Importance of communication

Submitted: Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 19:07
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A few weeks ago it was suddenly and painfully drummed into me about the importance of having reliable communication, and knowing how to use it.
I had a choice of going to an Archery competition with my son, or to the coast. I went to the comp and stayed at the local caravan park, in preference to the range where most of the others were camped.
During the second night there my apendix decided to burst. (Did not know this at the time) Slowly getting to the phone box in the park, I rang 000.

After surgery in the hospital, it suddenly dawned on me... What would have happened if I was in the middle of whoop whoop?

Where the archery range is, apparently there is no phone reception.
The area on the coast where I was going, also no coverage.

I do have a UHF, so that is a plus.

My son is now well versed in the technicques of 000. Nothing better than learning from experience.
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Reply By: Rockape - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 20:41

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 20:41
without being off hand, thats life.

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Follow Up By: kidsandall - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 21:57

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 21:57
?????? a bit rough

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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:28

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:28
Yeah, seems a bit rough. What exactly are you saying RA? Acute appendicitis will kill you if it hits somewhere remote... probably. But the point being made is that good comms is the only thing that can save you in that case. Seems logical to me.

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Follow Up By: Member - Joe n Mel n kids (FNQ - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 00:02

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 00:02
i kinda do agree on the "thats life", i took a punt and brought a brand new sat phone, pay a monthly fee so it lways works and i hope to hell i NEVER have to use it as that is life, it can and will dish up some nasty crud when you least expect it and it does send a wake up call, we can prepair ourselfs as best we can but that is life and it sux eh...
It's good you found help quickly as it could have been very nasty eh.
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Follow Up By: fisho64 - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 14:44

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 14:44
yeah I kind of have to agree with RA also-though its a personal choice.
You can spend a heap of loot on a sat phone if you want and be covered everywhere (when its working).
I work at sea and this sort of thing is a hazard of the job, as well as missing funerals etc.
But if people didnt do it you wouldnt be driving jap cars and eating crappy chinese vegetables etc (hang on?).

Some choose to wrap in cotton wool, others choose to get on with it.

Also, while east coasters enjoy almost universal NextG coverage in the populated regions, life is a little different in WA away from the SW.

Most people just deal with it.
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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 18:13

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 18:13
My problem with the "that's life" viewpoint is it seems to trivilize what SDG was saying, that is, good comms can save your life. Of course when we choose to go bush the risk of fatality from illness or trauma increases (just living out of a city increases your risk) but there are ways to lessen (not eliminate) that risk. That is worthy of discussion.

I don't wrap myself in cotton wool.... neither do I ignore good sense and safety. For example, I walk the Bibbulmun tack (well I did until a few years ago). Many walker go super light.... I go as light as possible but I would never set out without a day's extra food, an extra bottle of water, snake bite kit, and an epirb.... that's just common sense in my book. Still, to each their own.

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Follow Up By: kidsandall - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 19:29

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 19:29
My cousin and family walked the overland track in Tassie a couple years ago. They met a guy who was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt. He had a couple of mars bars with him. His plan was to scab off others, saving him the hassle of carrying it all. They ended up walking through 2-3 feet of snow. So I guess that's life. Do you say that to the people who risk their life to go and rescue him when he got hypothermia and had to carry him out.
So if I meet you on an outback road somewhere and you've had an accident and one of your family is dying, and you have no comms, you understand when I say "That's life and move on without helping. (I wouldn't do that but get my idea). As Bill BD said, it is life but doesn't mean you don't take precautions.
People in third world countries die every day from diseases that could be cured here but I guess that's life. You could die from getting lost in the outback but you don't have to with a little preperation.
The original poster was simply saying a tragedy could be avoided with a little planning, a timely reminder I think as no one knows when an emergency is about to happen..

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Follow Up By: Rockape - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 19:48

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 19:48
that sounds pretty dramatic and if the guy wanderers around with a couple of mars bars then so be it, stuff him.

I have had first experience of help not arriving in time or should I say in time to save not 1 but 2 people on 2 different occasions.

As I said and I didn't want to hassle the poster at all and I will say it again.

Such is life. If that means I retire from this world then so be it. We need more natural fertilizer any way.

