Personal Locator Beacons: Life saving devices that all hikers, outback travellers and bushwalkers should have.
A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a kind of emergency beacon.
When activated, it transmits a message that’s picked up by satellites orbiting the Earth. This alert is then relayed to emergency services.
For hikers in the Outback, rescue will usually be via rangers on foot or via a helicopter. The rangers or helicopter go to the coordinates that the PLB transmitted (or uses radio direction finding to home in on the beacon). They can then find the hiker and rescue them.
A PLB is the best form of emergency communications in the Outback and other remote areas. This page tells you how to use one and where you can hire or buy one for hiking or travelling the outback.
When to Use a PLB
It’s important to remember that a PLB is a last resort.
Your initial emergency call should still be made by telephone, radio or other direct communication if possible.
Direct communication will result in a faster and more appropriate response as you will be able to talk to emergency services.
Only use a PLB if you can’t talk directly to emergency services and urgent assistance is required.
Before using your PLB, move to an open area, get up as high as possible with a clear view of as much of the sky. This will help the signal get out.
There are some times when a PLB either will not work or you will have to wait a long time before rescue.
- Bad weather – Lightning can make it difficult to get an accurate position and delay rescue. Also remember that bad weather might delay ground crews or rescue by helicopter
- Deep gorges – A distress signal from a narrow gorge may not be detected. Try and get up high before you set the PLB off
- Night – Satellites will pick up the PLB signal at night, but it might be the next day before a helicopter or the rangers can get in to find you
Companies offering Emergency Equipment
These companies hire personal locator beacons for people travelling or hiking the Outback
Central Communications (Satellite phones only)
Tel: +61 8 8952 2388
EPIRB Hire (EPIRB, PLB & Satellite phones)
Tel: +61 2 4997 8183
XLCOM (Satellite Phones & PLBs)
Tel: +61 8 8955 5455
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