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digital personal locator beacons



Digital Personal Locator Beacons


    As from 1st February 2009 the analogue emergency beacon signal will no longer be picked up by the international satellite system. If you carry an PLB emergency beacon, Personal Locator Beacon as a safety device, you will need to upgrade it to a newer digital beacon.
    The new 406 MHz beacons can identify their owner as each beacon transmits a unique code. Registering your beacon with AMSA, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, will mean the organisation will know exactly who you are, what make model, colour & registration number of your vehicle, your contact details, including your HF callsign, sat phone number, mobile telephone number & whether you have UHF capability.
    Registering your emergency beacon is mandatory with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Check their website for details at      
    The old analogue system could take up to 90 minutes to transmit a signal & in some cases could be up to five hours before rescue services were alerted to direct rescue to a 20 kilometre radius. The new digital system can determine the location of someone in distress in a 5 kilometre radius within minutes.
    Between January & March 2008, 141 distress beacons were activated & 108 of those signals were inadvertent, malicious or the source could not be located, all of which wasted precious rescue resources.
    There are 3 types of beacons available.....
* Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) used in ships and boats;
* Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT) used in aircraft; and
* Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) for personal use by bushwalkers, four-wheel drivers, other adventurers on land, employees working in remote areas, and crew in boats and aircrew.
    Don't throw your old emergency beacon in the bin. They have been known to go off accidentally. Battery World stores will accept your old beacon for disposal. Alternatively, most retailers of new beacons will accept your old one for disposal.
    A Personal Locator Beacon is no subsitute for proper communications when traveling into the remoter regions of our great outdoors. HF radio or sat phone is nodoubt the safer option. A Personal Locator Beacon is one way communications only, which means once you set it off you don't know how long it will be until resecue arrives, if at all. 
    Outback Communications article 
    Further info can be found on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority website




info by Rob

July 2008