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anybody bought a PLB yet?

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Sep 8, 2003
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31Dec2003 (UTC -8)

Anybody bought a personal locator beacon (PLB) yet? How do you like it? I'm kinda looking at a McMurdo FastFind Plus. It's got a 406MHz & 121.5MHz transmitter, GPS, floats, and looks nice. It's about less than ~US$ 900 though :'( And yup, I'm aware that a blocked view of the sky will greatly reduce its effectiveness. An alternative PLB product is from ARS Electronics.

But what do you think?
 
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31Dec2003 (UTC -8)

[quote author=Jonathan_Ferguson link=board=14;threadid=9446;start=msg82458#msg82458 date=1072863152]
Is this the same as an E.P.I.R.B.?
[/quote]

Somehow, but not quite. The EPIRB I believe is mandatory for sea-going vehicles, while the PLB is not. The EPIRB can also be twice bigger than a PLB. Signals by an EPIRB are monitored by the Coast Guard, while PLB is by noaa.org in Maryland state.

Quite informative FAQ I found: http://www.equipped.com/faq_plb/default.asp
 

Jonathan_Ferguson

★ is in the wrong locale
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Applications include general aviation, bush walking and hiking, offshore yachting, gliding, parachuting, small boating and ultralight flying.
mt310.jpg

http://www.gme.net.au/epirb/mt310.html
RRP AUD$285
 
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31Dec2003 (UTC -8)

[quote author=RHINO link=board=14;threadid=9446;start=msg82982#msg82982 date=1072938948]
i dont know anything about beacons, but could or would it be smart to put them in GPs units? or is it just a whole different ballgame?
[/quote]

Actually, some PLBs have the option of hooking up to external GPS units, while some has GPS built-in.
 
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The situation in AUS vs the US is a bit different. In most of North America, aircraft and marine vessels could (and in some cases are required) to have a beacon.

The older versions required the sat to be overhead and then stored the signal for retransmission to a ground station (provided by agreement by Canada, the US, former USSR, etc). These signals were not coded, so you had no idea 'who' you were searching for. The newer 406 units are much better as they carry a code (if registered) that provides some data on what you are looking for (among other things). Only recently have 'personal locator beacons' become legal for 'people' - I believe that this is not the case in AUS?

Probably not a bad idea to have one if you are really in some remote area (ie I would absolutely carry one for the 3 week trips I used to do in the Arctic), but don't think they are needed for the average situation (ie off roading). The first guy to use his (properly the first time around) has now been charged for trying to get his equipment and setting off the beacon again.

I'm not sure about in the US, but I would have thought that all of these signals would be directed to the 'rescue coordination centre' and then sent to the appropriate party to do the search.

In my past experience (marine and air SAR), the older 121 signals would take some time before a response was launched given the huge number of false alarms (ie a heavy touch down). With a 406 beacon we would be paged with a 'Code 3' emergency and would be underway in minutes (once to go and find the RCMP boat :D)

Cheers, Hugh
 
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PLBs in the U.S. are monitored by NOAA. If a signal is received, NOAA contacts the State agency in charge of Search and Rescue where the signal is located. The State agency then relays the location to the local SAR coordinator in the specific area where the beacon is coming from. Since the units are registered to the individual who purchases it, the SAR teams also have a name and contact information, which will be called to check plans, potential health issues, preparadness etc...

For example, if you were stuck on Humphreys Peak in Northern Arizona, NOAA would contact the Arizona SAR coordinator in Phoenix, Arizona, who would then contact the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue coordinator in Flagstaff, Arizona, who would then mobilize the local SAR effort.

IIRC, a beacon without a gps will locate to within about a 1mile area (which is actually a great improvement over nothing, from a SAR perspective.) The GPS plug in models will go down to about 1/4 mile, and the built in units will presumably go to 20-30 meters.

As with any electronic item, the SAR community expects the price of these to come down dramatically in the next few years. I will probably get one here in the next few years myself.

-H-
 
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Hltopper,

Is SAR a volunteer agency? If not, who funds it?

I have thought about a PLB because I frequently go solo on most of my trips.

If I'm on the one of the indian reservations, hours away from the nearest non-native town, can I really expect someone to come to my aid? And who would that most likely be?
 
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If you set off a 406 PLB, someone is coming to get you...you just better hope that it's a real emergency ;)

Htopper can speak more to your area, but SAR (search and rescue) units can be both 'professional' and volunteer and a mix of both. I spent most of my SAR work doing aircraft SAR - the 'civilian' team did a lot of the searching, then the airforce would come and do the rescuing. For marine stuff that I was also involved with, we had full volunteer teams and a joint police (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and volunteer team.

Cheers, Hugh
 
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Sorry about the long response time...haven't been in this neck of the woodys forum for a while... :doh:

SAR here in Arizona is left, per the state constitution to the local sheriff's departments in each county. While there are deputies and SAR coordinators, the majority of man power is volunteer. (Grand Canyon; however, has a full time, paid SAR team.)

We don't charge for rescues and are funded by the county. While charging is a separate, often heated discussion on its own, I personally lean towards the no-charge approach. Colorado, however, has a nice system of charging for a rescue unless a Search and Rescue card is purchased beforehand, for about $3 per year. A portion of the purchase price ($1 I think) goes to a SAR fund to support CO agencies who do the rescues.

I carry a 5 year CO SAR card, just in case and because I believe in the service they provide.

-H-
 

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