The Case for PLBs

Share your advice and personal experiences, post a gear review or ask any questions you may have pertaining to outdoor gear and equipment.
Post Reply
User avatar
longri
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1082
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:13 am
Experience: N/A

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by longri » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:44 pm

People have been killed by airbags and injured seriously by seat belts. But only a fool would extrapolate wildly and condemn all use of those safety items based on a small percentage of unfortunate accidents.

There are better tools, but they come with various costs. Size, weight, price. Maybe one should limit automobile speed to 25 MPH. Or disallow solo hikers in the wilderness.

There's a risk/reward calculation to be done with so many things in life. If "safety first" is your prime directive then you might wamt to reconsider going into the mountains at all.

I say, safety third.








User avatar
WarrenFork
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 89
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:55 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by WarrenFork » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:21 pm

longri wrote:Recycle your ACR if you feel that strongly but unless there are reliable statistics that indicate PLB activation fails an unacceptable percentage of the time they remain a valuable tool.
But who needs reliable statistics when we can work ourselves into high dudgeon with anecdotes spread on the internet by people with axes to grind? :rolleyes:

Nope, these devices aren’t foolproof. It’s rare, though, to read accounts of them failing in situations where lives are actually at stake. The Lake Powell anecdote is copied from an Amazon review written by an aggrieved customer. He self-reports waiting nearly three hours “in hypothermic conditions,” but I know from my own experience that if he retained the dexterity to signal a passing boater with a flare after that long of exposure he was at worst only mildly hypothermic.

He doesn’t mention receiving treatment for hypothermia, either. Rangers were looking for him. I’m familiar with Lake Powell myself, and I’ve had to flag down help from shore when the engine of my boat wouldn’t start. There’s a fair amount of marine traffic even in the off season. A paper on tourism fatalities published last month in the Journal of Travel Medicine analyzed the 282 accidental deaths at Lake Powell between 1959 and 2005. The vast majority were from drowning. Another major cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning from houseboat exhaust. It’s clear from the stats that if you make it to shore after an incident like the one in question you can pretty much count on living to tell the tale. So I’m far from convinced that this was a survival situation. The guy’s real beef is that he had to wait a while for help after thinking that purchasing a PLB entitled him to an instant response from the US Air Force.

(And since his complaint is in the form of an Amazon review, it’s worth noting that the same PLB received 200 positive reviews from verified purchasers, including one headlined “This truly saved my life, Please, please buy this!!!” that reprints the text of a sheriff’s office press release documenting the claim. Of the 36 negative reviews, only three reported device failure in an emergency.)

The real problem here isn’t with the devices. It’s the attitude of entitlement shared by some of their users, and the accelerating subversion of self-reliance as a necessary attribute for outdoorspeople. And there's no need to look farther than this thread for an example (emphasis added):
AlmostThere wrote:I have an InReach Mini on order, not as a PLB, but as a backup to the high band radio I use while on trail crew. We log our route plans and work detail with the FS to coordinate all the work and get approval before going out there, check in every day with the radio, but there are dead spots out there, so being able to text another member of our crew and have them phone the FS keeps us in touch, and if we can't get through that way, and are overdue, they'll send someone out there to get us.
Now, the details of these Wilderness Corps trail crew outings co-organized by L—- (AKA AlmostThere) are archived on meetup.com, and going back more than two years (as far as I looked) they were strictly one-night weekend affairs, with no roundtrip distances farther than around twelve miles. Unpacking this, then, you’re part of a group, you’re on a trail (on a summer weekend, no less, the likeliest time to be sharing the trail with potential good samaritans), you’ve got a two-way radio, and it’s six miles at most back to the car. So what’s the default choice on the options menu if something goes amiss? Wait for someone to come get you.

Give. Me. A. Break. Sorry, but the elephant in the room here isn’t the likelihood that a second backup electronic device might fail to summon the cavalry. It’s the slippery slope leading to the conclusion that “sitting somewhere without cell service or internet” is, ipso facto, a survival situation. It's pretty clear from various outraged postings online that some of us have already reached the bottom. The best way to call a screeching halt to the descent for the rest of us is to heed what seems to me the wisest counsel in this thread:
longri wrote:If "safety first" is your prime directive then you might want to reconsider going into the mountains at all.

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Docent
Posts: 5067
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:02 pm

Not sure what your meaning is about AT's comment. Different people and groups have different communication needs that have nothing to do with calling for help or "survival". A lot of backpacker's family members insist on daily communication. When you are a trip leader or an organized group and trying to coordinate getting everyone together either at the trailhead or while on the trip, reliable communications are helpful. Also if on a trail crew, that is business (work) and I am sure the FS wants communications simply for logistical reasons. I think all she was relating was her experience with some problems with a certain device.

For the sake of "disclosure", I do confess not using a PLB yet, but see no problem with others wanting more communication than I do. And I agree that I may be safer if I carried a PLB.

GPS technology (particularly GPS tracks for "big name" routes) do enable unqualified people to go into areas they perhaps should not be. Since this is not likely to get any better, it is a GOOD thing that they also carry PLB's. A PLB may enable some people to take unnecessary risks, but risk-adverse people tend to avoid risk regardless whereas thrill-seekers will do so regardless too.

I think I have been in a few "survival" situations with respect to hypothermia, however, when in the thick of things, it is really hard to say if it is REALLY a survival situation. Since I did survive, perhaps not? Luck played a role- weather changed. What if it had not? Now if a rock landed on your leg and it was busted into two pieces, that is an easy call. To make a armchair post-event evaluation that someone was not really in a survival situation is a bit presumptuous.