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Follow Up By: fisho64 - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:25

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:25
At the risk of causing a drama, your scenario of a halfwit in shorts going bush with no food is so far from the original post, its difficult to connect the two.
Im not sure if you are saying it would have been ok for him to do that if he had a beacon or satphone?
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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:39

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:39
I believe he is extending on my Bib track example and making a comment about preparedness. No one is hassling or causing a drama.... tis just a discussion.
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Follow Up By: kidsandall - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:50

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:50
The comment was said "that's life". My point is were do you draw the line. The original posters point was he had an emergency and was lucky he was near help, could have been worse in a remote area and worse again if without comms. Maybe I misunderstood Rockapes comment of "That's life", but to many people these days don't bother taking
easy precautions and then expect everyone else to risk there lives to saves theirs as in the senario I mentioned. His attitude was "that's life", "what ever". I just can't see how when talking about a life people can have the attitude of "that's life". Yes death is a part of life. Last year I laid in bed in hospital and had to call my wife to say you'd better come in with the girls, the doctors don't know if I'm going to make it. I was at peace with dying and if it was my time then so be it. If it had happened on our trip in the middle of no where, I would want my wife to have the option of more than just pushing a button and waiting. One call could save a life very easily, why die if you don't have to.

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Follow Up By: kidsandall - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:55

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:55
You beat me to it bill
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Follow Up By: fisho64 - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 22:21

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 22:21
no worries KandA and Bill.

Where do we draw the line?
Thankfully we still have a few remaining vestiges of self choice, and while ones choices may not suit another, anyone calling for "more regulation" etc ought to be careful as they may just get what they wish for.

Its more important I believe to be able to live with your own choices and consequences rather than force people to live by those "choices" others decide for them.
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Follow Up By: kidsandall - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 22:44

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 22:44
I know what you mean fisho 64, problem is these days people aren't responsible for the decisions they make. It's always some one elses fault. We recently had a discussion at work about OH and S. Some one said "common sense would tell you". That's the problem common sense isn't common anymore. If you choose to go with comms and it cost you your life that's your choice. I just feel sorry for the poor buggers that have to try and find you. They spend days, weeks looking when it wasn't needed. I'm struggling to understand that there is actually a discussion going on about the value of emergency comms saving lives on a site about travelling OZ.

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 18:00

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 18:00
I would sooner be an alive woose any day then a dead He-man.

I don't understand why some have to act so tough and resilient when there is no need to be.

Like when you see some brickies who wear long sleeve shirts and pants, use a hat and sun screen and others who wear tank tops and stubbies with no hat or sun screen.
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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 18:15

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 18:15
Fisho, its a dilemma for me in that I know exactly what you mean and sort of agree.... but then there is the argument about emergency services having to pick up the slack. I am still angry I cant drive a boat anymore... been boating all my life but now I need a license. That's because of morons who do stupid stuff. I think as population increases so does the moron factor and more regulation is inevitable, even necessary.
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Reply By: OREJAP - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 20:49

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 20:49
It always amazes me that this Govt can waste money so easily on non essentials things yet our communications system is antiquated...there should be a wider range of service for our phones. For what we pay, it's a disgrace.
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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 09:19

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 09:19
Aust communications are privately owned so I am not sure that "this govt" is the culprit. Perhaps whichever govt privatised our telecommunications industry should shoulder some blame. If we had not privatised perhaps instead of a whole lot of privately owned phone towers that only work for a short distance we could have had an aust govt sat network that covered the whole of the nation at a reasonable cost.
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Follow Up By: SDG - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 18:13

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 18:13
And the two places that I mentioned that did not have reception, were both within a couple of k's from two major highways. The Newell, and the Princess.
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Reply By: Dennis Ellery - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 21:38

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 21:38
You will never have good telephone coverage to all of Australia.
If you want complete coverage, get yourself a satellite phone.
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:01

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:01
Hear Hear! I am about to get a shortr wave radio and enteer the vagaries of short wave radio to Telephone comms
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Reply By: kidsandall - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 21:55

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 21:55
We were amazed at the number of people we met in really remote areas without emergency comms. Their theory was wait for help. As you said thoughyou can't always wait for help. It's called emergency communications for a reason. If you can wait it's not an emergency. It should be lae when travelling in certain areas to carry sat phone and epirb. Glad you were ok.

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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:37

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:37
You don't need voice communications for that sort of emergency.

An emergency PLB would do the job for you, even better if you have one fitted with a GPS.

I am quite comfortable in the fact that wherever I go, my GME MT410G Personal Locator Beacon will attract the right type of response.
No need to talk with anyone and attempt to communicate where you are. The GPS will identify your location within metres.

For a once off cost of $500 or so, you register the PLB with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and their Rescue Coordination Centre will respond on activation of your device. They have your name on record, along with other relevant information you provide during the registation process, including your nominated contact person who will know what your plans were.

I have a UHF for local general communications, but the PLB is my ultimate safety device when emergency response is required.


