Beacons – A personal view
I have been regularly asked what my view is on the use of Personal Locator Beacons, mainly by worried family members who loved ones go out regularly in the wild places often on their own. My view is if it gives them more piece of mind then get one and ensure your loved one takes it and understands how to use it.
There is a good article on the walkhighlands website on them by Heather Morning the Mountain Safety Advisor on the 4 th April 2106 it is well worth a read.
I used to work at the ARCC in Kinloss and another part of our task was working with our own Mission Control Centre as, the ARCC embraced the UK Mission Control Centre (UKMCC) which is the UK facility responsible for the detection and notification of emergency distress beacon alerts. The UKMCC operates within the Cospas-Sarsat framework and is able to detect beacon activations world – wide through a network of satellites. Nowadays this is all controlled by the Coastguards but I learned a fair bit on my 4 years working with distress beacons mainly at sea and in the air.
We did have a few incidents on land a few in the Overseas and they were just become more used by mountaineers and kayaker’s and we dealt with a few of these.
I would say about 95% in these days were false alarms many going off through various problems/misuse. All alerts had to be actioned and often the owner had sold the boat, plane or beacon and the beacon was not registered. This involved many hours of detective work by the MCC they did a marvellous job and needed to chase every false alarm! Yet we had some great results from ships, planes and solo walkers in the poles, School groups and walkers. Beacons are not new and have been use by the Aircraft Industry, ships and the military for many years. There has been a big push for their use in the Outdoors and I have seen a few on the hills recently mainly by solo walkers. This excellent article by Heather may give you a better understanding of another tool available but it is not a substitute for common sense!
Make sure if you have one it is registered and serviced regularly. Also ensure you can work it if needed in an emergency and that the battery is changed as per instructions.
There may be a piece on Radio Scotland this morning about beacons about 1000 it may be worth listening to.