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PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 3:03 am
by Mtncaddis
In the Sheriff's report about the Mono SAR on May 18 it is noted that a Spot Gen3 failed to signal for rescue when activated by the injured party. This has me wondering how often PLBs fail. It's not the first time I have read about the Spot product malfunctioning, and as the owner of both the Garmin InReach and ACR ResQlink I have to ask if any of you know of instances of these failing to function when activated for rescue?

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 4:27 am
by The Other Tom
Don't know about the inReach but check out this thread:
http://highsierratopix.com/community/vi ... =9&t=19449
You need a good signal for a PLB to work

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 6:45 am
by maverick
Always consider using our reconn form, or something similar as a backup, electronics are not 100% reliable.

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 8:12 am
by AlmostThere
I hear about a lot of cases of this sort of thing. Personally, I have had delayed messaging - up to six hours. That's about five hours fifty minutes longer than should have been...

I had a snafu with my ACR that had more to do with a bookkeeping error - had someone in Chile emailing me about a beacon activation, thinking it was me, but my beacon had been registered to someone else and theirs registered to me. Not a real big problem for me, but I imagine the person who activated the beacon might be pretty perturbed if instead of getting them out of the water near Easter Island, the SAR equivalent in Chile was checking with me by email first.

I had to calm a young woman in panic mode when her retired dad left his SPOT on a rock and hiked off. She sat watching his breadcrumbs pile up. Then someone picked it up and started texting home, erroneously texting her, didn't know how to use it. Made her panic more. Dad figured it out and turned around, miraculously ran into the guy and got his SPOT back, huge relief when dad texted her and told her what happened.

Bob Woodie was all over the news for a while - you can probably still find articles online from when he went missing. SAR teams went to the location of the last breadcrumbs his SPOT left. He was found elsewhere, later, by hikers.

Not all "failures" of these devices are mechanical. They can cause more panic back home than they mitigate, leading to frivolous SAR incidents that waste time and taxpayer dollars.

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 8:30 am
by SirBC
The two way communication is one of the best features of the InReach over the Spot as you will know if the message was received or not. My InReach once "crashed" on my first day in with a fully charged battery. The screen went blank and nothing would turn it back on. I fixed it by randomly trying a bunch of key combinations and I hit the correct one (press the 'x' and down arrow key for 60 seconds). I'm not sure what Garmin was thinking when they went with 60 seconds on that over something a little more sane like 10 seconds.

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 10:16 am
by LMBSGV
The SPOT X also does 2-way communication. However, as Old Ranger mentioned, one needs a clear view for the device to work. For example, last summer, my SPOT X didn't work when I sent a Check-in/OK message from Kings Canyon by the Bubbs Creek crossing at Junction Meadow due to the trees and the canyon. Fortunately, with the firmware upgrades, the SPOT X tells you if the message was delivered. So far, that feature has been 100% accurate for me.

When it comes to the major purpose of these devices (contacting S&R), the need for a clear view is a major problem. I carry a whistle as a backup, but then someone needs to be in earshot to hear it, which may not be the case. This is the inherent risk of backpacking, especially going solo.

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 1:54 pm
by TurboHike
This is an interesting article. If you have not seen it, it's worth the few minutes to take a look.

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015- ... ing-device

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 2:45 pm
by AlmostThere
SirBC wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 8:30 am
The two way communication is one of the best features of the InReach over the Spot as you will know if the message was received or not.
Except not really. My friend, using an InReach, sent me a message. It took half a day to get to me. When it did finally I could see when it was sent on the message, but it was NOT when the message was received. She only saw when it was sent.

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 3:22 pm
by robow8
SirBC wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 8:30 am
The two way communication is one of the best features of the InReach over the Spot as you will know if the message was received or not. My InReach once "crashed" on my first day in with a fully charged battery. The screen went blank and nothing would turn it back on. I fixed it by randomly trying a bunch of key combinations and I hit the correct one (press the 'x' and down arrow key for 60 seconds). I'm not sure what Garmin was thinking when they went with 60 seconds on that over something a little more sane like 10 seconds.
My first gen inReach Explorer has instructions on the back how to reset it.

Re: PLB failures

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 3:25 pm
by rlown
Ditto, and it says only to hold it down for 10 seconds.