Author Topic: Location Beacon  (Read 371 times)

alan de enfield

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Location Beacon
« on: 13:39:57, 07/01/20 »
Many of us walk alone in some very remote areas where not only are we probably at a higher risk of accident due to the terrain, but we may have no phone signal.


There has recently been a series of "how did they survive" programs on TV, looking at some of the miraculous survival following accidents - last night was a guy who slipped on rocks and his legs became trapped in a 'crack'. He died 9 days later. His diary showed how he had considered cutting off his legs but decided he had a better chance of survival by just waiting it out.

A second example last night was a guy up in the mountains, deep snow, freezing temperatures, he broke his leg. he managed to slither down the mountain on his back and travelled / survived 5 days, he was found 10km from his accident spot and just 1km from his car but going in the wrong direction.

In a previous programme a British guy was on business in Thailand, he decided to go for a walk 'up the hill' behind his hotel and (long story short) got to the top of the hill, got disorientated and followed the wrong trail down, he ended up totally lost and was minutes away from death when they found him a week later.

If they had had a (fag packet sized) PLB they could all have been rescued the same 'afternoon'.

Both myself & SWMBO have a McMurdo PLB, she rides (horses) and I hike, both of us in some remote places, and we also have a sea-going boat. I see it as, as necessary as a map and compass, but like insurance, "paid for but hope you never to have to use it".

If you activate your PLB then the emergency services are informed (via satellite) within 5 minutes of your position, who you are and your next of kin contact details.

For most of the UK a helicopter can be with you within an hour.

You can simply buy a PLB and register it (and your personal details, free of charge), there are no ongoing costs to ownership and for 100-200 they are literally a life-saver.

I really don't understand why anyone would venture out into the wilds without one.

The PLB works (and notifies SAR) anywhere in the world, on Land, Sea or Air.

It just sits on my Pack shoulder strap so it is always readily available.






forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #1 on: 14:24:16, 07/01/20 »
Interesting post - the PLB/GPS debate seems to go round and round - most of us are happy spending 200 on a waterproof jacket which lives in your pack for the majority of the year, but seem to get a little pale at the idea of a 200 device which offers critical safety when you need it and is a 'one time purchase' in the case of many brands.


There are some 'middle of the road' devices like the inReach Minis which are perhaps a little less specialised and more practical for communication to people other than SAR - such as partners, family or friends.  It lets you create a series of pre-set texts to tell people things, for example if you alter your plans you can send a 'At camp - all fine' text via the device which uses satellites for '100% coverage' - along with letting you request things like text weather updates regardless of you having a phone data connection or not.  I do think the flexibility of being able to communicate two-way in some ways beats the PLB 'all or nothing' response for typical UK hillwalking (you can communicate altered plans, minor injury or delays in a way the PLB is unable to) - however the PLB has greater transmission power which makes it the better choice for more remote areas or when the nature of what you're doing is going to be show stopping injury - horse riding or climbing, for example.   

alan de enfield

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #2 on: 15:24:53, 07/01/20 »
... however the PLB has greater transmission power which makes it the better choice for more remote areas or when the nature of what you're doing is going to be show stopping injury - horse riding or climbing, for example.

What really prompted me getting one for SWMBO was when she had an accident 'on' the horse. Fortunately she was at home just mounting when she slipped off a 3-step mounting block (she could have been cleaning the windows or reaching for a tin on a shelf and been at the same height)

I was stood by the horses head as she slid to the ground, she didn't get up but was 'awake and talking' so I put the horse back into his stable, as I started to come back she calmly said " I think you had better phone an ambulance I have broken my leg", I looked at it and said "are you sure, it looks fine, your boot has come off but that's all"

She then pointed out that her foot was in her boot and not on the end of her leg.

Long story short - Air Ambulance, given 10 doses of Ketamin, doctor pushed the foot back onto the end of her leg, land ambulance to hospital (too risky to fly in her condition). Foot re-attached, 4 months in a wheel chair now limited walking again. Prognosis good.

If that had happened 'in the wilds' with no phone, or no signal, or not knowing where she was, she would be dead.
I doubt she could have managed to switch the phone on, go to the 3-words website (or GPS app) locate where she was and relay that to the 999 operator anyway, but she could have managed to press one button on a PLB.

