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Old 07-02-2013, 09:29 AM   #1
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PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

I thought I'd start a separate topic on the use and advisability of these devices, and what we'd like to use for emergency communication, from flat tires to life threatening illnesses, crashes, etc. It's branching off from the Delorme InReach thread since I didn't wanna hijack that thread any more than I already have. Here's the last bit:


Quote:
Originally Posted by ANZAC
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob_gendreau
And the protocols of COSPAS/SARSAT vs GEOS Alliance aren't quite the same. The USCG, for example, presumes the validity of an activation of a registered unit (which has your emergency contact info indexed to that device, BTW) and has resources out as they try to track down people, etc. Those poor guys on the Aegean were probably in deep distress before GEOS Alliance left a voice mail for the skipper's relative. I hate to say it, but I think that there probably are gonna be more false alarms with SPOTs and Delormes than with 406 PLBs, and so while I understand the delay in that case, it's also unexcusable. Crikey, the Coasties recently went all out over what probably was a fraudulent call off the San Mateo coast. I dunno about land SAR, but the presumption is that it's definitely an emergency.
We treat both with equal priority for land searches. We have had a few falses with SPOTs, but they were the v1 before the newer SEND standard around activation buttons.

BUT the GEOS RCC has to call our comm center. If they call, we treat as top priority. If they don't call, nothing we can do about that.

The process for an ELT (plane down) vs PLB is pretty much the same, they're the same device these days. There are some jurisdiction differences, but it all goes through the AFRCC, who by the way are good folks, we work with them very closely.

Here is the tough question. Some of the PLBs do support breadcrumbs and messages, but a certain number per year (battery life) - see 406link.com. I think PLBs are much better for a life threatening emergency.

But let's say you blow an axle out in the middle of nowhere. You have plenty of water. Maybe you won't see a car for 2 days, but you'll be ok. When do you press the button? On a PLB, you can't tell them your situation. We treat all of them as life threatening calls. We don't charge for rescue in Washington. Other states may....

So for breakdowns, I would go with a sat phone as you say, maybe a SPOT as well or instead. Because you can tell family "hey I blew an axle"

Quote:
Maybe a sat phone is all you need. After all 911 is kinda the emergency frequency for land.
Not sure there is a 911 for sat phones?
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Old 07-02-2013, 10:29 AM   #2
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

It's a more ambiguous question on land as to what constitutes a mayday-worthy emergency, I think, than in the marine or aviation worlds. But in those environments, which are much more dangerous, there's a whole culture, history and hierarchy of preparedness and SAR protocols. It goes WAY back.

That being said, I think offroaders and other land-based adventurers still have a lot to learn from those worlds.

For example, no offshore boater would carry just an EPIRB. In fact that device is often used passively; it's designed to go off if the boat goes down. Meanwhile, you've got a UHF. And if you're a cruiser, probably HF for data and voice. And flares. And even a signal mirror. And a float plan. The boat accident I cited showed why that's necessary, and why relying on a SPOT was ill-advised, and may have contributed to their deaths. When you hit an EPIRB or equivalent in the sea or in your plane it's usually because you've lost your ONLY means of getting about and HAVE to be rescued. For the other stuff you try to use your radio.

Most serious offroaders go out together and use CB at least, and increasingly, ham FM. SMBers like to go solo for some cultural reason. That's already a Bad Idea. But if you must, just like aviators or sailors you should have some comms that will link you with people that can help short of a mayday, since it's super unlikely short of a life threatening crash you'd need mayday. So aside from a cell the question is what's the best semi-emergency comm device to have?

I still prefer radio. One really nice feature of radio is that you can contact people without knowing their number. At sea the big guys have to monitor the hailing frequency, so you can most always "call" them. You can sorta do this on land with the CB emergency channel; maybe you'll catch a trucker. By definition you'll get somebody relatively close, and more than one person can talk together. With a sat phone SPOT or InReach you get an operator who has to try to find someone local (if they do a concierge service outside of just contacting emergency services; BriarTek does that), or you contact someone at home (who I hope picks up) and then calls back to near where you are to get you help).

I get get lots of contacts with my ham FM, and more folks are getting licensed to use it in the offroad community. But it could be way better; be nice if land managers monitored it. I suspect they have the equipment to do so. In Canada I noticed that people would sometimes contact loggers (their trucks are usually monitoring; they even post the frequencies sometimes so you can tell when they're coming, sorta like a 747 landing) or helicopters, which are either working logging or guiding. I assume that in Canada, like the US, that in an emergency anyone could use those commercial frequencies. They are right there to help, and are super willing to do so.

