As we increasingly head out to the remote outback for recreation or work we increase our vulnerability should something go drastically wrong. A vehicle breakdown is annoying and inconvenient in the city but can be life threatening in the outback. Fortunately, technology has allowed us some options to call for help. In this blog I will discuss a couple of the available options.
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). The PLB, often incorrectly called an EPIRB, is a small and compact emergency beacon which communicates directly with the COSPAR-SARSAT international search and rescue satellite network. Carto Graphics sells the ACRResQLink models which are equipped with an internal GPS to transmit your location along with your emergency alert to the satellite. The signal is then relayed to the Search and Rescue coordination centre in Canberra who initiate and direct the response. The PLB also transmits on civilian aircraft distress frequency to assist search parties.
The ResQLink PLBs have no ongoing cost apart from a factory battery replacement after six years. The units are small and compact and come with either a buoyant carry case, or built in attachment lugs for strapping to a life jacket or similar.
SPOT Satelite Messenger. The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger offers an alternative solution which allows you limited communication with friends or family, as well as having an emergency function. In operation the user pre-programs up to ten email or SMS addresses before your journey and by using the appropriate button on the SPOT unit you can send your friends your current GPS location together with an “OK”, “Help”, or “Custom” message using the SPOT communications satellite network. This message will then come through to your friends’ phone, email or even your facebook page, just as you have pre-programed. The unit also has an “Emergency” function, which when activated, will send your alert and GPS location to a dedicated 24-hour emergency response centre in USA who then forward it to Canberra. SPOT offers greater communication flexibility while still maintaining an emergency alert capability. The SPOT initial price is much less than a PLB however, it does have an annual subscription cost (currently $US115) payable direct when you set up your account online.