A Personal Locator Beacon is a personal safety device that will alert search and rescue services and allow them to locate you, in the event of a land or sea emergency.
PLBs are equipped with GPS receivers, allowing them to calculate and send an accurate location, via a coded message on the 406MHz distress frequency. This distress frequency is monitored by the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system, who relay the code to the nearest Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) on an earth station. The COSPAS-SARSAT system became operational in 1985. It has over 1 million units and has assisted tens of thousands of worldwide rescues. The internal GPS receiver will pinpoint your location to within 62 meters. Once the rescue team is in the area, they can then get to your precise location using an inbuilt homing transmitter.
An EPRIB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is also used to alert search and rescue services using the COSPAS-SARSAT system, but they are registered to a boat, whereas a PLB is registered to a person.
PLBs are subscription-free, so there is no cost of ownership after the initial purchase. If not used, the PLB’s battery should last 5 to 6 years. You should register your PLB with the Marine Coastguard Agency and update your details regularly - including the 24hr Emergency Point of Contact (EPOC) Details.
This is the most important person ‘back home’ who can assist the emergency services with information if contacted. When you are away, your EPOC should be aware of who is in your group, what equipment you have with you, your intended route, your experience, your transport details and your expected return time. Having an updated EPOC could be crucial to saving time in the search effort and keeping the search term better informed.
McMurdo Fast Find 220 PLB
Specifically designed for marine enthusiasts and adventurers, the 220 is easy to operate and has a high-brightness LED SOS light. It is waterproof to a depth of 10m and has a 6 year battery storage life. The Fast Find is easy to activate, with a safe stow antenna that automatically deploys once the unit is activated. It is supplied with a flotation pouch for easy retrieval.
Ocean Signal RescueMe PLB1
With fast and accurate positioning, the RescueMe is waterproof to 15m and has a 66 channel GPS receiver. It comes with a 7 year warranty and flotation pouch. There is a simple spring-loaded flap that covers the activation button, preventing inadvertent use. The PLB1 can be operated single-handedly in the most challenging of situations.
Kannad Safelink 48hr PLB Pro
This PLB has a 48 hour operational battery life at temperatures as low as -20°c. The battery has a 5 year storage life and is user replaceable. It is waterproof up to 10m and has a simple 3-stage activation. A carry pouch and lanyard are included.