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Personal Locator Beacons – change in the law

From today (Thursday 12th January 2012) it will be legal to use satellite based Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) on land in the UK.  Until now they have only been permitted for use at sea or on aircraft.

When a PLB is activated it transmits a distress signal to a network of receivers on satellites.  These in turn process the signals and send them back to ground stations which pass on the distress messages to national search and rescue co-ordination centres for the area where the incident occurs.  These national search and rescue co-ordination centres then call the appropriate land, air and sea resources out to investigate.

If you are considering purchasing one of these devices please remember the following:

  1. The use of a PLB should be as a last resort for use when ALL other means of self-rescue have been exhausted and where the situation is deemed to be grave and imminent, and the loss of life, limb or eyesight will occur without assistance.

  2. Although not a legal requirement, you should register your PLB and provide several emergency contact points.  Instructions for registration are provided with each device sold.  Remember to keep these details, particularly emergency contacts, up to date.

  3. Use of a PLB does not mean you will be rescued quickly – it may still take many hours to pinpoint your location and get resources to you.

  4. They are a “one way” signalling device, so make sure you leave a plan with some or all of your emergency contacts so the rescue services know what to expect in terms of the type and size of group they are going to.

NEWSAR welcomes the introduction of any device that will allow those in true distress to summon help.  However, you should always consider self rescue first and only if this is not practical, or it would make the final outcome for a casualty worse, should you use this type of device to summon help.  If you have a mobile phone that works, use this first.  This two way device may allow NEWSAR to provide you with advice and guidance that will allow either self rescue, or a quicker emergency response from the team.

To call out the rescue team for your current area dial 999, ask for Police and then Mountain Rescue.

Update 12/1/12: North Wales Police have issued their own press release relating to this.

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