Rescue of Missing Hiker in North Cascades Illustrates Necessity of Personal Locator Beacons
Hand held Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) use satellite technology to locate individuals lost, injured, or stranded in the wilderness.
MUKILTEO, WA. September 24, 2007 – The recent rescue of Mary Hyde Wingfield after six days in a remote area of the North Cascades National Park illustrates how easy it is for a day hike to turn into a potentially life and death situation. Marking her trail and surviving on berries and water from a nearby creek, the lost hiker was spotted and picked up by a helicopter just North of the search area and about 5 miles from where she had left her car. Dehydrated and tired, it very easily could have been a lot worse.
It could have been a lot better also. Had Mary been carrying a hand held PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), she could have pushed a button which in turn would have sent a distress signal with her location to satellites orbiting the earth. Within minutes those satellites would have then transmitted the distress information to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center who would have then coordinated activating the appropriate Search and Rescue resources to go pick Mary up and notify her family immediately.
Surely to ensue in the coming days will be the debate regarding who should pay the cost of the rescue and how the risk to SAR personnel involved in search and rescue efforts such as this can be minimized. Because PLBs literally take the Search out of Search and Rescue, a rescue mission involving a PLB is significantly less expensive and less dangerous to SAR personnel. The cost of a search effort such as this can easily approach $100,000 while a similar PLB rescue would cost around $2000.
Why wouldn’t a person hiking solo carry a PLB? “There are a number of reasons but the biggest one is people just don’t know they exist and how easy they are to get a hold of”, says Kevin Stoltz, President of PLB Rentals, LLC. “We are continually working to improve public awareness of PLBs so people will choose to bring one along, even on day hikes. Nobody thinks they’re going to get into an emergency situation, but anyone who is out in the wilderness should carry a PLB…just in case. If you get lost, injured, or stranded in the wilderness, a PLB can save your life.”
PLB Rentals, LLC rents PLBs nationwide through their website at www.PLBRentals.com starting at $49/week. PLBs may also be purchased from REI starting at $450.
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