The signal from 121.5 MHz and 243 MHz Personal Locator Beacons is no longer monitored by satellite, as of 1 Feruary 2009. This means if you need help in an emergency and try to use an old beacon to alert rescuers, the satellites will have no way of hearing you.
Switch to a digital 406 MHz PLB now.
What is a PLB?
Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are for personal use-mainly by bushwalkers, cross-country vehicle clubs, mountaineers and other adventurers on land. They can also be used in light aircraft, gliders, hot air balloons, and in some maritime situations.
They’re small enough to fit in your pocket and are activated manually.
What kind of 406 MHz PLB do I need?
There is a wide range of beacons available for land use. PLBs are for trampers, climbers, four-wheel drivers and other outdoors people. PLB’s are also suitable for very small aircraft, gliders and in some maritime situations. They’re small enough to fit in your pocket and are activated manually.
We strongly recommend you purchase a PLB with built-in GPS as this dramatically improves their accuracy. This means your location can be identified by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) on the first contact with a satellite. Without GPS it would require two satellites to pick up your beacon signal, to resolve the ambiguity of the satellite positions. The time between satellite passes varies greatly, ranging between 20 minutes and 4.5 hours.
For marine-only situations we recommend the marine version of a PLB called an EPIRB, as most PLBs do not float. Also, the batteries in EPIRBs last approximately twice as long as those in a PLB.
Your local supplier will guide you to the option that is most suitable for your needs, taking into account the kind of activity you engage in.
Where should I keep my PLB?
Tramping, climbing, and adventure sports
Keep it on your person. Do not keep it in clothing or pieces of equipment that might get left behind or dropped in an accident.
4x4 wheel driving
Keep it in the glove box or another safe and accessible compartment - preferably somewhere not effected by vibration, as this could cause accidental activation in rough terrain.
In the air
If you are using a PLB in any kind of aircraft, you must keep it on your person.
If you are using a PLB in a maritime situation, you must keep it on your person.
Don't buy a foreign 406 MHz beacon!
Each country has an individual 406 code. When you purchase a 406 MHz distress beacon, make sure it is coded for New Zealand. The New Zealand Country Code is 512. If you buy one from overseas or over the Internet, it could be an expensive mistake. When an overseas beacon is activated in New Zealand, the satellite may notify the wrong rescue coordination centre, which could mean a long, potentially life-threatening delay in your rescue.
You must register your new beacon.
This means search and rescue can contact you or a person you nominate to verify activation if your beacon goes off. This improves search response time and cuts down on false alarms. Once your beacon is registered you will need to keep your details up to date and notify the register if the beacon changes ownership.
How to register
There are two easy ways to register your 406 MHz beacon:
- Fill out the online 406 registration form.
- Or download the PDF
registration form, fill it in and post, email or fax your form
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand
PO Box 30050
Lower Hutt 5040
Fax: +64 4 577 8041
Email email@example.com or
Phone 0800 406 111 if you have any questions about registering your beacon.
Disposing of your old PLB
It’s important to dispose of your old 121.5 or 243 MHz PLB properly. If you do not it could still be accidentally activated causing an unnecessary search and rescue operation. There is also the risk that someone may use one of the old 121.5 MHz PLBs, thinking that it is a useful safety device.
Old PLBs need to have their battery disconnected and then be disposed of in accordance with local regulations as many contain hazardous materials. Click here for a list of suppliers who will help you to dispose of your old beacon safely. Some of these suppliers may offer trade-in deals.
If you sell or dispose of a registered 406 MHz beacon, please let RCCNZ know by phoning 0800 406 111.