Selection and Use of Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
Excursions in nature are certainly enjoyable. However, these adventures involve risks which can in some times develop into life threating to even the most experienced nature lovers. Here is where a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is useful.
What is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)?
A PLB is a portable transmitter capable of transmitting a personal distress signal to a network of satellites which transmit your information to Search and Rescue (SAR) forces around the world.
These radio beacons are made of durable and waterproof plastic, and they are powered by special lithium long-term batteries.
Important: The radio beacons should be used only in cases of imminent – life threating situations and only as a last resort when all other self-rescue means fail.
How do Radio beacons work?
The radio beacons transmit signals to internationally registered distress frequencies. In the Search and Rescue Region (SRR) of the Cyprus Republic, responsible for handling the distress signals from radio beacons is the Joint Rescue Search-Rescue (JRCC) of Larnaca.
PLBs communicate with a network of Russian, Canadian, American and French satellites known as COSPAS-SARSAT, which upon receiving a distress signal they detect the position of the beacon using the Doppler method and transmit this information to the JRCC where the Rescue operation commences. The use of a PLB connected to a GPS accelerates the detection of the position because it is being transmitted directly from the beacon and it does not need to be calculated by the satellites.
After purchasing a PLB in Cyprus, you should register it at JRCC Larnaca. By registering, JRCC will integrate your personal information to a 15-character code known as Unique Identifying Number (UIN), so when activated, the PLB will transmit the code to the satellites in electronic signals.
So, while these electronic signals help the rescue services to identify your location, the UIN informs them about personal details like name, address, telephone and possible health problems you might have.
Two types of signals
When a PLB is activated it transmits two signals in different frequencies: at 406MHz (which transmits the UIN and the GPS location to the satellites) and at 121,5MHz which is used in the detection of your exact position through the SAR forces.
If you use a PLB without a GPS receiver, then the 406MHz signal will bring the rescue forces to a radius of 2 nautical miles of your location and then they will be directed to your exact position by using the 121,5MHz signal.
If you use a PLB with a GPS receiver, then the 406MHz signal will bring the rescue forces to a radius of 100 meters of your location and then they will be directed to your exact position by using the 121,5MHz signal.
Keep in mind that it is always a good idea to have some sort of visual or acoustic form of transmitting signals, like a signal mirror, a whistle or strobe light, to capture the attention of the rescue forces.
Signal Transmission Duration
PLBs are powered by special lithium long-term batteries. This battery remains inactive until the PLB is activated.
According to the COSPAS-SARSAT regulations:
· A heavy duty battery class 1 must be able to transmit a signal for 24 hours at temperatures of -40oC.
· A class 2 battery must be able to transmit a signal for 24 hours at temperatures of -20oC.
Low temperatures shorten the life span of a battery so the above conditions represent the worst case scenarios. For example, at a temperature of 21oC the above batteries will function for about twice the time they would if they were at lower temperature conditions.
When is it advised to purchase an EPIRB instead of a PLB?
EPIRBs are designed to be used in the marine environment while the PLBs, even though they are waterproof and can float, they are not specifically designed to transmit under water.
Both types of beacons transmit signals to the same satellites transferring the same data and can be used at both sea and land if necessary. However, as a general rule, it is better to choose a PLB for terrestrial activities and an EPIRB for marine.
No subscription expenses required
There is no need to pay money for the use of a PLB. The SAR system is already installed and ready to assist if needed.