7. Personal locator beacons
PLBs are small electronic devices that you can activate in an emergency to alert the search and rescue authorities that you or someone else needs urgent help.
When you are walking Te Araroa you should carry a personal locator beacon (PLB). Do not rely on your mobile phone. There are many areas of the trail where you will not have phone coverage.
Satellite Emergency Notification Devices (SEND) are becoming popular with trail hikers. They are excellent tools to allow others to track your daily progress, and for you to have two-way text messaging to family, friends or to arrange logistics. They also have an emergency notification function, which can alert the authorities.
However, when there is an emergency, SENDs have some disadvantages compared to a PLB. That is why the NZ Search and Rescue authorities strongly recommend you carry a PLB, then consider also carrying a SEND, if two-way messaging and day to day tracking is important to you.
Before you go
- A Personal Locator beacon (PLB) is an emergency device. Only use it in a life-threatening situation or when a serious injury has occurred. It is not a taxi service.
- In saying that, there is no charge for search and rescue services in New Zealand, even if it involves a helicopter rescue or other expensive assets.
- If you purchase a beacon here in New Zealand, it is a legal requirement to register it on the www.beacons.org.nz website. Registration provides your details, and those of your emergency contact person. This information can help speed up any rescue, and quickly resolve any inadvertent activations.
- Note: You do not need to register a hired beacon. The beacon will be registered to the hire organisation, which will hold details of your hire and trip intentions. Make sure you provide as much information as possible about your planned trip on the hire form. If you activate the beacon, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) will seek your trip information from the hire organisation.
- Consider carrying more than one device, particularly if in a group.
- Make sure you know how to use your PLB. Visually inspect the case for any damage, and check the battery hasn’t expired. Some units have test functions. Otherwise, you should ask the service agent of your device for battery replacements or repairs, or consider replacing or upgrading your PLB.
- A PLB does not replace good planning. Follow the five simple rules of the New Zealand Land Safety Code: choose the right trip for you, understand the weather, pack warm clothes and extra food, share your plans and take ways to get help, take care of yourself and each other.
- Carry your PLB on your person, such as in a secure pocket, or sturdy protective pouch. There are many reasons you may become separated from your pack.
- If you need to activate your PLB, remember:
- PLBs operate best with a clear view of the sky. Take it outside and away from any tin roof if you are at a hut.
- Stay put once you have activated your PLB, as long as it is safe to do so. If you are unsafe move to a nearby safer location, if you can.
- Do not turn off your PLB once it is activated (even if you’ve activated it by mistake!)
- Help will arrive as soon as possible but will depend upon your location, the environmental conditions and the availability of a rescue.
- Situations can deteriorate rapidly. If you are unsure about when to activate the PLB, it is better to activate it and get help – don’t wait until it’s too late. There is no charge for being rescued in New Zealand
- If your PLB has been activated by accident, please call RCCNZ on +64 4 577 8030 (0508 4RCCNZ) as soon as possible to say that you do not need help. The duty staff will confirm you’re safe and ok. Then they will instruct you to turn off your PLB. If you cannot contact the RCCNZ, leave the PLB on and wait for a rescue to arrive. There is no penalty for inadvertent activations.
- PLBs will work anywhere on the earth’s surface. The system is global and international. You can bring your overseas PLB whilst visiting and travelling in New Zealand, and take your New Zealand PLB with you when you travel overseas.
For more information about PLBs, including their use and care, visit the www.beacons.org.nz website.