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PLB's - Getting Lost - Backcountry Accidents - What are your/our options ?

From: Stephen F
Sent on: Friday, October 7, 2016 8:20 PM

Hello Feet First Member -

It is interesting times for the various Meet Up Hiking Groups here in Auckland, as we become increasingly more under the spotlight by some of the well established  and long standing of many decades , various  Auckland Tramping Clubs and Auckland Search and Rescue Co-Ordinators  and also the Auckland Regional Parks Management and various Park Rangers that we frequently see out and about in their vehicles patrolling the beaches and checking on the tracks.

We as members of various Meet  Up Hiking groups love to walk in many of the Regional Parks and Reserves , but in some opinions of some of the members of official tramping clubs , we as leaders and organisers of hiking events are putting our members at risk of getting lost or injured sometimes ,  due to some members attending events, failing to plan, and not carrying things to help in an emergency.

Recently as some of you know, two members of the bigger Auckland Hiking Group , had to spend an unplanned night in the rugged Hunua Ranges, after falling behind the main group, on a day hike, and unfortunately for them , a guy and a lady, made a mistake to follow a possum bait line and kept going , and no one in the main group noticed them missing until later on..By this time the two missing, had to bed down in the late evening for the night .  Look in the their packs for food to sustain a night out, and keep each others morale up and thankfully they had no medical problems.

They were found the next day  on a Sunday , but not till 2pm  and lots of people were involved finding them .,.Search and Rescue volunteers , made up of various members of the main Auckland Tramping Clubs and lots of Police resources.  I used to be involved myself as a former member of an official tramping club in my thirties, and attended a few lost incidents and some medical emergencies .. and the hours spent searching in the dark , wasn't always successful, and later on in two incidents, had to assist carrying a dead person out of the Waitakere Ranges, a sad affair for the volunteers of said clubs, but that's a long time ago .,and its one of the reasons I find myself writing this note now, as the questions are being asked at higher levels, Auckland Council etc, which again I used to be an official licenced operator with, and had the permission of the Rangers to take people on guided hikes, and get paid for my services, having met the strict health and safety measures and detailed in writing my plans etc for the two years I did that work .

I say all of this not to impress you, but to impress upon you, that its time to take stock of what could happen to us also ,, and maybe you, to think now about how prepared are we in a back country emergency .

It's time we as armed ourselves on the events we do, by purchasing a Feet First group Personal  Locator Beacon ( PLB ) for  the events we do each weekend out in the wilderness of Auckland's many tracks and places we love to hike.

I personally would like our group to pool some donations from our members, even if its a only a dollar or two , to buy one or possibly two PLB's to be used and carried by the leaders of Feet First Events .

A variety of PLB's are available in NZ costing from $300 to $700 each. Models come in variety of sizes, shapes ,. weights. Important notes according to the latest quarterly of the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ, that I'm a member of, state that the most important things to consider are , that it transmits on both the 406MHz and 121.5 MHz frequencies . That it is  GPS imbedded for faster response times and that it has a long battery life, and it is fully waterproof.

When a hiker/tramper, climber , hunter, or anyone else sets off a PLB , a  signal is transmitted to satellites , onto ground based stations and forwarded to the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand ( RCCNZ) in the Hutt Valley in Wellington. The signal transmitted provides the location of the unit , down to an accuracy of a few metres and an unique variety of info gets relayed to the RCCNZ.

Often a rescue can be made in as little time as a hour, but more often several hours.

The PLB's need to be registered. The RCCNZ then gets in contact with the registered emergency contact person to gather more information about the person or in our case, the Feet First Event on and where etc and who is listed as attending. Which is why its very important to update your RSVP .

Anyway, these are the basics of a discussion, and  I hope this prompts some action and we can be prepared , and carry a PLB soon  in someone's pack.

Many Auckland Tramping clubs or outdoor stores hire PLB's and most clubs now require leaders/guides to carry one on official trips . They are light, small and relatively inexpensive and save lives. And we as a group on Meet Up ,. should have at least one.

We should also get some members to attend some Outdoor First Aid courses which are held over two days. Mine needs to be redone too , so  courses are regularly done at the Scout Outdoor Centre in Blockhouse Bay, and cost around $250 to attend. Again, this should be paid my members, but that's up to you to decide .

Okay, some weekend reading  and along with Helen, Mike and myself , I thank you for reading this with an open mind .

Get in to your outdoor store like Bivouac or Torpedo 7 or online...and check out  a PLB.

As a member of FMC I get a big discount on a PLB and one listed in the magazine costs $399.  ( RRP $499. )

Lastly , have a look in your back pack, and ask yourself, could you survive a night in the bush , in Auckland ?

Do you carry extra clothing ? Extra food ? A torch ?


Thanks for your help in getting this actioned ...

Happy hiking everyone ..

Regards - Stephen F

Feet First






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