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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:59

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 22:59
I have a sat phone with GPS facilities.
I also have a PBL with GPS - but in some cases it is preferable to have voice communications in remote areas.
If my partner had a heart attack or was bitten by a snake - it would be an advantage to talk to the flying doctor service.
But if I had a stake through the radiator - I'd like to talk to the nearest Police Station or one of my kids to organise a land party. In either case it would be good to know the progress of the rescue.
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Follow Up By: Crackles - Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 23:08

Monday, Aug 08, 2011 at 23:08
Bill I think you are may have an unrealistic expectation of the reponse time to a beacon that has been set off if you think the emergency services will arrive in time to save you from a serious health issue (like a burst apendix). Real time response can be anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days depending on time & location & that's coming from an S&R guy that goes out looking. While "the GPS will identify your location within metres," in a medical emergency all that may do is make it easy to find the body.

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Follow Up By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 02:41

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 02:41
I agree with you Crackles, we came across an accident on the GCR one day, the accident happened about 1.30 am but they were only found at about 9am, one dead, two injured, one badly. The emergency services only got there at about 1.30 from Warburton, the last one (injured) was loaded in the back of the vehicle at 2.45pm to meet the Flying Dr, such is the speed of help out in those areas. One can only imagine how long it would take Emergency Services to get out in the middle of the Simpson or CSR, I would say you would have to just keep going. I don't think epirbs or Sat phones will help you out there with things like burst appendix, but that's the risks we all take.
We do have a Sat Phone, I also hope we don't have to use it for emergencies but at least we have it, it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.



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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 07:40

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 07:40
So how would a sat phone give you quicker response than an emergency beacon???


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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 09:15

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 09:15
A sat phone doesn't give you a quicker response - it gives you more options.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 09:26

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 09:26
Have you ever waited on the telephone for 2 to 3 minutes that seems like you've been on hold for a hour, Thats the same as a PLB except longer..... you set it off and wait not knowing how long it will be before you get help.

With a Sat phone or HF radio you can talk to someone straight away, they can offer you advice and point you in the right direction or to the closest medical outfit or outback station..... The biggest thing is the reassurance that everything is going to be all right.

Just imaging you collapse and your wife goes into meltdown and can't function, all she can do is push a button on the PLB and wait not knowing how long it will be hoping it works whilst watching her husband DIE, if you had a sat phone or HF radio you could seek immediate response and the operator on the other end can calm your wife down and provide support and help.

If you ever phone for an ambulance and your stressing out the first thing they do is calm you down and reassure that help is on it's way and everything will be OK plus they give you a on going rundown of how long an ambulance will be.

We have a sat phone, HF radio and a GPS enabled PLB, the first thing I would grab to use for help would be the HF radio, second the sat phone and last the PLB.... we have the PLB just in case we can not use the other two or we go out walking or have a major accident like a roll over.

With a sat phone or HF radio they can also guide you to help that may only be 20 kilometres away or make arrangements to meet somewhere.

The biggest problem with a PLB is it is only one way comms.

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Follow Up By: muffin man - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 13:37

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 13:37
Those spot things are fine but you need to be able to talk to someone in an emergency, wether it be HF or Satphone, it just may save your's or someone else's life.
To let of one of those emergency beacons meens something serious has happened, I wouldn't want to be sitting there twiddling my thumbs waiting for the cavalry to arrive.
Don't be cheap, if you're heading bush prepare yourself properly.
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Follow Up By: Anotheone - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 13:39

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 13:39
I endorse Bill's advice about registering your PLB and updating the details for all your trips.  Bit of an intro is that I work on the beacon box and if I'm on shift will be coordinating the response.  So anything that makes our job easier will also help you :).

We are getting an increase in incidents from outback tourers with the increased use of PLBs and Spots.  The more info you put in your online registration the better. Things like how many in the group, description of vehicles, any known medical problems, sat phone numbers, itinary and if you have a UHF radio and possibly what channel you will use in an emergency. A lot of  our dedicated aircraft will carry a UHF and will broadcast on it but it helps if you make a general call every so often so they may find you on a scanner.

Most outback activations to date have been for bogged vehicles or people who come across accidents.  When we respond to the outback ones we normally anticipate it will be an accident so medical response will also be planned.

A typical response will involve looking for an aircraft in your vicinity to divert or launch to get eyes over you - that may be a local stations mustering helicopter or an overflying aircraft. If it's night that may not be possible.  Either way we will look at sending out a dedicated sar aircraft to locate and assist.  Our Fixed wings can also drop radios and other supplies to you if rescue will take a while.  A rescue helo is always a great option but response will take a bit longer.  We will also work with local police to get a road response and ambulance going in anticipation that it's an accident.   Generally it can take a few hours.

Personally for outback trips if money is tight my priority is to take a sat phone as it is more flexible, if I can borrow one I will take a PLB...

