Friday, December 15, 2017

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Distress Beacons

PLBs - Personal Locator Beacons for use on land and during recreational activities

EPIRBs - Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons for use in boats and commercial vessels

ELTs - Emergency Locator Transmitters for use in aircraft


Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are designed for personal use i.e. carried on an individual.

Examples of PLB users: 

  • Trampers / Hunters
  • Climbers
  • 4 wheel drive clubs
  • Farmers
  • Forestry workers
  • Gliders
  • Crew on marine vessels
Attributes: 
  • Small and light, designed to fit in your pocket
  • Minimum 24 hour battery life
  • Manually activated 
  • Some have GPS capability, others do not
  • Some are waterproof, others are not (see note 1)
  • Some float while others do not (see note 1)
Notes and recommendations: 

It is highly recommended that you purchase a PLB with GPS capability. This can greatly reduce the time it takes to obtain a location for the beacon.

If using a PLB anywhere near water (including river crossings) it is highly recommended that you purchase one that floats and is fully waterproof. 

(Note 1) PLB's sold in New Zealand must meet AUST / NZ Standard 4280.2.2003. This standard requires that the PLB must be water proof and capable of floating. 

If purchasing a waterproof PLB, check that it has a waterproof aerial as some PLBs, while waterproof, don't have a waterproof aerial and do not work as effectively when activated in the water.

Read the instructions before you need to use it, this also includes showing others in your party how to activate the beacon in case you are not in a position to do so.

If in an environment where you might need to use your PLB, carry it on your person always.  You never know when you might need it.

For some more tips on correct beacon use check out the real life scenarios page.

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Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are designed specifically for the marine environment.

Examples of EPIRB users:

  • All commercial vessels 
  • All types of private and recreational vessels 

Attributes:

  • Fully water proof and designed for a marine environment
  • Designed to float upright
  • Minimum 48 hour battery life (twice as long as a PLB)
  • Some require manual activation, others are water activated 
  • Some will also self deploy should the vessel sink
  • Some have GPS capability, others do not
  • Some have additional optional extras like a strobe light (highly recommended) 
Notes and recommendations: 

It is highly recommended that you purchase an EPIRB with GPS capability. This can greatly reduce the time it takes to obtain a location for the beacon.

Read the instructions before you need to use it, this also includes showing others in your party how to activate the beacon in case you are not in a position to do so.

Activate the EPIRB according to the manufacturers instructions.  Then unwind the lanyard (string) attached to the EPIRB and tie it securely to your vessel, lifeboat or liferaft, or person in the water, before allowing the beacon to float free of the vessel on the water.

Carrying a PLB on your person is a good compliment to an EPIRB but shouldn't be seen as a direct replacement for an EPIRB.

For some more tips on correct beacon use check out the real life scenarios page.

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Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT)

Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) are designed for the aviation industry.

Examples of ELT users:

  • All aircraft (for most aircraft this is a legal requirement)
Attributes:
  • Hard wired into the aircraft
  • Will automatically active on impact
  • Can be manually activated
  • Minimum 48 hour battery life
Notes and recommendations:

  • It is highly recommended that you purchase an ELT with GPS capability.  This can greatly reduce the time it takes to obtain a location for the beacon.

  • If in a distress situation it is a good idea to manually active the ELT while still in the air rather than wait for the aircraft to crash.  See activating a beacon for more information.

    Carrying a PLB on your person is a good compliment to an ELT but shouldn't be seen as a direct replacement for an ELT.

    Legal considerations:

    On July 1st 2008 it became compulsory for all New Zealand registered aircraft (with some exemptions) to be equipped with a properly installed, registered, automatic 406 MHz ELT.

    For more information on this visit the Civil Aviation Website www.caa.govt.nz.

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