Personal locator beacons could enable quicker rescue

Personal locator beacons could enable quicker rescue

Outdoor enthusiasts will be able to use a radio safety device legally for the first time in the New Year.

The use of personal locator beacons has been banned on land in the UK though they have been used in planes and on boats for many years.

Ofcom has changed the rules to allow the use of the handheld devices, which are little larger than a standard GPS unit.

Campaigners have fought a long battle to use PLBs on the hills and in the countryside of Britain, which they said would improve safety for walkers and others venturing into remote areas.

Ofcom, the Government’s official body regulating radio use, announced the change will take place on 12 January.

It recommends anyone buying a PLB for use in the UK should register it with the Emergency Position-Indicating Rescue Beacon Registry, which is run by the Coastguard at its Falmouth Marine Rescue Coordination Centre.

The form details emergency contact numbers, the beacon’s serial number and its identifier.

In its formal notice of the change, Ofcom said the use of PLBs would improve the safety of citizens taking part in outdoor activities in remote areas. They would also help to reduce the number of causalities and fatalities by providing search and rescue services with information to aid rescue more rapidly.

“This could in some cases reduce costs to these emergency responders,” it added.

“There is a potential additional cost to emergency services of allowing PLB use on land as result of an increase in false alarms. However, this is outweighed by the potential cost reductions that location information may provide,” Ofcom said.

PLBs send a distress signal to orbiting satellites

PLBs send a distress signal to orbiting satellites

PLBs use the the Cospas-Sarsat emergency system that can transmit a signal in the event of accident or injury to a group of orbiting satellites which will then alert emergency services.

In January 2008, grough reported the campaign, led by Jenni Miller of Equine Ramblers, to allow the safety devices’ use on land in the UK. Ms Miller suffered a fall from her horse while on a six-day trek.

Her experience led her to start the campaign to change the rules to allow walkers, horse riders, mountaineers, climbers and mountain bikers to use PLBs on land.

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