This post is to create awareness around the response you may expect to receive when activating a PLB or InReach device in an Emergency.
These devices are to be used in life or limb situations where you need an emergency response to assist you. This response can vary depending on the terrain you are in, from an Aviation Ambulance, Coastguard, Land SAR, Canyon SAR, Alpine Rescue Team, and the like.
PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)
This is a very common device used by people all over New Zealand, a PLB needs to have a clear line of sight to the sky to reduce chances of misfunction. Once triggered do not move the device. Your device’s location will be sent to the NZ Rescue Coordination Center in Wellington where a Search and Rescue officer will dispatch the required response to the most appropriate response team(s). If you don't own your own device, many stores including Macpac have PLB hiring services.
Becoming more popular due to the messaging capabilities, the InReach is being used more and more around New Zealand. They work on a subscription-based service starting at $20.00 NZD per month, this monthly subscription fee is in addition to the once-off product purchase. By linking the device to your phone you can send information to other parties, which is helpful if you’re running late or just want to "check in". On longer trips, a charging cable may be useful.
If you trigger the SOS function, your alert will go to the Garmin Response Team in America, and from there they will alert RCC. If you own one of these devices, it's critical that you update your emergency contact info and personal profile, so that authorities know who's in trouble and who the emergency contacts are.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with an InReach due to the messaging capabilities. You will receive messages from both the Garmin Response Team and RCCNZ, and they will ask for information to inform the tasking authorities, so ensure you give succinct information. Some helpful information to give to the RCC are as follows.
- Nature of the emergency (traumatic injury, avalanche, medical, bluffed out, fall, etc.)
- Number of injured and total party number
- Type(s) of injuries
- Conditions on the scene (weather, wind, hazards, visibility, etc.)
Remote rescue into the hills can have a protracted response time. Both professional and volunteer teams around the country aim to have a timely response. However, there are a lot of considerations that need to be addressed before sending a team into the field. When there is high uncertainty about the nature of an incident or the conditions on scene, it can further delay response teams, as they prepare for a spectrum of situations. From the time you press an SOS button to the time responders are on scene, it could take several hours. Head into the hills prepared, with a first aid kit, shelter, warm clothing, extra food, and water to better help you and your team manage minor emergencies or mitigate response times. In inclement weather, response times can be delayed even further.
Once a rescue team has reached you, they will take control of the scene and assess extraction, this could happen in a range of ways, including helicopters, walking, stretcher carry, or staying in place until further resources arrive. We encourage thorough planning and preparation before heading out for your trip. What could go wrong? When and where would it most likely happen? Are you prepared for that? Is someone aware of your plans that could send help if you don't check in or return?
Credit: DOC Aoraki Mountain Rescue