Beginner with emergency gadgets

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Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby sweetade » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 2:02 pm

I'm seeking others' opinions on what emergency devices would be good to take for a 3 person group on the OT (early Feb.). Sat. phone, PLB, both? I've also heard of sat sleeve for iPhone. I'd most probably be thinking of hiring rather than buying.
This kind of gadgetry is new to me. I did the OT solo 40 years ago and didn't worry too much except for avoiding side trips. But especially with two of us in our 60s, it seems prudent to think about these things.
Last edited by sweetade on Wed 11 Jan, 2017 8:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Son of a Beach » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 2:11 pm

Take this with a grain of salt, because I don't carry any such emergency gadgetry...

A sat phone (or sat phone sleeve for a cellular mobile phone) has the advantages of being able to provide a voice and/or SMS service. This means that you can theoretically get more useful information across regarding the nature of the incident. However, satellite contact in some locations can be a bit sketchy (eg, at the bottom of a narrow gorge). Battery problems are the main issue with this choice, in my opinion. The batteries are not made to last forever, and even if they will last confidently for a week or two, you have to be very careful to avoid using them for anything else. In general these devices are not usually very rugged and easily damaged.

A PLB has a battery that lasts for a very long time indeed, and is never going to be used or drained for any other purpose. It also garantees to send your location with the emergency signal. Furthermore, it will send the emergency signal repeatedly, which mitigates any satellite communications issues (eg, at the bottom of a narrow canyon). However, it cannot be used to send any other information about the nature of the emergency.

A SPOT is a good compromise between the two. You can send "OK" messages periodically, and people can track your location/progress remotely if you give them the tracking details. It has a separate emergency button with its own separate battery (I think?) which behaves much like the PLB emergency button. Worth investigating, anyhow.

If I was to carry a device for the purpose of getting help in an emergency it would be a PLB. It's the most reliable, and in an emergency, this is likely to be what really matters. However, it is also the most limited in terms of functionality, so if you have other needs, other options may be worth considering.
Last edited by Son of a Beach on Wed 04 Jan, 2017 3:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Hisham » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 2:23 pm

Plb if your objective is last resort emergency. You don't need to worry about batteries or signal. It "will" work.

The only down side with plb may be the time it may take for emergency services to confirm it is an emergency and get out there, whereas with a sat phone you can scream at them.

The others (e.g. spot and sat phone) aren't as reliable (due to battery reliance or reception), though still generally reliable. and they add other features such as non emergency communication to others off trail.

My rec is to take a plb unless you want the fancy extras, in which case consider taking a plb and the other item... that's conservative safety planning :)

Saying all that, the ot could be ok for a compromise given reasonable traffic and well defined tracks (as far as I know, which isn't much cos I haven't done it)
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Strider » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 3:31 pm

Hisham wrote:The only down side with plb may be the time it may take for emergency services to confirm it is an emergency and get out there, whereas with a sat phone you can scream at them.

This is not correct IMO. All beacon activations are taken extremely seriously and are treated as life in danger with utmost urgency. A PLB will always be more reliable than a Spot, Inreach or satphone.

Did I see a parallel thread somewhere?

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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby johnk1 » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 3:55 pm

There is always plenty of people around on the OT to help out if you get into trouble.

If you are going to take something, take a PLB.

Strider is right. PLB activation is taken very seriously and the services involved move very swiftly.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Hisham » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 5:34 pm

Thanks for the clarification.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby andrewa » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 7:58 pm

In remote NZ locations, I take small PLB and Sat phone. Reason for PLB is that sat phone surprisingly doesn't work that well, even when plenty of clear sky above. However, in 12 years of remote backcountry fly fishing trips in the Sth Island, I've never really needed either - even though I broke my wrist last year on the second last day before we had a planned helicopter pickup. It has been nice to have a sat phone to talk with, and reassure those at home that we were still alive!

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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Ant71 » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 8:35 pm

We went in September and took a PLB this was our first multi night hike and this seamed like the best option. Also you van hire them from Parks Tas I think they were $40 for the week and you can pick it up at the cradle visitors centre and drop it off at lake St Clair. The only draw back is that you cant book them in advance.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby weeds » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 9:28 pm

My guess is there will be plenty of people on the overland in Feb.

If you are just doing the hits and no side trips than I wouldn't bother with either.

