Distress beacons will save lives this Queen’s Birthday weekend - RCCNZ

31 May 2019

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ is reminding trampers, hunters and boaties that a distress beacon could save their life this Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Beacon numbers in New Zealand have reached an all-time high with 114,000 in use nationwide – 87,600 of those are registered with Rescue Coordination Centre NZ.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ Manager Mike Hill says the team is ready to respond 24 hours, 365 days of the year if you set off your beacon – Queen’s Birthday is no exception.

“If you feel that your life is in grave or imminent danger, you should first try to use two-way communications such as a phone or radio so that you can talk to emergency services. If this is unavailable, then a distress beacon should be activated. This is a personal decision that is quite different for everybody.

“Even if you’re camping and head out to collect fire wood – take your beacon with you. If you slip over, you might not be able to make it back to your tent to call for help.

“Next Tuesday is 406 Day – named after the frequency distress beacons work on. The day aims to increase awareness of their importance, but we wanted to get the word out early as taking a beacon could save someone’s life.”

The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ is responsible for coordinating all major maritime and aviation search and rescue missions across an area of 30 million square kilometres. They also coordinate land based missions arising from someone activating a distress beacon.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Radio Service does around-the-clock monitoring of VHF radio channels within New Zealand’s coastal waters, as well as HF distress channels across a 50 million square kilometre region of the South Pacific. The Service also broadcasts safety information, such as meteorological warnings.

Hill also wanted to remind people heading outdoors to be aware that weather conditions can deteriorate quickly.

“Check the forecast and expect weather changes,” he said.

“Get your info from mountains, snow, marine and coastline forecasts – they’re different from ‘typical’ weather forecasts.”

Advice for beacon owners

  • Buy a beacon that’s fit for purpose. If you’re going kayaking, buy a PLB that’s waterproof and floats. If you have a fishing boat, buy a float-free EPIRB.
  • We recommend that you carry your PLB distress beacon on your person at all times, so you can access it if an incident happens.
  • Return your beacon to your retailer or supplier if you need to replace the battery or have it repaired. If a distress beacon has moisture in it, often it’s because it has been dropped or someone who’s not the manufacturer has opened it.
  • Know how to use your beacon before you head out. Read the instructions that come with it. You’ll be ready to go, if you need to use it in an emergency.

While no solution is bullet proof, beacons can summon help in life threatening situations. Remember to register yours at www.beacons.org.nz before you head into the hills or out on the water.

If you need help with registration, phone: 0508 406 111 or email 406registry@maritimenz.govt.nz

The AdventureSmart website has useful advice for heading out on the land, water or snow: https://www.adventuresmart.nz/

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