You should ensure that any PLB purchased meets the Australian AS/NZS 4280.1 and AS/NZS 4280.2 standards. These standards specify the minimum performance requirements, technical characteristics and testing requirements of radio beacons. These standards incorporate international regulations and conventions for safety.
If you plan on using your PLB in Australia, you should purchase an Australian PLB. This isn’t just to support local companies. Each PLB is coded to transmit the country code in which the PLB was made. If you have an international PLB in Australia, any emergency signal will require Australian authorities to contact the relevant MCC overseas in order to access any registered information. This could delay accessing relevant or important information.
Therefore, if you are going to purchase a PLB overseas, you should request the manufacturer to recode the PLB to the include the Australian country code. You will not be able to register the PLB in Australia, unless it has an Australian country-code. Similarly, if you purchase a PLB in Australia to take overseas you should request that the PLB is recoded to your country code.
PLBs from Canada and the US do not meet the Australian standards. Canada have amended their standards to allow PLBs that are not required to float. While the US have a requirement to transmit the letter “P” in Morse code over the 121.5MHz frequency. This may impact local search and rescue authorities in being able to hone in on your device, as our rescue services do not use this protocol.
If your beacon is accidentally activated, you should turn it off immediately and then contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on 1800 641 792. There is no penalty for accidental activation.
Alternatives to PLBs
Some adventurers believe that carrying a mobile-phone is sufficient enough. However, a mobile-phone is only as good as the coverage it receives, and batteries are notoriously short-lived. Two-way radios have a short transmission distance and require someone on the other end using the same channel. And while Satellite Photos are a good option, these are generally expensive, bulky, and have limited battery. Given their size, durability and lifespan, a rescue beacon really is the way to go.