What are Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)? 

PLBs as a rule are the last resort in a crisis whether on land or at sea. Their sole purpose is to raise an alert with the emergency services, and most of them come with an integrated SOS functionality built in; users can activate an SOS recovery mission at the push of a button.

PLBs are typically lightweight and compact. Most model variant can be fixed to a lifejacket or attached to your person in some way to make carrying them around easier. The Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1, for example, is the world’s smallest PLB at just 7.7cm tall.

At GTC, we are able to supply a wide range of life-saving PLBs and can also offer expert advice on which one is right for you. For now, this article should paint a good picture for you to make up your mind.

How PLBs Can Save Lives

Triggering an SOS call from your PLB means a rapid response team will be deployed and on their way to your location as quickly as possible. Some PLBs come with built-in GPS systems, meaning the carrier’s location will be sent to the search and rescue team in order for them to accurately zone in on the device’s precise location. PLBs can provide an added level of safety for people who venture into remote areas, such as hikers, hunters, and boaters. In the event of an emergency, the PLB can be used to quickly summon help.

Features and Benefits of PLBs

The features of a typical PLB include things like GPS systems and SOS buttons. Some particular PLBs come with integrated strobe lights so that rescue teams can visualise their target when visibility is poor or if they are conducting a night rescue. The Ocean Signal rescueME PLB3 AIS, however, is one of the most feature-rich PLB devices on the market. Armed with AIS, (Automatic Identification System), RLS (Return Link Service), and NFC (Near-Field Communication), it is truly optimised for the smoothest, most efficient search and rescue operation.

Some PLBs are manually operated, meaning their SOS functionality has to be activated by pressing the button. However, others that are designed for the marine environment, activate on contact with water and up to particular depths, meaning in a man-overboard situation, for example, the user would not have to think about coordinating their rescue; the PLB will have automatically triggered the alert itself.

Choosing the Right PLB for Your Needs

Choosing the right Personal Locator Beacon for your needs can be a critical decision, as it could potentially save your life in an emergency situation. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a PLB:

  • Purpose: Consider the activities you will be doing and where you will be doing them. Some PLBs are designed specifically for marine use, while others are better suited for wilderness or backcountry activities.
  • Battery life: Look for a PLB with a battery life that meets your needs. Some PLBs have longer battery life than others, so consider how long you will be away from civilization and how often you plan to use the device.
  • Size and weight: PLBs come in different sizes and weights, so consider how portable you need the device to be. If you plan to carry the PLB on your person, a smaller and lighter device may be more comfortable.
  • Satellite network: PLBs use different satellite networks to communicate with rescue services, so it is important to choose a device that operates on a network that covers the area where you will be using the device.
  • Features: Consider any additional features that may be important to you, such as a built-in GPS or messaging capability.
  • Price: PLBs can vary in price, so consider your budget and choose a device that provides the necessary features for your needs while staying within your budget.

PLBs for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Adventurers

When venturing into isolated wilderness areas like remote forests or vast plains, a PLB is the ideal piece of emergency equipment. Their size and weight make them ultra-portable for outdoor enthusiasts who are looking to save on space and capacity of their carry load. The McMurdo FastFind 220, for example, is compact and weighs just 150g, making it easy to carry on outdoor activities. It also has a long battery life of up to six years – so no matter what kind of adventure you have planned, this particular PLB will last as long as you do.

As always, our team of experts is here to help. So, if you need any advice about our range of PLBs, contact us via:

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