Personal locator beacons a bit more information. 2019

Yesterday there was a big call out in the Cairngorms where a Beacon was used to summon help. The Teams did a magnificent job in the wildest of weather to get to the casualty. He had according to radio Scotland set of a beacon for help.

This is a piece I wrote a few years ago !

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. This year at the end of my 5 day Mountain Safety talks in various towns I was asked every night about them. I also asked how many folk carry them and they are definitely on the increase many by worried partners or families.

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.

Using and early PLB on Ben Rinnes In 1973
1973 early use of a military beacon on Ben Rinnes

We did have a few incidents on land a few in the Overseas and they were just become more used by mountaineers explorers 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 the Radio Scotland this morning about beacons about it may be worth listening to.

Any thoughts updates welcome !

John Armstrong

Got a beacon about four years ago, goes out on every walk / trip in the hills , as I go out a lot on my own and here like a lot of places there’s not much phone signal. It’s a back up I hope never to use 🐾🐕

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Personal locator beacons a bit more information. 2019

  1. benalder284 says:

    I’m a fan of PLBs – I go out quite regularly in the hills on my own in winter – which I know many would frown upon. But I am relatively experienced, always well-equipped and have an acute sense of my own limitations and the need to get home safely each day. I have regularly used a SPOTGEN3 for a few years now and it has given my wife and family additional reassurance when I am out and about. It has the ability to send location and pre-customised messages to nominated contacts (as well as being able to alert the emergency services if necessary) and is small and light. The annual subscription works out at £10 per month which in the grand scheme of things seems a fair trade-off and obviously it doesn’t rely on being able to get a mobile signal.

    Liked by 1 person

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