SEARCH & RESCUE IN THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS
To assist with locating people in need
of rescue in the Kosciuszko National park the National Parks and Wildlife
Service has Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons
(EPIRB) for hire. This description of the technology used will
assist outback travellers to understand what an EPIRB can do, itís limitations
and how to use it in an emergency.
Information is correct as of July
2000 and applies to the GME EPIRB model MT310 as supplied by the NPWS.
Who should carry an EPIRB?
Hiking, walking, skiing and snow boarding
in backcountry mountain and bush areas can be hazardous. Mobile phones
are usually out of range in the area and batteries may fail. HIKERS,
SKIERS and SNOWBOARDERS going off the beaten track
for a day or more will be able to summon aid in an emergency situation
if they have an EPIRB.
What is an EPIRB?
An EPIRB is a radio distress beacon that
can be activated in an emergency to transmit continuos radio signals on
the frequencies of 121.5MHz and 243 MHz simultaneously. These signals
can be detected by any commercial or RAAF aircraft within range and line
of sight, and reported immediately. The signals can also be detected by
orbiting satellites and the signal relayed back to earth where the signal
is passed directly to the Rescue Coordination Centre (AusSAR) in Canberra.
When the signal is received by AusSAR details
are passed to the Police Service which is responsible for coordinating
Search and Rescue operations in NSW.
When to activate your EPIRB
Do NOT activate your EPIRB if help can be summoned
safely and quicker by any other means. Does your mobile phone work? Warm
your phone with body heat for best battery operation. Can you get
to the top of a mountain to get a phone signal. Can someone ski or walk
out for help? Can a nearby group assist?
An EPIRB must ONLY be activated
in an emergency situation.
Such situations include:
- Medical emergency necessitating urgent evacuation
- Being lost with little hope of reaching
outside assistance before food and water supplies are exhausted.
- Any situation that could be life threatening.
Once activated the unit must
be left on and the party should remain at the same location until rescue
Do NOT activate the EPIRB for minor injuries
such as blisters or sprains that make movement painful but not impossible,
or running out of porridge when you have other food, or being a day or
two late returning if there is no danger to anybody. Use it responsibly
as the receipt of an EPIRB signal always triggers a search that
is costly and can endanger the safety of personnel involved.
What happens when the EPIRB is activated?
Do not expect an instant response. There will
be a delay of some hours before help can arrive and it may not be the
same day. The delay may be longer in bad weather.
The EPIRB tells the satellite and the satellite tells
the tracking station and it tells AusSAR. However it may take 2 hours
for a satellite to pass overhead and pick up your signal. The signal is
only located within 20km, although with each additional pass of the satellite
a grid is established that locates the position more accurately. The signal
from your EPIRB does not identify you so at this stage AusSAR does not
know who they are looking for.
AusSAR tells the Police and they tell the NPWS. A land
and air search is planned and coordinated. An air search can pinpoint
the location of the EPIRB more accurately. If weather or cloud conditions
are unfavourable a helicopter rescue is not possible and at that time
only a ground search can be undertaken. A large area has to be searched
to narrow the search area to your location. At this point NPWS will know
how many EPIRBís have been hired and their proposed location. If
you have purchased your own EPIRB you should notify NPWS on each
occasion that you will take it into the back country.
ASSIST YOUR RESCUERS by setting up crossed
skis as a signal and if possible light a fire, trample snow or set out
coloured clothing. During a trip leave notes of your progress in the log
book if you pass a hut.
The GME EPIRB MT310
This pocket size unit weighs 175 grams and comes in
a protective carry case. It is fitted with long life Lithium batteries
that will power the unit for a minimum of 48 hours at temperatures down
to Ė100C. It has a self test facility that can be used to check
that the unit will function and has a flashing LED and audio alert to
indicate that the unit is transmitting. The unit has a safety seal that
will prevent accidental activation and it has a guaranteed battery storage
life of 5 years.
To operate the unit in an emergency.
Push down the yellow switch and slide it across the
top of the EPIRB and in doing so breaking the safety seal. Extend the
antenna and place the unit in the open, as clear of solid obstructions
as possible. The unit is weatherproof but if it is snowing tie the unit
to a ski stuck in the snow so that the antenna will not be buried in snow.
Leave it turned on until rescued.
What if you accidentally activate the
Reduce the chance of accidental activation by stowing
the unit where it will be free from sudden shock or damage, educate travelling
companions about it and do not fiddle with it and keep children away from
the unit. If accidentally activated, SWITCH OFF IMMEDIATELY
and contact AusSAR on 1800 641 792 or local Police or NPWS staff on 1800
629 104 as soon as possible.
REMEMBER that carrying an EPIRB does NOT
guarantee the safety of a person. The response time to an EPIRB signal
may take several hours or even one or more days depending on the weather
conditions. It is a valuable aid to an expedition that is properly planned
and equipped. It is essential that full details of your trip are left
with a relative or friend from home or work who can notify Police if you
are overdue. Print out this page and distribute to members of your party
so that they understand the part that an EPIRB will play in the event
of an emergency.
WHERE TO HIRE A PERSONAL EPIRB
An EPIRB can be hired from
NPWS visitor centres during office hours at Jindabyne, Perisher Valley,
Khancoban and Tumut.
The hire fee is $10 for the duration of
the trip. A deposit of $20 is necessary and can be paid by cash, cheque
or credit card. The EPIRB is to be returned to the NPWS office from which
it was hired by 5pm on the nominated return day. The deposit is forfeited
if the safety seal has been broken by any means other than during an emergency
situation. The hirer must provide details of their motor vehicle, equipment
carried, driverís licence ID and a nominated contact person. The hirer
indemnifies the NPWS, the NSW Government and any other person against
a claim for any accident that may occur while hiring the EPIRB.
For information about hiring contact
the National Parks & Wildlife Service. Snowy Region Visitor Centre
tel. (02) 6450 5600
See your outdoor sports store
to buy your own personal EPIRB for about $300.00
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