What is a PLB and why would you need one?
A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a one way communications device that uses satellites to alert and transmit your GPS location details to search and rescue teams in an emergency. These are essential if you are outside of cellphone coverage needing emergency assistance or rescue.
As Teresa and I regularly ride in some pretty remote regions around New Zealand and that often means being well outside cellphone coverage. So in preparing for these backcountry rides, we like to think about how we can communicate in case of an an emergency. So making sure we are well prepared for these backcountry rides and being ready for whatever the trail might throw at us, we purchased an ACR ResQLink 400 PLB for use in an emergency.
This is one of our top 5 tips for staying safe out on the trail, check out the article if you haven’t already.
How do they work?
A PLB, when activated, sends your location via satellite to your nearest search and rescue (SAR) centre and simultaneously, a low frequency radio signal to help rescuers home in on your exact location.
In New Zealand you register your contact details (and a few close contacts) together with your PLB serial code, you can do this via post or online at https://beacons.org.nz. You register your PLB so that when the SAR centre receives your distress signal they know who you are, and can attempt to confirm that you are indeed in need of rescue before deploying precious resources.
We liked that the ResQLink 400 is small and lightweight at just 144 grams, making it easy to pack for a backcountry ride. It is also waterproof and floats, which would be handy if you wanted one for your boating trips too (or somehow wind up in a river with your bike?!).
The ResQLink 400 has LED and infrared strobe lights making you more visible to rescuers at night and it comes with a few accessories such as a belt loop giving you some flexibility on how you can carry it. It has a guaranteed battery life of 5 years, the expiry date is printed on the side of the unit.
ACR offers a replacement of your unit if it is used in a rescue, all they ask in return is the tale of your rescue on their website.
While I haven’t had to use ours in an emergency yet (touch wood), they are extremely easy to use. You simply extend the antenna and press and hold the power button for two seconds and wait for your rescuers.
You can also test the unit to ensure it works properly, just press the “T” button instead of the power button and check the flashing lights to verify it worked properly.
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but these should only ever be used in a true emergency situation and in saying that I hope that none of you ever need to use one.