My only last tip is don't wait till it's dark to ask for help.  After sunset there are many more complications with respect to our options to look and rescue you.  If in doubt set it off earlier in the day

I should add that there is nothing worse then looking at an unregistered beacon detection that doesn't have a Gps in it.  it may take many satellite passes and hours before we can work out where and who you are.  So please register them and make sure your emergency contacts know your details - just knowing your heading up to do the Canning can make it so much easier ( we had a similar scenario recently)

Just for info, over the next few years we have a new satellite system coming online which is going to dramatically reduce the time it takes to detect your beacon and locate it - that will still be using the current PLBs.  Additionally a new system will allow the introduction of beacons that can receive a message from us that says "we know you have set it off" and then possibly "how long to help arrives" ....but don't worry your current beacons wont be obsolete, it's just adding new options for extra capability.


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Follow Up By: Member - Troll 81 (QLD) - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 13:48

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 13:48
My EPIRB on the boat had a false activation some time ago but long story short I got chatting to the guy at AMSA about response times and he said that it depends on where the satellite is relative to your position if you are lucky it's in the right spot to pick up your activation straight away if not it could be hours before the satellite passes over again and registers the activation.
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Follow Up By: Bill BD - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 18:17

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 18:17
Interesting post Pete. Thanks.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 18:19

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 18:19
Troll I believe this is the case for non GPS enabled PLB's as it takes a while for the signal to be triangulated using multiple satellites, with a GPS enabled one it is instant as all it requires is one satellite to receive the GPS data and your location.

This is the same for EPIRB's.

Pete you made mention about adding information, on the PLB registration form there is not enough room and no facilities to update information live regarding trip numbers and itinerary.

End of the day there is only one question.... how much is a life worth?
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Follow Up By: Anotheone - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 19:33

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 19:33

Regarding the detection times, there are two stationary sats that cover Australia, if a beacon is activated (and the path to the sat is clear) it will detect either GPS or non GPS ones. The difference is that if you have a GPS it should also give us the position. If its registered we can also get the contact details and so we will get a rough area to focus on even without the GPS.

As an example, we have just responded to a beacon activated by two guys in a tinnie. Three hours ago a beacon was picked up by a stationary sat. It was a non-gps and was unregistered. So we had nothing to go on. Two hours ago (an hour after first detection) an orbiting satellite went through (almost through the centre of oz). It picked up the beacon and gave us two positions, one west of Darwin and one on East coast just south of Cape York. We would need another orbiting sat to go through to work out which was the right position. Because it was so close to sunset we sent a helicopter to both positions. About 40 minutes ago the helicopter at Cape York found a 4WD on a beach who had just helped two guys and a tinnie that had got into trouble.

From that incident just now, you can imagine how useful registration details would have been 3 hours ago. We may have been able to narrow down the search to North Queensland, and then confirmed it with the first orbiting sat. But it ended up a good result anyway

Regarding space on the online data, I will mention it to the beacon database team, another option that has helped us in other jobs is to email your contacts with plans and updates, (even a photo) and then when we contact them they will have all the info that they can pass direct to us

Bill BD - thank you

Hope that helps


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Follow Up By: kidsandall - Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:16

Tuesday, Aug 09, 2011 at 20:16
We carried and Epirb and a sat phone. our idea was in an emergency that sat phone would give us the ability to talk to some one. If one of the girls got seriously sick, we could ask for advice on what to do while we waited for help. If an appendix burst as mentioned by the original poster, they may be able to give advice on how to reduce the effect of it to prolong life until help arrives. The Epirb was to give our location. For example, we have an accident and some one is bleeding badly, we set off the Epirb to give our location and we can call for advice to stop the bleeding. Also we can advise we have set of the Epirb for location and advise what the emergency is, how many people, types of injuries. As said, what is a life worth.

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Follow Up By: Anotheone - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 07:22

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 07:22

Sorry I misread the last part of your post.

You can register your beacon online and once you have done that you can update your details as often as you like.

Go to

If you have any problems just give the team a call during business hours 1800 406 406
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 09:02

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 09:02
Pete our PLB is registered, thats how I know there is not enough room for more information.

We only got our second renewal about 4 months ago.
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Follow Up By: Anotheone - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 09:28

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 09:28
Olcoolone, I'll ask the question about how much space is available, we just see the details come up when the beacon detected, rather then the rego form side. I know there is a small area that does allow you to add details about planned trips as I've used the info. It may not be that large though
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Follow Up By: Anotheone - Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 09:54

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011 at 09:54
I just checked, you may have seen it already :) but just for others who may be interested.

On the Beacons page, under 'Carriage & Use' there is a comment box labelled 'Additional Usage/Trip details'. This will accept 2,000 characters

So don't worry too much about grammar or formatting, just add some key areas and rough dates and anything else you can squeeze in. For example just knowing you are going to be in the flinders ranges around such and such a date will help significantly when we get the initial detections. If you have a. Spot or EO tracking page you could use tinyurl to save space. Apart from that your contacts are our best resource

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