No service, no saviour

For an outdoor enthusiast, Christmas may not consist of a list of what they want – but where, and how far away they can get from the city limits, during their break.

Being away from the hustle and bustle of city life is great, but many don’t take into account how far away from help they are – and especially if there is no cellphone reception.

GPS beacons are small and effective; and may be the difference between life and death.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand operational support manager Rodney Bracefield says GPS-equipped beacons can speed up rescue times and are more efficient than relying on mobiles.

“They really do take the search out of search and rescue,” says Rodney. “But the numbers show that registering your beacon is a key part of the process.”

If you own a beacon it is a legal requirement to register it, as rescue services will then know valuable details about a trip and also whether or not it is an actual emergency.

This year, 307 beacons have been triggered in New Zealand’s search and rescue region. Of these, 127 were real distress calls and the other 180 false alerts or unintentionally activated. Of the 127 distress alerts, 55 have been in the North Island. Seven beacon triggers were in the air, 39 on land and nine marine rescues. The South Island’s 72 triggers consisted of 10 air, 58 land and four marine rescues.

“Having your beacon registered means we can contact you and or a relative or friend if your beacon is activated and determine your intended location; and also what your boat, vehicle or aircraft looks like,” says Rodney.

“This helps us to get help to you as soon as possible and also ensures rescuers are carrying all the gear that is likely to be required, such as appropriate medical equipment.”

There are about 12,000 unregistered 406 MHz beacons in New Zealand, about 30 per cent of the total number.

“Beacons are for anyone venturing off the beaten track – from farmers to mountain bikers, climbers to 4X4 adventurers and microlight pilots. They are small and light and they could genuinely be a lifesaver,” says Rodney.

Registration is free, and can be completed online at:


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