone's consideration:-

Low cost 406 MHz beacons
"Australia has been instrumental in seeking changes to the Cospas-Sarsat distress beacon specifications to enable manufacturers to produce a low cost distress beacon before the cessation of satellite processing of 121.5 MHz beacons in February 2009. As a consequence the international body, Cospas-Sarsat is considering revising specifications that allow alternative technologies to be used that should reduce the price of beacons significantly.

Australian industry has taken the opportunity to lead in the research and development of distress beacons that has result in low cost EPIRBs. The development of low cost PLBs is well advanced expecting to result in the marketing of a new low cost PLB by mid 2006."

Well, it is now mid 2006 and as yet, there is no "low cost" 406 MHz beacons available.

February 2009 is the stated date when the 121.5 MHz frequency will be ceased to be monitored by satellites. In the meantime, the analogue EPIRB technology is still very relevant and an effective backup to have "on board".


Bill


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Follow Up By: Kiwi Kia - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:41

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:41
AGSMKY pointed out that I should not have said -

"If you are going to buy an epirb you must purchase the 406 MHz model and not the 121.5 MHz model"

Well I respect his gentle comment but I was responding to Sandman who said
" Forget the 406MHz system for the time being. They are too bulky and expensive IMHO"

The 121.5 MHz system will be decomissioned in about 128 weeks time !!!!!! Thats why I say "Don't buy a 121.5 MHz system" More info on the pros and cons below.

It think it would help if you people know a bit more about how the system works so here is a quick summary.

The COSPAS – SARSAT system consists of a mixture of Low Earth Orbit (LEOSAR) and geo-stationary satellites, currently six American and two Soviet.

The orbiting satellites travelling at about 7 km/sec take about an hour and a half to circle the earth (15 minutes to travel from horizon to horizon) in a polar orbit and can ‘see’ a footprint on the ground of about 6,000 km wide as they travel across the sky. When an orbiting satellite picks up a signal from an emergency locater beacon the signal becomes stronger as the satellite approaches till overhead and then fades as the satellite moves away (Doppler effect). The satellite can calculate where the signal is ‘loudest’ but it does not know which side of its path the beacon is located so two possible positions one left and one right of the satellite path are noted. NB. these two positions may be thousands of km apart. A second pass from another satellite is needed to ‘fix’ the beacons position to within about 10 nautical miles. As the satellite system consists of only about ten satellites the average time till the next satellite pass would be about 2 ½ hours with a worst case scenario being nearly seven hours. Note, LEOSAR satellites with 121.5 MHz / 243 MHz capability must be able to ‘see’ both the beacon AND an earth receiving station at the same time to pass on the position data, LEOSAT satellites receiving a 406 MHz beacon transmissions re-transmit the signal when they next pass within range of an earth receiving station.

There are five geo-stationary satellites (GOES) spread around the equator with their footprints overlapping, this allows continuous satellite coverage of most of the earths surface but with limited coverage in high latitudes (above 75 North and below 75 South). The geo-stationary satellites that cover Australia are GOES-9 which covers from the east coast of Africa to New Zealand and GOES West that covers from near east coast of Australia to the Falkland Islands (all of the Pacific Ocean). If a geo-stationary satellite receives a signal from an emergency beacon it immediately passes the information to an earth receiving station. The geo-stationary satellite cannot, however, give a position for the beacon unless the emergency beacon has a GPS source. If the beacon does have a GPS then this position data is relayed to the Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) via an earth receiving station.

From the above you can see that if an emergency beacon does not have a source of GPS then to obtain a location for the beacon the signal needs to be picked up by two successive passes from an orbiting satellite.

All 406 MHz beacons are to be registered with the national RCC. The registration is free and includes data such as a unique identity number of the beacon, (15 figure HEX Id code) contact telephone numbers for the owner and other people nominated by the owner, if the beacon is for land, sea or aircraft use.

If an alert signal from a 406 MHz beacon is picked up by a geo-stationary satellite it will be IMMEDIATELY passed to an RCC and decoded. The decoded data will include the unique identity number from which the RCC staff can obtain contact details for people nominated by the beacon’s owner. The RCC staff will first try to contact the owner to see if it is a false alarm (if the beacon is in a truck in the backyard then it’s obviously a false alarm). If the owner can not be contacted the RCC will then try and contact one of the other nominated people to find out what they know about the travel plans of the beacon owner. If the beacon owner has given their travel details to one of the contact people then the RCC should be able to get a good idea of who has the beacon, how many people are in the party, intended route of travel, age of people in the party, type of vehicle / boat, any possible medical problems, equipment carried, food / water carried etc.

