The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand – our country’s national search and rescue organization – is asking Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – also known as EPIRB – owners to check their device details are updated after responding to two beacon alerts for which they had no details.
Search and rescue helicopter crews had only a signal location for each incident when responding to two separate rescue beacon alerts from South Island mountains recently.
“We need owners of rescue beacons to register and update their personal details and those of their emergency contacts,” says RCCNZ manager Mike Hill.
“It is much safer and more effective if we are able to pass on details to rescuers about how many people are in the party; whether they are hunting, fishing, climbing or whatever, and their intended route.”
Two Garden City Helicopters flew to each of the locations, in the Southern Alps and inland from Kaikoura but could not glean any information from emergency contacts about what crews could expect on arrival.
Despite the lack of information, two men were successfully rescued and flown to hospital. One was a climber in a party of three with a shoulder injury who was flown to Greymouth Hospital. The other was a hunter who was taken to Christchurch Hospital with a suspected pelvis injury.
Once a rescue beacon is set off and the signal is picked up by RCCNZ, staff check whether it is registered and attempt to contact the friends or family that are listed as emergency contacts.
One of the beacons was registered with an emergency contact, but that person didn’t know anything about the climbing trip the victim was on. The other had incomplete registration details with no phone number for the owner or emergency person listed.
Mike urges owners of beacons to register them properly and to regularly check the details held are accurate. And when heading out, let emergency contacts know.
“Just send a text message to let them know you are heading off, and what you have planned. Then when you get back, send another text confirming you are home safely,” says Mike.
“The details we need permanently on our beacon database can be updated on the website:
www.beacons.org.nz Or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org”