If doing side trips than a PLB makes sense.....I think a sat phone is over the top.

We (three off us) just completed the OLT doing the side trips and carried a PLB.

Keep in mind with three one can stay with the injured and the other can go for assistance.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Gadgetgeek » Wed 04 Jan, 2017 10:15 pm

Golden hour.

Not saying that any in your party will have any heart conditions, but sometimes people, even healthy people just don't know. relying on others for help in that situation could very well be fatal. I'd go for the PLB as a minimum (might not be you that needs it, could be someone else right?) If anyone at home is nervous, then a spot will help allay that as they can see your I'm okay messages. For the added weight and peace of mind, those would be my two choices. you get a priority of alerts, and a check-in.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby taipan821 » Thu 05 Jan, 2017 9:27 am

sweetade wrote:I'm seeking others' opinions on what emergency devices would be good to take for a 3 person group on the OT (early Feb.). Sat. phone, PLB, both? I've also heard of sat sleeve for iPhone. I'd most probably be thinking of hiring rather than buying.
This kind of gadgetry is new to me. I did the OT solo 40 years ago and didn't worry too much except for avoiding side trips. But especially with two of us in our 60s, it seems prudent to think about these things.


Just food for thought...
Emergency services do take time, have you talked to your doctor? if anyone in your group has a cardiac issue I strongly suggest they go to their doctor to talk about it, you might consider taking some prescribed medications or extra medications for that unlikely medical emergency.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Nuts » Thu 05 Jan, 2017 10:05 am

You don't carry any magic button nik? They are expensive little things but may allow the family to relax..
I have some of the KTI's usually at least one sitting around unused, using it's battery life..

Have a 1st gen spot I was going to put on pif at some stage if anyone wants it ($100 to initiate but better than nothing?)..

Any of these gadgets seem to 'work' in the vicinity this track, relatively open country. Iv'e not tried the sat sleeve but spot /spot-phone gadget, plb and sat phone. Satellite acquisition can take some time, never had an issue other than a short wait, patience is the key, several times/some areas it's had no reception straight up.

PLB if hiring, from the park service or service tas beforehand?, pick up enroute.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Son of a Beach » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 8:24 am

Nuts wrote:You don't carry any magic button nik? They are expensive little things but may allow the family to relax..


I probably should, and I do advice other people to do so. But apart from trying to minimise gadgetry that I take when walking (I'm a hypocrit - I use maps on a smart phone), I know that I'd be far more likely to end up in trouble if I carried a PLB. Ie, I would take more risks, and would be far more likely to need rescuing. I've been in situations on solo hikes several times over the last few years where I felt like I was getting a bit too risky in what I was doing. If I'd had a PLB, I would have kept going, I think. Without it, I changed my plans and opted for a safer alternative.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Nuts » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 9:08 am

Yeah, understood, and the number of remote rescues these days compared to pre-beacon always makes me question the enthusiasm of some for gadgets.

edit: which I guess does include mapping (in the wrong hands)

My worst bushwalking related injury occurred in the kitchen at home, :roll: , now i have a beacon, I take it (not that I go anywhere overly risky lately).
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby wayno » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 9:23 am

Strider wrote:
Hisham wrote:The only down side with plb may be the time it may take for emergency services to confirm it is an emergency and get out there, whereas with a sat phone you can scream at them.

This is not correct IMO. All beacon activations are taken extremely seriously and are treated as life in danger with utmost urgency. A PLB will always be more reliable than a Spot, Inreach or satphone.

Did I see a parallel thread somewhere?

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thats not opinion, its fact, all beacon activations are treated as potential life and death emergencies... emergency services will get to you as quick as they possibly can. thats why the usually try and send a helicopter first...
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby alanoutgear » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 10:59 am

I'd go for a PLB with a GPS chip which will give an accurate location to 3 or 4 metres provided it can see the sky.

Despite some previous poster's advice, there is no second guessing by AMSA when a PLB is activated - all PLB activations are treated as an emergency until/unless advised otherwise.

So, in an emergency you activate your PLB, and a couple of minutes later the signal has been pinged by the COPAS/SARSAT satellites, the location and PLB HEX ID are forwarded to AMSA who will know who the activated PLB belongs to, and if you've been diligent you will have entered your track notes into your page on the AMSA website so they know what you are doing. They will also know your emergency contacts because you have to give them at least one, but can be more.

