The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ is calling on people to dispose of their PLBs correctly and take extra care when carrying or testing their beacons, as the service had 282 inadvertent activations last year.
Rodney Bracefield says a significant proportion were due to people activating their beacons to test them.
“In the past, if people switched their PLB on it wasn’t picked up by a satellites immediately so it wasn’t such a problem,” Bracefield says. “But now we’ve got instant satellite coverage, so if you turn them on the message goes out straight away.”
Bracefield is reminding trampers to use the test function on their beacon when checking their performance.
There were also 36 activations last year due to people throwing their beacons in the bin and them later activating. If a beacon isn’t registered, then a search and rescue operation is launched to locate it as it is impossible to determine whether it is a legitimate emergency.
“We get about one activation a month from a beacon in landfill,” Bracefield says. “People put them in the rubbish and they get damp and active, so we end up having to locate them and dig them up in the tip so we can turn them off.
Bracefield says RCCNZ doesn’t have figures for how much it costs the service to locate beacons that have been thrown away, but says it isn’t cheap.
“The helicopter hours can often be considerable. In all cases, if the beacon was registered it would considerably to reduce the search effort.”
To correctly dispose of a beacon, users need to deregister them and take them to a police station or back to the retailer that sold them the beacon.