As already explained above, a signal from a non GPS beacon picked up by an orbiting satellite will give two possible locations. If the intended travel route is known by the RCC then it should be immediately obvious which of the two possible locations will be the true position of the beacon, especially if one of the possibly locations is on land and the other is at sea!

A registered 406 MHz beacon can, in optimum circumstances, alert the RCC to an emergency activation and position almost instantly.

The 406 MHz beacon system specifications require that the beacon transmit a five watt digital signal for five seconds every 50 seconds and must keep transmitting for 48 hours. The beacon also transmits a low powered continuous homing signal on 121.5 MHz to allow aircraft to home in on the beacon. An aircraft at 10,000 feet may be able to pick up the 121.5 MHz homing signal from 50 nautical miles away.

If you need to activate a beacon and you are in a steep sided, narrow valley or chasm and are mobile, then try and move the beacon to higher ground. Do not place an activated beacon up against the side of a building, vehicle or inside of a vehicle as the signal will be severely degraded. NB. The beacon’s aerial should be vertical and able to ‘see’ as much sky as possible for optimum performance.

If you are considering buying an emergency locater beacon then it should be a 406 MHz device. Be aware that some beacons, designed for marine use, are activated as soon as they are immersed in water or are removed from their mounting bracket. Some beacons can only activated by opening a safety latch and physically moving a switch to the ‘on’ position. I would recommend that a beacon that turns on automatically when it gets wet or comes out of it’s mounting bracket may not be a good idea for mounting in 4wd vehicles J

The satellite receivers that pick up the signals from ‘old’ 121.5 MHz beacons are being de-commissioned in February 2009 – that’s only about 128 weeks away!

The 121.5 MHz beacons are being phased out and may even become illegal to use at sometime in the future – but that’s another story.

I was recently involved with organising a bulk purchase (60 units) of GME 400 EPIRBS for use by 4wd owners and clubs at a reduced price because of the large order. We chose the GME 400 EPIRBS because they are rugged, they float, waterproof, have a safety switch, do not turn on automatically when imersed in water or removed from their mounting bracket, have a built in strobe light for enhanced low light / night location. Yes I know that they are bulky but the other attributes made them first choice rather then the smaller / lighter and much more expensive Personal Locater Beacons.
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FollowupID: 434911

Follow Up By: agsmky - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:52

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:52
That's alright Kiwi Kia.....i was just responding to your statement with the word "must" all capitalised, an indication of strong intent of the word.

A nice summary of the system as it stands, thanks. It will only be a matter of time when we only use GPIRBS or (even better) MEOSAR systems and look back at the seemingly "old technology" :-)

andrew
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FollowupID: 434933

Follow Up By: BBB - Monday, Jun 19, 2006 at 18:12

Monday, Jun 19, 2006 at 18:12
Kiwi Kia

Thanks for all that imfo Iwill buy the GME 400.

Would you mind telling me the price per unit when you bought 60 of them. BCF have them for $549 do you think that is resonable ?

Thanks again

BBB
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Follow Up By: Kiwi Kia - Monday, Jun 19, 2006 at 20:33

Monday, Jun 19, 2006 at 20:33
We purchased them for NZ$450 each as a bulk order.

Because we made a big order the marine shop owner is still allowing us to buy them at NZ$500 as individual orders. If my numbers are right this is A$360 & A$400.

I had $27,000 worth of epirbs sitting on my lounge floor when I was putting them in posting bags.

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FollowupID: 435547

Reply By: ro-dah-o (WA) - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 11:00

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 11:00
beacons.amsa.gov.au/

worth a read
AnswerID: 178404

Reply By: MP - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 14:45

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 14:45
Hi BBB,
Looks like you triggered some "vigourous discussion" on this one. Not so long ago(maybe in last couple of years) a couple travelling alone rolled their vehicle in the outback. They had an EPIRB, activated it and were rescued very quickly. Even though they were uninjured it possibly saved their life. If you want to cover all bases it seems hiring would be the cheap option, along with other necessary equipment. By the same token, if you are sticking to main roads/tracks, some of these items may not be essential.

Cheers

Mark
AnswerID: 178435

Follow Up By: BBB - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 18:51

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 18:51
Mark

I have triggered some vigourous discusion, and have also reiceved good advice the area we are going is on the main roads but you can not be to carefull and planing is the key I made it clear in the first paragraph that it was only for life theatening
emergency. I looked at the eporeoz shop and I think I will by that one it will alert help if needed. We all have senior first aid training and have done for twenty years and updated every two years.

