Overdue but no emergency
So as I understand it, you should only trigger a PLB in a life threatening emergency. But I have read of people triggering theirs once they exceeded their prearranged overdue time as they believed it would simplify an immediate SAR response. I can see the merit in that but it's still wrong, right?
this has been discussed already on a previous thread sometimes it can be less work for SAR to trigger the beacon so they know where you are, unless someone tells them your detailed plan and you can wait at a hut which is the first place helicopters will come looking for you on your route and to check hut log books.
So if you know you're not going to be out before your timetable buddy makes the call, you should remain at (or double back to if it's close) your last hut and not push the button?
yes, at least stay on the track you have planned to do so SAR can find you, make yourself visible to the air during daylight. use a torch at night if you hear a helicopter or other people about
Sar wont initiate a search for an overdue for some time after the due time. For a school party in bad weather that might only be a few hours but an experianced party in good conditions especially if they know they have a beacon they might not start a search for a couple of days. Perfect answer would be to hold off on the beacon until a search is about to start but how do we do that?
They could create a convention whereby activating your beacon for a few minutes and then back off, at dawn after your overdue time, signalled you were fine. Better still if they integrated an "I'm OK" button into the beacon, like some other devices out there.
From what Geeves says, if you ARE late (and uninjured) you might as well just keep pushing on towards your exit point. You might get to a phone before the search begins. Great idea, Chris. Would it be possible to pre-agree a code like that with your timetable buddy and have them pass it on to SAR (and have SAR receive it well enough to understand if) if you are ever late? To branch off a bit: if you're in thick canopy and you have reason to believe a search for you is ongoing or eminent, how far off your declared route would you be willing to go in order to find a place where you might start signalling?
@chriss and @Craigo, you're effectively describing the Check-In/OK feature of something like a SPOT Satellite Messenger. It's not built from the ground up as an emergency device, and it works over a less reliable commercial communication network. In a genuine emergency I'd definitely prefer to be activating a PLB, but as long as there's adequate satellite reception and battery life it can also be used as one. PLB's are intentionally designed as bricks, I guess because their primary design purpose isn't to prevent unnecessary searches. It's to save lives (and apparently property, according to the regulations) in emergencies by letting a person indicate that help's required for a genuine emergency as quickly, accurately and reliably as possible. In social terms this becomes ambiguous because society tends to care about stuff like money and other resources spent on unnecessary searches. There are also other issues such as people creating their own emergencies by woefully underpreparing, or not being capable of clearly identifying if their current situation is a genuine emergency or not... so we start getting ambiguous messages about how to use PLBs.... like suggesting people should use them when they're not really in trouble but there's good reason to think a search is underway. But addressing those problems is not really in the design brief of PLBs nor the emergency satellite system which supports them. They're basically just bricks, with an expiry date, which you're meant to be able to trust will work as well as they possibly can to get a simple message out at a time when it really really matters. As soon as you press the button, you're unambiguously stating to the receiving stations that you need help right now, and it's an emergency. If the signal stops after 5 minutes, emergency services don't know if you stopped it or it became incapacitated for some reason, which sometimes happens. Consequently they remain obliged to treat it as an emergency regardless, and do everything reasonably possible to respond. That's more or less why everyone's instructed not to switch them off after activation until the whole situation's resolved, and not to start moving unless you absolutely have to. They'll come looking anyway, and by doing either of these things you just become harder to find.
when a PLB is set off, rescue services treat it as a serious and urgent request for help where someone may have a serious health event or injury. rescue services will do everything they can to get to you as urgently as possible. potentially taking more risks to get to you than if they were conducting a search without a beacon being set off. its not adviseable to set a beacon off close to nightfall or in bad weather if you don't have a serious emergency.
Just to be clear, I'd never pulse a PLB unless SAR had adopted it as a legit use. I tend to add a lot of extra time onto my expected time out, especially when relying on hitch-hiking and a lack of cell coverage. I should just bite the bullet and test one of these satellite messenger devices.
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