Personal locator beacons (PLBs) are a type of distress radio beacon for emergency situations which help authorities detect and locate aircrafts, boats, and people in distress. The signals are aggressively monitored worldwide by non-geostationary satellites. Each beacon can be uniquely identified and registered to an individual user which provides instant identification of the user as well as location. Search parties are then able to home in on the crisis signal. It is vital to locate the person who is in a dire situation during the “golden day” (the day following the traumatic situation), as after this time odds of survival drop drastically. The capabilities of the PLB are incredibly important; frequencies must easily reach satellites quickly and reliably.
ACR PLBs are your “best last chance”; you should not take a chance nor be stingy when researching types of PLBs to purchase. Keep in mind that some PLBs are designed for land-based use so it’s important to have the correct PLB for all situations, like purchasing car tires for all seasons; you never want to use summer tires in the winter. Luckily, ARC PLBs are designed to float, but certainly that’s something that you’d need to take into account lest you be stranded in the ocean after a traumatic sinking accident without a raft or a working PLB. Another thing to consider, is the activation manual or automatic? There are situations that you may not be conscious for, that an automatic transmission may be necessary. However, in the same breath, you don’t want to accidentally activate the PLB. You must be aware about exactly how your PLB operates to prepare for any and all situations. Most importantly, keep your contact information updated otherwise authorities may not be able to contact next of kin; this can cause a great deal of extra work and headache for all those involved.
Lastly, PLBs must be maintained properly. Annually, the battery for your personal locator beacons must be checked. In the case of an emergency, e.g. a fire, what’s the use of a fire alarm if it doesn’t work? In addition to checking the battery every year, each model by brand must go through a quality check to verify that the signal is sent properly and that the functions work as designed. It’s difficult to give advice about specific brands, which is why we advise that you are knowledgeable about whatever PLB you choose. Knowledge is a tool, be formidably armed!