Thaks All

BBB
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Reply By: extfilm - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 23:45

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006 at 23:45
What an interesting conversation....... I am unsure if anybody remembers the sea kayakers on an island just north of Darwin......... There was a crocidile on the island that was threatening them........ instead of getting in their boats and paddling away they popped the aerial of the epirb and within 4 hrs they had been rescued....... And not to forget the backpackers in thier campervan who decided to take a road that was not even a 4wd road, but just an outback road........ They got 2 flat tires and waited a day before lifting the aerial.
As far as I am concerned an epirb is cheap compared to a life and if people feel they are not experienced enough to travel without one then at least they have taken the right steps to ensure a holiday where there is a chance of returning one way or another.
I will never say I am experienced in the bush or outback but at least I have been privelidged enough or maybe lucky enough to not have to use one. I have been traveling this vast country for 15 years. Although I cannot help but to return my thoughts to the person who lost their life in a canyon mishap in the blue mountains a few years ago. They were not in my party but if I had carried my epirb, help may have got there 6 hrs sooner.
I will agree with the above posts and can only say an epirb is to be used only as a last resort.
AnswerID: 178539

Follow Up By: BBB - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 07:16

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 07:16
Boating Camping Fishing ( BCF ) www.bcf.com.au Have two EPIRBs on special
between 15th to 30th of June 06

(1) GME MT310 pocket EPIRB 121.5/243MHz $239ea

(2) GME MT400 Digital EPIRB 406MHz $549ea

Just for your Imfo

BBB
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FollowupID: 434763

Reply By: gbc - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 15:05

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 15:05
G'day all,

I used to work for AMSA and have gleaned a bit of info over the years from others who know....

If you need to set off and epirb and your life is in danger, PUT IT IN WATER. They will work without it, but even floating it in a bucket of water will attenuate the signal much better than leaving the thing dry.

They were invented for emergencies and a lot of money has been invested to this end. If you think your life is in immenent danger do not hesitate to use the thing.

Just remember that in a SAR situation it's your ar$e that gets saved - not the car/trailer/boat. All that will be left behind to be salvaged another day, so don't be flippant in your decision making.

Good luck and hope you never have to use one.

C.J.
AnswerID: 178629

Follow Up By: Kiwi Kia - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:25

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:25
I do not like that idea at all !!!

Not all locater beacons are waterproof !

Just put it on the hood of your truck.
(if you leave it on the roof you may forget it is up there)
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Follow Up By: Member - John R (NSW) - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:48

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 20:48
Some EPIRBS, such as the ones we carry in the life rafts on our aircraft actually need to be immersed in water to activate the salt water batteries (and provide a ground plane for the signal.

As for land-based EPIRBs, read the instructions. If they need a ground plane, this will be specified, and usually supplied in the form of a metallic based mat which is attached to the beacon.

If not, then they'll work fine without one.
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Follow Up By: Kiwi Kia - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:08

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:08
Hi John R. You are may be right but I might mention that I have not seen any EPIRBs that need water to activate the battery although it is sometime since I have had a look inside an opened life raft pack. (cost to much to have them repacked eh) :-))

Some do however have a water activated switch to turn the unit on when it is imersed in water. All you need to do throw it overboard and not fumble for a switch in the dark.

Remember that you can activate the EPIRB from a life raft pack after a precautionary / emergency landing on the old tera-firma. Your life raft pack probably has a water bladder as well and you don't really want to waste it on the EPIRB if you need to drink it.
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FollowupID: 434918

Follow Up By: Member - John R (NSW) - Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 06:05

Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 06:05
Gidday Kiwi Kia,

Yeah, I was just looking through my E.P. book at the EPIRB section. The text is a bit dubious (it says water activated batteries), but I think you're right.

The switch for the unit is connected to the antenna, which is normally folded on the side (as you probably know) and secured by water-soluble tape.

When you launch the raft you chuck the EPIRB in the drink and it melts the tape. Antenna springs up and switches the thing on. I think that's what they meant by "water activated".

Hope I never have to use one...:-)
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FollowupID: 434968

Follow Up By: Kiwi Kia - Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 06:44

Friday, Jun 16, 2006 at 06:44
Modern technology is rapidly moving ahead. A new system that is now being used in NZ is a continous update (using gps) of an aircrafts position using the cell phone network. This system gives real time tracking and is also used by vehicles eg. emergency service and those who want security tracking. I know some 4wd people use the HF radio to do the same thing and you can access a vehicles position by using the internet.
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FollowupID: 434969

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