So apparently this is turning into the 406MHz Personal Locator Beacon advocacy blog, but dammit this is important. Since I wrote last week about the out-of-bounds skier who died due to a cascade of missteps both personal and professional, two more stories of tragedy have hit the news. Once again, both stories could have been very different if someone had bothered to make the investment in a PLB.
First, there was the boating accident that saw two NFL players and their friend lost at sea. One man survived by clinging to the overturned craft, but as of today the Coast Guard search has been called off for the other three. The rescued boater spent nearly two days with the craft before rescue. Even with poor weather, the search could likely have started many hours earlier had a PLB alert been triggered.
Next comes the story of two off-piste snowboarders in the Alps. Once again, one of the party survived, this time by using a GPS-equipped iPhone and what seems to be a lucky strike with a WiFi signal from a nearby resort. His friend died, though that may have been the result of a fall. In either case, a PLB might have sped up rescue operations for one or both of them. This is also a good reminder that the COSPAS/SARSAT network is a GLOBAL cooperative effort. In this case, the same satellite constellation would have been notified, but rather than US Coast Guard, or Park Rangers, or the RCMP, the appropriate Swiss authorities would have been notified.
Seriously people, if you're going to be spending any amount of time away from the comfort of your urban/suburban environment, take one minute to think about how much you'd spend to be able to call for rescue in an emergency. How much would you pay to call 911 if you were trapped in a burning building? Lost at sea or stuck in a blizzard is just as serious and just as deadly. Why wouldn't you spend a little money to make sure you could call for help?