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Personal Locator Beacons: An Inexpensive Life Insurance Policy

Every single summer I see one or more stories on the evening news about someone who has been reported missing while recreating in the outdoors.

What frustrates me most about these stories is that in many cases, with just a little knowledge, preparation, and caution, many of these people would not have mishaps and/or would not go missing.

Because we now live in the Information Age, our lives have become so fast paced and so dependent on electronic devices to supply needed information on demand, that many of us tend to view the outdoors as a connected playground rather than an isolated wilderness.

Thus, we tend to forget that we can’t always use our smartphones to get directions or summon help in the event of an emergency.

Fortunately for today’s plugged-in generation, there is a nifty little device called a Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB, that will summon help in the event of an emergency even when your smart phone can’t.

Check out our collection of PLBs in our web shop.

What makes a PLB different from your smartphone is that a PLB is a transmitter only and thus, although it will broadcast your S.O.S. signal to the proper authorities, it will not enable you to talk with them.

However, it also contains a much more powerful transmitter than your cellphone and, unlike your iPhone or Samsung, it is designed to broadcast its signal to the worldwide, non-geostationary, COSPASS-SARSAT International Satellite Rescue system, as well as to any passing military or commercial aircraft (which are all required to monitor emergency frequencies whenever they are airborne).

It does this by broadcasting a 406 MHz radio frequency in addition to a 121.5 MHz homing signal that helps rescuers locate your exact position once they are on the scene.

Furthermore, these devices are available in two different varieties and from several different manufactures, such as Garmin, ACR, and McMurdo, with the main difference being that one type transmits an S.O.S. signal only while the other type transmits an S.O.S. signal in conjunction with your exact longitude and latitude via a built-in GPS unit.

After a one minute delay to allow you turn the device off (in the event that you accidentally activate it), your S.O.S. signal, along with your GPS coordinates, are transmitted and forwarded through the system to the nearest rescue agency, and a local rescue team is dispatched to your location usually within one hour.

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Last, you will also find that these devices are about the same size as some of today’s smartphones and they are also comparable in price.

While I understand that for many people, a smartphone is a part of their anatomy, I would suggest that you consider leaving your phone in the car and carrying a Personal Locator Beacon instead when entering the wilderness.

Please feel free to post your suggestions and comments below, and let us know if a PLB is a good idea. 


Featured image via West Marine

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Personal Locator Beacons: An Inexpensive Life Insurance Policy