I quit paying much attention to internet "reviews". I have been burned too many times- buy something that gets 5-star reviews and it turns out to be a dud.

It is too bad that an impartial organization such as Consumer's Reports has not done detailed testing of PLB's.

User avatar
longri
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1082
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:13 am
Experience: N/A

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by longri » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:47 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:It is too bad that an impartial organization such as Consumer's Reports has not done detailed testing of PLB's.
How would they test for the administrative errors in these two anecdotes?

User avatar
O. Mykiss
Topix Novice
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Feb 22, 2020 2:46 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by O. Mykiss » Thu Apr 02, 2020 1:34 pm

I've carried a PLB for years now, and so far have only used one to send an "I'm OK" message home. I used to carry a SPOT until the subscription went from $99 to almost $300 per year. Now, I have an ACR, which doesn't require a subscription.
It was my understanding when I bought the device that a frivolous call for help would result in a costly fee to make up for the cost of rescue. Maybe that isn't happening, but it should.
Should I ever be lost or injured and unable to walk out, then I plan to use it. The odds are I never will, but it does give some peace of mind.
As someone said above, I don't plan to use my first aid kit, either, but then it's nice to know it's there if it's needed.

User avatar
bobby49
Topix Expert
Posts: 960
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:17 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by bobby49 » Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:31 pm

WarrenFork wrote:
Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:21 pm

“sitting somewhere without cell service or internet”
Oh, the horror!

User avatar
JosiahSpurr
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:39 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Topanga, CA
Contact:

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by JosiahSpurr » Thu Oct 15, 2020 8:33 pm

AlmostThere wrote:
Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:28 pm
Hikers come in all sizes, shapes, and intellectual abilities. I've had to recommend a lady to treatment for anxiety - panic attacks aren't a good feature in a trail partner. You get 'em all, and you don't get to just leave them out there....
Firstly, for "the thread that got a little strange," I find this one of the most interesting HST threads.

Secondly, hmmm... you don't get to leave them out there... once besides a lake, before sunset, next to Kearsarge Pinnacles, I bumped into a solitary Asian man, by himself. He didn't have enough equipment. I lent him my thermal bivvy. He mailed it to me not too long after. He said that he was with a group, but, they left him out there. They abandoned him, in the high country, unprepared, and it seemed, intentional. As if, to say, "now you're going to find out what happens to those who are part of a group, yet, not prepared to survive without the group....". We didn't talk much. I'm reading into his situation. I got the sense it had something to do with Eastern Asian culture.

Want to add my 2 cents here, along the lines of, what is missing is the perspective, or the factor, or the importance, of childhood & teenagehood experiences. How did one's attention become focussed in particular directions, especially the degree to which one became aware of one's body, in the moment? An annecdote.... the guy running the fishing outfitters store in Lone Pine, next to the red & white carousel Asian restaurant, stepped the wrong way into a small hole in the ground in the Alabama Hiils a very long time ago, and that foot/ ankle/ knee has never been the same. Surgery was considered. He still is bothered by the injury. I was amazed by the grief caused throughout the rest of his life by ONE small misstep. Which got me to wondering about my "mountain goat" feet and legs. It wasn't that pleasant in the house of my parents in New Jersey, so, I went up & down a train tracks hill, it was at the end of our dead-end street, and we lived two houses from the end. The train tracks were elevated on that man-made hill until a trestle spanned a small river valley. I scrambled and explored on an almost daily basis, and often a few times a day..... it was the beginning of "mountain" exploration for me. It was relief from unbearable stress at "home." I think a lot of people make the "mistake" of (un)consciously putting up with habits and patterns that were survival or defence mechanisms from the past that can really determine a lot of what one does while mountaineering, and, not realizing that one has the potential to do more than one thinks because of years of early physical and mental conditioning. *
Last edited by JosiahSpurr on Fri Oct 16, 2020 9:15 am, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
JosiahSpurr
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:39 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Topanga, CA
Contact:

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by JosiahSpurr » Thu Oct 15, 2020 8:58 pm

gdurkee wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2015 4:52 pm
PLBs can work but because of serious errors inherent in the system, I don't really recommend them.
Wow, that's tremendous dedication to helping us find the method that works for each person's personal experience! With regard to: "A plot of solutions to each ping can be scattered over miles of terrain."

Would a red marine flare be able to get the attention of SAR if they are in the general vicinity? ORION " Getting you home Safely" Hand-Held Marine Red Signal Flare. "Hold this end." Burn time: up to 3 minutes. Brightness: Up to 700 Candlepower. US Coastguard Approved for Day or Nighttime Use. Ignite *ONLY* When an Aircraft or Vessel is Sighted.
Last edited by JosiahSpurr on Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
bobby49
Topix Expert
Posts: 960
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:17 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by bobby49 » Thu Oct 15, 2020 9:15 pm

JosiahSpurr wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 8:58 pm
ORION " Getting you home Safely" Hand-Held Marine Red Signal Flare. "Hold this end." Burn time: up to 3 minutes. Brightness: Up to 700 Candlepower. US Coastguard Approved for Day or Nighttime Use. Ignite *ONLY* When an Aircraft or Vessel is Sighted.
Handheld signal flares are not getting much love this year with all of the wildfires going on.

User avatar
TurboHike
Topix Regular
Posts: 162
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:10 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: The Case for PLBs

Post by TurboHike » Fri Oct 16, 2020 5:58 am

No technology is perfect, this thread highlights a couple of cases where PLBs did not work as planned. However, there are MANY success stories, PLBs are used for a lot more than backpacking. The technology is used around the globe.

https://www.acrartex.com/stories

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests