The most common reason for replacing a personal locator beacon with a new one is the battery is about to finally expire in the current device. But anyone who buys a new PLB is likely to enjoy a range of features that weren’t available in their old one anyway. For example, the latest personal locator beacons are likely to be far more compact and portable, lightweight, and buoyant. They will also have extended battery life and a far higher degree of accuracy with greater coverage that guides rescuers to within metres of their search target. So when it’s a case of out with the old and in with the new, you certainly get so much more with a modern Personal Locator Beacon.
If you’re about to update your Personal Locator Beacon, we urge you to dispose of your old one properly. You simply can’t throw it away with the rest of the household rubbish or take it to the tip. There is still life in these old PLBs if the battery isn’t disconnected or if the device is not deactivated. When they’re disposed of like any other item of rubbish, they can activate themselves and set off a major search and rescue operation.
We’re not joking. It has happened before. Just a couple of years ago, the police and search and rescue squads were called into action when they received reports of a Personal Locator Beacon being activated in the Nelson region. As is to be expected when there’s an activation, a rescue helicopter was sent up as part of the search effort. The PLB was eventually tracked down at the Nelson refuse station, where it’s thought it had been buried under a pile of rubbish and accidentally activated by a bulldozer working in the area. Thousands of dollars went into the “search and rescue’ and it was an expensive reminder that a Personal Locator Beacon must be disposed of properly.
If you want to get rid of your old one, and you want to avoid search and rescue false alarms, we suggest you contact your local police station for advice. You can also get in touch with the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, or with us. We’ll help you get rid of your old PLB and also help you find a new one that best suits your individual requirements.