View Full Version : Police welcome search and rescue aid

12-Jan-12, 16:35
Land-based beacons could help save lives in the hills

DCC Andy Cowie on behalf of Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and DCC Ian Shannon on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have welcomed the news that Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) can, from today (12 January 2012), be legally used on land within the United Kingdom.
The change in the law could potentially help saves lives in the hills across the UK, as well as reducing the risk to rescuers and mountain rescue teams.
PLBs are already available for use in the aviation and maritime industries as part of the existing licensing and registration regime, regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on behalf of the Department for Transport.
The police across the UK are the co-ordinating authority for all land-based search and rescue incidents. ACPOS and ACPO played a major role with other partners, in scoping and planning this change in legislation, after identifying the benefits the updated technology can bring.
When a member of the public purchases one of the new type devices, they are being urged to complete and return the free registration card to the address provided.
The primary Police point of contact for PLB activations will be the Force Operations Centre.
PLBs are expected to be used on land, primarily by those engaged in recreational/outdoor pursuits. They may also be used by lone workers in a variety of different occupations taking them into rural areas.
It is anticipated their use will potentially speed up the ability to get help to those in distress in remote or isolated locations, by transmitting unique identification information, providing positional data and sending out a continuous homing transmission. This will help emergency services to locate casualties and has the potential to remove the need for lengthy arduous and expensive search activity.
Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cowie is the ACPOS lead on Search and Rescue, whilst Deputy Chief Constable Ian Shannon is the lead in England and Wales.
In a joint statement, they said: "This legislative change will allow members of the public to use handheld PLB devices on land anywhere in the UK which when activated, will send a Distress Alert message that will be picked up by satellite and relayed via the UK Mission Control Centre (UKMCC) direct to the authorities.
"The UKMCC, co-located with the Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC), currently at RAF Kinloss, will receive, process and verify co-ordinates for activations before informing the relevant Police Force via the Force Operations Centre.
"The Police Service has been at the forefront throughout 2010-11, in planning these changes and colleagues in Police Forces across the UK are fully aware of the changes in legislation. We have worked with the Ministry of Defence, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport and OFCOM to get the necessary protocols in place to deal effectively with a PLB activation."
They added: Mountain and Lowland Search and Rescue Teams are busy all year round and if we can take advantage of today's technology to help manage and minimise the risk to rescuers and help speed up the whole rescue process, in an emergency, there is no doubt we can save lives that might otherwise be lost.
"It will also help reduce the burden on volunteer rescue teams and searchers across the UK. Satellite coverage is much wider than mobile coverage and we have to take advantage of that."
More than 16,000 PLB devices have already been registered for civilian maritime and aviation use within the UK.
For the system to work smoothly, users must register their PLB in the UK or in their home country, using the registration card provided, giving details of a nominated person the Police can contact for further information, in the event of an alert on land. For example, that nominated person may be able to provide rescuers with details of any relevant medical conditions, clothing, equipment, number of people in the party or other important information.
PLBs come in two distinct types, with a variety of different manufacturers. The best type for the public to use is the 406 beacon-type, which sends out location information in its signal and can have its location fixed almost immediately and be accurate to a few metres. The other type, which is less helpful and less accurate, merely sends out a signal which has to be triangulated and this process can take hours and be accurate to a mile or less.
There are potential benefits for lone workers in forestry, estate workers, service engineers and those who go hill walking, trekking, climb mountains or even anglers or canoeists.