View Full Version : help with PLB use

05-03-2006, 08:09 AM
Does anyone here have experience with PLBs? Especially as they relate to law enforcement? I am trying to incorporate use of one into a novel and need some personal experience.


are they called PLBs by law enforcement/SAR?

how heavy are they?

how large, dimension wise?


carried in pocket or do they have clip, lanyard or other attachment method?

how are they activated?

are special requirements for activation (try to have view of sky, not effective
in rain or buildings etc)

generally in novels, verisimilitude (the appearance of truth) is more important than actual truth, but in this case, I need some facts, and so don't want to guess at what is most likely

Feel free to PM me if you prefer.


(I posted this in two forums. Apologize to those who read it twice)

05-03-2006, 08:32 AM
Yes, they're called PLBs by law enforcement, etc. You can get info on a typical model here: http://www.acrterrafix.com/. They would typically be carried in a pack, not on a belt, since they're larger and heavier than a GPS receiver and not used more than once, if at all, on a trip.

They're activated only by the user manipulating a switch, not by immersion or shock, which distinguishes them from the ELTs on aircraft and the EPIRBs on boats. So, if you (or some member of your party) isn't able to activate the unit, no signal is sent.

Once the signal is transmitted to the satellites, it is relayed to a rescue coordination center. The center forwards the information to a local SAR agency, which tries first to contact the registered owner of the unit. (You can designate a different user for contact, in the event that you want to loan it out to someone else for a particular trip.) If the SAR agency cannot contact the registered owner/user, then a SAR mission would commence.

Field SAR teams responding to a PLB signal will often carry handheld radio receivers that can help locate the source of the PLB signal.

The PLB continues to transmit its location once activated, so if you're lost and wandering with it activated, it will inform the coordination center that you're moving.

There is no two-way communication with a PLB. All it does is send a signal about its location once it's activated.

05-03-2006, 09:51 AM
You can get info on a typical model here: http://www.acrterrafix.com/.
That link didn't respond for me.

Another link:

And a search brings up many more references:


05-05-2006, 01:45 PM
Thanks, this is great help!