I'm fine with PLBs (they are awesome) but my main gripe with much of the publicity about PLBs is well demonstrated in the final paragraph of that Stuff article:
> "He took an emergency beacon on a day walk. That shows what kind of person he is."
It's a broken heuristic to presume that the most important step of preparation is to take a PLB, and that someone knows what they're doing if they have a PLB... and yet it seems that lots of people use this heuristic to judge whether they or someone else are being competent or not.
PLBs are important, but so are all the decisions and steps of preparation for minimising the likeliness you'll ever need to use one.
We are all viewing these stories from an expert viewpoint. This story is written from an Everyman viewpoint for an Everyman viewer.
I guess that is the point I'm trying to make.
It is not a story for us. It's a story for them.
That's true, but a point I guess I'm trying to make is that it's the non-expert forums which matter for this stuff. For several years now, repeated publicity and responses-to-media coming from the RCCNZ, especially, has effectively been directing people to take PLBs and often communicating almost nothing else.
People are praised for carrying a PLB which got them rescued whilst often not being criticised for whatever combination of follies got them into trouble to begin with.
This is all in a non-expert forum. That means that when newbies get started, the most important thing they see is that they should take a PLB, rather than necessarily take the most useful steps which would mean they're unlikely to need to use it. It also means that when I'm going somewhere, people often ask me if I have a PLB instead of asking me where I'm going and for how long and what preparation I've made.... and that's what's represented by the man's mother in the linked Stuff article. I can make sure they have all that important info anyway, but many people won't even think to.
I suppose someone's done some numbers and figured out that it's more efficient and effective to just try and spend available publicity on getting everyone to carry PLBs, and put up with some callouts that might have been unnecessary, than to spread awareness and active uptake of things like the Outdoor Safety Code.
This post has been edited by the author on 2 April 2018 at 21:32.
I think Gaiters is spot on when he says that: "It's a no brainer for me to take a plb. It's not like you have to trade sensible decisions for a plb. You are allowed to have both."
The equipment is only going to get more high-tech. It will continue to do so, and these further developments will (in various ways) either help or hinder situations like these in future.
I think the further development and cheap accessibility of "Inreach" technology (allowing satellite texting etc) will provide an even greater tool to trampers who may be late, but not in trouble
...and it's all going to be increasingly obsolete when the Facebook satellites and Google balloons, or next-few-years-equivalent, put people's commodity smart devices in reach of instant 2 way communication.
The problem with PLBs and anything that replaces them is that even if you do get the call out to the cavalry they will still take the time they take to get to you. Bad weather and helecopters cant fly. Also in really bad weather SAR may make the decision that its too risky to send ground troops. Then you are still on your own and surviving by whatever means you have. Saying Im prepared because I have a PLB does not cut it in NZ. Much better to say Im prepared plus I have a PLB. Its a marvelous tool but on its own it might not save you.
even with a PLB, you may have to wait hours or days for rescue. people die because rescue services can't get to them fast enough, sometimes because conditions put the rescuers in too much danger of being killed..
At the end of the day Sar has to make the choice. Possibly save someone (with a beacon you dont know for sure even 30 minutes later that they are still alive) or put rescuers in a high risk situation which could result in more lives lost. The devil you know is rescuers able to save another person on another day
izogi: <i>whilst often not being criticised for whatever combination of follies got them into trouble to begin with.</i>
Although I agree, often it's a case of "you don't know what you don't know." Conveying fairly complex information won't be solved anytime soon. Not until we have a smart phone which can say: "Eh Dave, I don't think I can let you go on this tramp."
In the mean-time, the best experienced trampers can do is help others go tramping. Spread the knowledge.
It's just another tool in the kit which may or may not be of assistance . There are so many circumstances possible, it is hard to say if it will be a critical factor or not.
The only time i've ever activated my PLB is in a situation where a companion slipped on a tree root at 1200m alt. and snapped a bone in his ankle. We were about to descend 500m to finish the daywalk. I got a mobile phone signal and coordinated some help. A chopper came in looking through the canopy and couldn't find us. Only then did i activate the PLB to help them. Hard to say if it did much. They soon got a view of us and sent someone down. Weather was not a factor. Time was though, as the helo only had a few more minutes to be on station. It was getting late afternoon.
There are alot of situations where i carry things i will not need. I do because i could look a total tosser if things go wrong. Map and compass is a classic example. When i say, 'things go wrong' , i'm generally referring to having to help others.
Every time i know of a situation reported in the media, it is evident that few of the relevant factors at the time actually reach the media. As a result, impressions are drawn on what little is reported.