But that being said, I have to admit that the sat phone would still be nice in some scenarios, like the call for a tow from way out in nowhere. You could be relatively sure of getting through, and no need to rely on an intermediary in that situation. I would still think that an amateur or CB radio would be useful in addition to the phone. I would think that if you had the sat phone a PLB or tracking or some of the other SPOT features would be rather superfluous. If you can call 911 (and sat phone is supposed to have 911), why pay any more than a fee for calling?
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Old 07-02-2013, 11:19 AM   #3
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

REI: Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs): How to Choose

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Old 07-02-2013, 12:08 PM   #4
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

BTW, if you are in the market for a PLB ACR is giving $50 rebates on their PLB beacons right now.
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Old 07-02-2013, 12:32 PM   #5
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

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Old 07-02-2013, 12:58 PM   #6
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

I will shamelessly repost my article:

http://seattlebackpackersmagazine.com/r ... thout-one/

I own 2 different ACR PLBs. I have an old one I threw in the ditch bag of my boat. Latest one is the ACR PLB-375 ResQLink (2880). There is also a ResQLink Plus 2881 that floats. Both highly recommended.

I often carry it in the thigh pocket of my pants, it is pretty light and compact.

I calculated that my life was worth at least $279, so worth the money.

I have not looked closely at the SPOT plans nor the 406link.com from ACR. There is great piece of mind with the "I'm OK" breadcrumbing etc. In my travels into the remote areas of Alaska and NWT, things have really changed there, everywhere has wifi, so I could email updates every evening. Last couple of trips up there I have rented a Sat phone.

I do think the Sat phone is really the best solution because you can have a conversation with someone about your situation.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:13 PM   #7
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

On Isle Royal National Park (a very rugged island in the middle of lake Superior) talking to one of the rangers. Two twenty something young men thought it was fun to be jumping off some of the large rock formations into the grass below, well one sprained/broke an angle. His partner walked several miles back to a ranger station for help. Answer was the rangers did not personnel available to walk across the rugged landscape and carry his friend out. He was instructed to get his friend and walk about a one mile to the shore line of the island and the rangers would send a boat to the area to pick him up.

I think to many people think they have the right to take risks and do dumb stuff and that some else has the responsibly to pull them out. I have heard that many places are considering charging for the cost of rescues.

Emergency communication equipment is a god idea but it is no substitute for brains.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:42 PM   #8
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

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I think to many people think they have the right to take risks and do dumb stuff and that some else has the responsibly to pull them out. I have heard that many places are considering charging for the cost of rescues.

Emergency communication equipment is a god idea but it is no substitute for brains.
I agree on using your brain and being prepared, but people make mistakes and weather changes, things happen. We had a guy with a femur broken by a boulder hitting him, while walking on a fairly flat trail.

Charging for rescue is a VERY BAD idea. People want to believe that it will either teach the morons a lesson, or make them reconsider doing foolhardy things or venturing out unprepared.

The truth is that it does nothing of the short, and in fact causes those people to delay calling for help when they get into trouble. That increases the risk to everyone, and definitely increases the effort.

Here's an interview I did on the subject:

http://www.king5.com/news/Charge-for-se ... 91122.html
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Old 07-02-2013, 04:07 PM   #9
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

Good article on the cost issue! I agree. I have friends in AB who are paid rescue personnel for Parks Canada; maybe you've seen them swinging on the end of tether from a Bell helicopter. They go around and around on this, but basically end up in the same frame of mind.

If people do stupid things that are prohibited, as opposed to just taking big risks (climbing, kayaking, horseback riding, etc), then fine them for that transgression. As with out-of-bounds skiers (as opposed to legal backcountry skiing).

And I was under the impression that the ACR 406link.com service was for self-testing your unit, not just for sending messages. Am I wrong? Their website seems confusing.

And an important part of both the cost/responsibility issue and the equipment issue is the social compact involved. In risk sports of all sorts I've been involved in the participants assume responsibility for their actions, but also rely on others to help, and in that spirit also volunteer TO help, whether formally through SAR like Glenn or just by pulling someone outta a ditch. I can radios in part so I can help others who may call. Ditto with my winch and tow strap. Even stupid people get help, although it helps if they throw me a beer afterwards....

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Old 07-02-2013, 06:10 PM   #10
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Re: PLBs, SPOTS, Delorme InReach & sat phone rescue

Yes, the spirit of our volunteers (especially mountain rescue) is "taking care of our own", although we get our fair share of tourists in sneakers.

I don't know about 406link, it confused me too.
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