when after a great day of back country fishing far from the nearest road you take a nasty spill and break your leg. Night is falling quickly but you aren't worried because you have one of those new fangled Personal Locator Beacons. You activate your beacon and start to wait for the all too familiar sound of the rescue chopper. Think you are home free? Think again.
According to this article that we received from Doug Ritter the Chairman and Executive Director of the Equipped to Survive Foundation not every PLB is created equal. In fact some of them aren't even close.
The recently introduced “TracMe Personal Locator Beacon” is only $150 and weighs just 1.6 ounces. It is so small it could fit on your keychain. Because the manufacturer (TracMe Beacons Pty Ltd of Australia) is using the same PLB nomenclature, you might be tempted to believe it has similar capabilities to a real PLB, and given the lower price, weight and size, be tempted to purchase it as a distress beacon. Don’t!
A distress beacon that doesn’t notify someone you are in distress and provide location information is no distress beacon. TracMe is simply a homing beacon, nothing more.The TracMe operates on FRS (Family Radio Service) channel 1. Yes, the same FRS frequency as used by those ubiquitous inexpensive “walkie-talkies” you see at Wal-Mart, Cabela’s and elsewhere.
When activated it transmits a recorded message, a beep and then “Help…Emergency,” every 15 seconds. This analog transmission does not serve as a distress alert, unless someone quite close just happens to be monitoring or talking on Channel 1, unlikely in most cases.
Here is a link to Mr. Ritter's entire article. When considering the purchase of a personal locator beacon be sure that it actually sends a signal to rescuers via satellite and that the signal it sends includes your coordinates.
Photo credit: Equipped to Survive Foundation