In a life threatening emergency
When things go very badly wrong such as a serious accident or severe health issues such as a stroke or heart attack we need to be able to send a message that effectively says “we are in a life threatening situation and we’re at whatever location. Come quickly.” Sending the message needs to be as easy as possible without having to set anything up. We need to be assured that the message will be received and acted upon with the utmost urgency.
Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s) and EPIRB’s (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and ELT’s (emergency Locator Transmitter) are devices that enable you to summon help with the press of a button or the flicking of a switch. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have a handy description here. Also on that page the ACMA has photos and links to PLB’s Please have a read of it as it describes in some detail the use of PLB’s, EPIRB’s and ELT’s. The good old ACMA also explains how the system works here.
They are not cheap – $250 and up – but they do work and may save a life which make them seem cheap.
Apart from PLB’s, EPIRB’s and ELT’s there are other devices on the market that can send SOS, personalised messages and map locations. While we were at Hamilton Downs Youth Camp we had a Spot Gen3. When we left the camp we pushed the button and it sent a message to our boss giving him the time and map coordinates. When we got to town we pushed the button again which sent the new coordinates and the time. He knew when we left the camp and when we got into town.If we got into strife there was always the SOS button. There are a few of these types of these devices on the market but they require an annual fee and work out very expensive. I believe that Garmin and Magellan make similar devices.
Then there is the satellite phone. This is a sort of two in one device. You can use it to summon help via 112 or 000 and you can use it to send text messages or chat to friends or family. These devices have a few disadvantages. You need to keep the batteries charged, you need to know exactly where you are so you can tell the emergency services and the phone may take a while to acquire the satellite required. You can also fall into areas where coverage is not great too.
My preference is a PLB as it isn’t too expensive, it works and has been proven to do so and it’s dead easy. When you buy it you register it and if you need to use it the operation is really simple.