Search and Rescue Teams in Colorado scramble to find unregistered personal locator beacons

This article comes out of the Denver Post and sheds light on the importance for Back Country enthusiasts to understand the equipment they are using, and how it can impact Search and Rescue Teams.

In short, there is a person skiing the back country between Berthod Pass and Jones Pass with an unregistered Personal Locator Beacon that has caused several emergency rescue teams to be scrambled into the Colorado Back Country to search for a potential emergency. All PLBs are required to register with NOAA so that these emergencies can be better dealt with.

The Boy Who Called Wolf

The real lesson here is that the teams were able to determine the serial number for the device, and are no longer going to respond to emergencies that originate from that device! Think about this: There is now a back country skier who believes that if they get into an emergency, rescue units will respond. This false sense of security is a greater danger than not carry a device at all. Even worse is if the device is sold to another person who is also unaware that their device has been decommissioned!

Back Country Yuppie 911

Personal Locator Beacons have assisted emergency teams in the rescue of 88 people in 38 incidents in 2007. However, it is estimated that over 90% of PLBs have not been registered!! As the denver post points out: the increasing frequency of false alarms and non-emergency activations that have rescue professionals concerned over what Matt Scharper, head of California's SAR operations, has dubbed "Yuppie 911." "There's controversy over these devices in the first place because it removes the self-sufficiency that's required in the backcountry," Scharper told The Associated Press last fall. "With the Yuppie 911, you send a message to a satellite and the government pulls your butt out of something you shouldn't have been in in the first place."

Back Country Awareness

While many people are relying on these devices, they come with a responsibility for using them correctly, and that starts with registering the device with NOAA. If you are planning to use a Personal Locator Beacon during your hut trip adventure, please ensure that it is registered correctly and that you understand how to use it. As the guys at Alpine Rescue Team state, at least keep your PLB turned off until you are in an actual life-threatening emergency.

The Rescue Teams have tried many methods of getting the word out regarding PLB in general, but this particular case specifically. For instance, Friends of Berthoud Pass have posted information in an attempt to find the person,

If you have any idea who this person is, they should realize that they are in no trouble, however the Alpine Rescue Team would appreciate a phone call (call him at 303-434-6116), in order to educate the user as well as his team. As always, when you enter the Colorado Backcountry, you should always have a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) Card, which will pay for these people to come and rescue you: $3.00 per year, $12.00 for 5, and is part of any Colorado Fishing License.

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