Due to the rugged landscape of New Zealand and its unpredictable weather conditions, you can get into a lot of trouble when you launch out without an emergency backup. As useful as some backup gadgets are, for instance, GPS trackers, radios, mobile phones, distress flares and whistles; none are as effective as a distress beacon in an emergency situation.
What is a beacon?
A beacon is a deliberately eye-catching equipment designed for the specifically to attract attention to a distressed location.
What is a beacon used for?
- For direction-finding purpose
Beacons are useful navigational guides. They assist navigators to get to their destinations hitch-free. There are different types of navigational beacons which include, radio beacons, radar reflectors, sonic and visual signals.
Visual beacons are located on land or on water and they can range from small, single-pile structures to large lighthouses or light stations.
Beacons are sometimes used in marketing to send invites or digital coupons to clients.
- For defensive communications
Over time, beacons have served the purpose for strategic defensive communications. For instance, the Scandinavians used many hill forts as part of a beacon network, to warn against invading pillagers.
- Vehicular emergency warning
Beacon lights are carried by emergency vehicles like ambulances, police cars, tow trucks, fire engines, snow-removal vehicles and construction vehicles. Beacons incorporated into the vehicle, like the rotating or blinding lights pinned on top of the car, attract the attentions of pedestrians and other approaching vehicles.
- Celebrations and major events
Beacons are used to mark major events or to celebrate certain events.
Emergency locator beacon
An emergency locator beacon is used to pinpoint or rescue people, vessels or airplanes in need of immediate rescue. Basically when you get lost somewhere or your aircraft experiences some major life-threatening technical issues, an emergency locator beacon can locate you, and a rescue team will be immediately dispatched.
What are the types of emergency locator beacon?
There are different types of beacons designed for various purposes and useful in different environments. Typically a beacon works as a rescue device but some models provide messaging and tracking options. These devices allow for pre-set messages to be sent and may also be linked to your social media pages. However, they can only work when you make subscriptions. This includes among others:
1. COSPAS-SMARSAT 406 MHz Distress Beacons
This includes the following:
- EPIRBs: the acronym stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, is regarded as the best type of beacon to use on boats and for other marine activities. It is suitable for all maritime distress. Another type of EPIRS, is SEPIRBs (Submarine Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons).
- ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitter): These are primarily used in aircrafts.
- SSASes (Ship Security Alert System): These are used to detect possible piracy or terrorism attacks on marine vessels.
- PLBs (Personal Locator Beacon): Just as the name implies PLBs are for personal use. They are used to signal personal distress. They are used during outdoor activities such as, travelling to remote places, hunting, camping, skiing, rock climbing, trampling, and in microlights and balloons. They can also be used for crew-saving applications in shipping and lifeboats.
2. Auxiliary Maritime Beacons
There are two types including, ENOS rescue system which is designed to locate divers who have wandered from their dive boats, and also Search and rescue transponder (SART).
3. Man-overboard Beacons
This includes the personal AIS-SART (Automatic identification system- Search and rescue transponder) which is used to alert Man-overboard situations when there is no other rescue solution in view and also the Maritime survivor locator devices (MSLDs)
4. SEND (Satellite Emergency Notification Devices) Beacons
This includes SPOT, inReach, Spidertracks, and Yellowbrick
Why do you need a marine emergency beacon?
Beacons make it easier for an airborne rescue search to easily locate campers, hikers, or boaters. It also makes it possible to rescue people in life-threatening situations or locations.
Just like a first-aid kit can save your life in an emergency situation, a beacon can do the same thing. Whether you are out boating, or performing outdoor activities like mountaineering, you should consider having an emergency beacon on your gear for safety reasons.
Selecting the right beacon
To select the right beacon you have to ask yourself these questions: What is my primary need for a beacon? Do I want a beacon that deploys automatically or not? Do I want a beacon that has a built-in display or a built-in GPS? Once you answer these questions you are well on your way to selecting the best product.
In addition, if you are simply looking for a device that is reliable in transmitting your location when you are in a dire situation, then you should consider buying a PLB or EPIRB. You can also look out for advanced features such as, GPS navigation, two way communication, and messaging a SEND device like SPOT, Garmin, or DeLorme.
Tips for using a beacon
- Do not just throw away your old or obsolete bacons in the bin. Beacons need to be properly disposed as they contain hazardous materials that can be accidentally set off.
- To properly dispose your bacon, you need to disconnect the battery and dispose according to your local regulations
- Keep your beacons away from high water pressure, children who may set it off by accident, magnetic sources, like microphones or radios, and generally from equipment that may accidentally knock the activation switch
- You should have more than one PLB in your group.
- Store your vessel in an easily accessible place, for example on your life raft or on your vessel
- Read your beacon’s instructional manual before you use it. Also ensure that everyone on your team understands how it works
- Registering your beacon is a legal requirement which is totally free and easy. So ensure your beacon is registered.
- Make sure everyone on your team knows the location of the rescue beacon