Police will coordinate the search and rescue, and will determine the most appropriate method of response eg helicopter, fixed wing, vehicle, foot depending on the location.

Note: being late out is NOT regarded as an emergency and there would want to be a *&%$#! good reason for activating a PLB if you are late getting out (and I can't think of one unless you are caught in a blizzard and have run out of food and water). There is also provision for charge back for reckless activation of a PLB to recover the cost of a search and rescue.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Hisham » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 3:12 pm

alanoutgear wrote:I'd go for a PLB with a GPS chip which will give an accurate location to 3 or 4 metres provided it can see the sky.

Despite some previous poster's advice, there is no second guessing by AMSA when a PLB is activated - all PLB activations are treated as an emergency until/unless advised otherwise.

So, in an emergency you activate your PLB, and a couple of minutes later the signal has been pinged by the COPAS/SARSAT satellites, the location and PLB HEX ID are forwarded to AMSA who will know who the activated PLB belongs to, and if you've been diligent you will have entered your track notes into your page on the AMSA website so they know what you are doing. They will also know your emergency contacts because you have to give them at least one, but can be more.

Police will coordinate the search and rescue, and will determine the most appropriate method of response eg helicopter, fixed wing, vehicle, foot depending on the location.

Note: being late out is NOT regarded as an emergency and there would want to be a *&%$#! good reason for activating a PLB if you are late getting out (and I can't think of one unless you are caught in a blizzard and have run out of food and water). There is also provision for charge back for reckless activation of a PLB to recover the cost of a search and rescue.


Do people update the amsa travel intentions for their plb before each hike? Does it hinder the response if it's not updated?
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby alanoutgear » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 4:29 pm

Hi Hisham, lots of people provide track notes on their AMSA PLB page. It's quick and easy to do and provides additional information that AMSA can access if/when the PLB is activated. You might provide details of your route (so they know where you plan to be), the number in the party (so they know you are not alone, or that the rescue is potentially significant), or that you have a Satphone (if you have one), or any known health issues etc.

I know a number of people/clubs who keep their AMSA PLB page updated for each walk. It is easy to access, and the notes can be written in plain text just like you were telling them the info on the phone. Might take you 5 minutes.

Does it make a difference to how they respond - NO, but it provides additional background for the rescue party that may make their response more effective.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby Hisham » Fri 06 Jan, 2017 5:54 pm

Makes good sense. something I'll get into the habit of doing.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby sweetade » Wed 11 Jan, 2017 8:02 am

Thanks everyone for your input, really helpful. I'm going to opt for the PLB. The problem for hiring at CM is that you can't book them and I don't want to risk that. And I'm not able to detour into Launceston from the airport. Anyone know somewhere to hire in Melbourne? Have seen you can get them posted but I don't trust the post.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby north-north-west » Wed 11 Jan, 2017 4:20 pm

Hisham wrote:Do people update the amsa travel intentions for their plb before each hike?

Most do. Even I do most of the time (look, sometimes I just get a little disorganised and forget.)

Does it hinder the response if it's not updated?

No. Nor does it cause problems if, like me, your intentions often include a list of options that will be narrowed down when you get to the start of whichever walk you decided on whilst driving there.

To put it into perspective - when I was choppered out of the Eldons getting on for two years back, I set the beacon off at 5pm. AMSA couldn't contact me as I was out of phone range (they tried - when I got back to the car and checked my phone, there was a text on it from them). They couldn't reach my nominated contact person as he was out of range on another walk. They reached us around 8pm. 3 hours to organise the crew, pre-flight the chopper and get out to where we were is pretty good under those circumstances.

And having the GPS capability in my PLB also made it easier for them. When I saw the light from the chopper (it was after sunset by then) they were heading straight for us.
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Re: Beginner with emergency gadgets

Postby keithy » Fri 13 Jan, 2017 4:13 pm

sweetade wrote:Anyone know somewhere to hire in Melbourne?

Hi sweetade

I just got into this thread late, but if you are in Metro Melbourne and are going to be back in town by March, you are welcome to borrow my ACR ResQlink+ PLB. I just need to update the beacon info with AMSA with your details.

Shoot me a PM if you are interested, and we can work something out?
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