It was such a simple accident with potentially life threatening implications.

She may at times be a pain in the butt , but I reckon she is worth a couple of hundred pounds !!

Owen

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #3 on: 21:25:07, 07/01/20 »
- however the PLB has greater transmission power which makes it the better choice for more remote areas or when the nature of what you're doing is going to be show stopping injury - horse riding or climbing, for example.


I actually have both a PLB and an inReach SE (not the latest mini). They both use the same technology although not the same satellite system. Whilst there are pro's and con's for both of the satellite systems I don't think in use one is any better than the other unless you're in the Polar regions. Both provide very similar SOS functions, with the PLB there is no payment plan but there is also no two way communications. With the inReach and other similar devices, you do need a payment plan which will get you two way text messaging real time tracking function and other things like weather reports and some basic mapping. The tracking function gives anyone with access to your webpage the ability to follow your progress. They could then alert the rescue services if you suddenly stop and don't answer any messaging. Whether that appeals is up to you. You do have to keep the battery charged, something which could be a problem in very remote places.
The PLB dosen't drain the battery whilst its sitting in your pocket so there is no need to charge it up. It's a one use only item, once you've pushed the button and the antenna un-rolls, you have to send it back to the manufacturers to be re-set. The battery should last for twelve hours, I think. As there is no two ways communication you can't tell anyone what is wrong once you've activated your PLB, all you can do is sit tight and wait. Also they can't tell you they've got your signal and are on their way. I don't actually know what the transmission power is for either device but I would be very surprised if there is much in it given the size of their batteries. In the end it comes down to which setup  suites you best. I keep my PLB attached to my buoyancy aid for when I go sea kayaking and take my inReach with me when I'm wandering around the Highlands or Scandinavia on my own. 

forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #4 on: 22:27:08, 07/01/20 »
From the point of view of technologies I believe PLBs have triple-redundancies for location finding of a casualty, you have the GPS component using SARSAT, which is common with the inReach style units.  As a secondary search-vector technology they broadcast on 406MHz and finally 121.5MHz as a backup.  You won't have that capacity as an inReach style which relies on the SARSAT mechanism - which as you say makes it more useful for 'well travelled' areas - though were you for example stuck in a crevasse this may prove problematic depending on conditions. 


In general I'd lean on the side of an InReach style for general hiking - however there are larger costs associated with this.  If you kayak, or want an 'oh [censored]' button with a very specific use then the PLB works out as a tiny cost per year for the peace of mind which is better value than anything else which does the same thing. 

alan de enfield

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #5 on: 07:43:13, 08/01/20 »

. The battery should last for twelve hours, I think.

The specification for any PLB is a minimum of 24 hours and many are actually built to last 48 hours.

As the SaR are alerted within 5 minutes of you "pressing the button", that should be more than enough time,

I am not suggesting that other systems cannot achieve similar results, just that the PLB works well for all of our activities (sea, horse riding and walking)

As suggested the fact that the Inreach trackers drain the batteries continuously and require charging means that on multi-day hikes they are not idea.

richardh1905

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #6 on: 08:33:21, 08/01/20 »
PLB is certainly the best for use at sea - I was issued with one when I used to travel by small boat to remote islands in Orkney and Shetland. We also took PLBs by helicopter - the Lithium batteries were just below the dangerous goods threshold.

..but I've not bothered for walking. If I were in the habit of disappearing off into the Highlands on multi night trips, then I might be tempted - but the inreach type system has it's advantages too, it would appear, specifically the tracking ability. I do like the fact that a PLB is 'pack and forget' - no batteries to worry about, and absolutely bombproof. And no subscriptions.

Owen

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #7 on: 08:46:53, 08/01/20 »
The specification for any PLB is a minimum of 24 hours and many are actually built to last 48 hours.


Yes that was a guess I couldn't remember how long it was.

Owen

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Re: Location Beacon
« Reply #8 on: 08:54:37, 08/01/20 »

As suggested the fact that the Inreach trackers drain the batteries continuously and require charging means that on multi-day hikes they are not idea.


The battery on my inReach lasted seven days before it switched off on the CWT. I had a cheap power pack but it failed. I now have an Anker one (185g) and a solar panel (150g). The Anker will charge the inReach four times from flat. With the panel, about an hour every three or four days keeps it topped up.