Police urge people to use emergency beacons

MONARO Local Area Command Police are encouraging all people planning adventure activities outside resort areas within Kosciuszko National Park this winter to ensure a Personal Locator Beacon is carried (PLB) as a fast and reliable method of alerting rescue authorities in the event of an emergency. PLB's are pocket sized emergency distress beacons that transmit via a global satellite network to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra, allowing rescue teams to respond to a defined area. Activated PLB's with GPS position capability were found by Jindabyne Police to be accurate to within ten metres on the ground at the time of rescue.

While PLB's are used by many experienced backcountry skiers, hikers and four wheel drive enthusiasts, anecdotal evidence collected by Police indicates that occasional visitors to Kosciuszko National Park are less inclined to consider taking a PLB despite a joint National Parks & Wildlife Service and NSW Police Force PLB hire program operating since 2000. From this weekend GPS equipped PLB's can be hired from NPWS Visitor centres at Jindabyne, Perisher Valley, Tumut and Khancoban during business hours free of charge with the nominal hire service fee removed in an initiative designed to promote greater use of the PLB hire program.

Monaro LAC Inspector Tony Hill has sought to highlight the potential value of the PLB hire program.

"Finding people in the mountains during a rescue situation is typically hampered by rugged terrain together with poor weather and visibility. GPS equipped PLB's such as the ones hired by NPWS can take the searching out of the operation and dramatically reduce the time taken for rescuers to reach people in distress," he said.

"Time is always a critical factor in successful search and rescue, particularly in the snowy mountains where hypothermia can affect people in a matter of hours. A properly registered, GPS encoded, 406 Mhz distress beacon gives people the best chance of successful rescue in an emergency, especially in the alpine environment."

Police offer the following advice for year round safety in the snowy mountains;

- Ensure you have the appropriate fitness, experience and equipment for your planned activity.

- Check the weather forecast and accept the advice and warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology and National Parks & Wildlife Service.

- Leave a detailed trip itinerary with somebody who knows you and can notify Police if your return is overdue - personal information can be valuable to Police search coordinators.

- Don't rely on mobile telephones for emergency communications - cold affects battery life and service can be patchy or non-existent in wilderness areas.

- Take a PLB as a reliable means of alerting authorities to an emergency situation where urgent assistance is required.

- Ensure your beacon is properly registered with AMSA to give you the best chance of being rescued in an emergency.

For more information or to register your beacon for free visitwww.beacons.amsa.gov.au or call 1800 406 406.

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