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#82073 - 01/03/07 09:42 PM PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2023
Loc: NE Illinois
Having recently purchased an AeroFix PLB, one of the first things I wanted to know was exactly who I should call if the unit was accidently activated. Unfortunately this is not nearly as clear as it could/should be:

SARSAT.NOAA.com says on land call the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at 757-764-8112. ACR Electronics doesn't mention this contact number at all. The AFRCC says that indeed they are "the single agency responsible for coordinating on-land federal SAR activities in the 48 contiguous United States, Mexico and Canada."

ACR Electronics says from any location I can call the Coast Guard HQ at 800-323-7233 US or NOAA at 888-212-SAVE (888-212-7283). I was interpreting this as if I was on land or just didn't know who else to call.

If in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, SARSAT.NOAA.gov says to call USCG Search & Rescue at 212-668-7055, but ACR Electronics says to call the USCG Atlantic Area Command Center at 757-398-6390.

If in the Pacific Ocean, both agree that I should call the USCG Pacific Area Command Center at 510-437-3700

If in the United Kingdom, call 01326 317 575 - this came from a McMurdo web site.

Doug's PLB FAQ says to "Turn off the PLB as soon as possible and if possible contact authorities to advise them that it was accidentally activated." though I'm not sure who those authorities are. I've figured I'd also dial the local police and let them know about the false activation ... or should that be the local fire department? ... or should I just dial 911? Sigh!!

I would have thought these phone numbers would have been worked out by now.


#82074 - 01/03/07 10:22 PM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
Russ Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4987
Anyone who owns/buys one should take the responsibility as you did to find out. The Air Force and Coast Guard aren't too cool with "oops, my bad", after they fly a SAR helicopter and crew an hour to a false alarm. Not cool at all.

Why don't we pin this to the top until we get someone in the UK to call that number.

#82076 - 01/04/07 12:26 AM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
Husky71 Offline

Registered: 12/17/06
Posts: 15
Loc: Southern California
It sounds like ACR could have done a better job of documenting the various numbers for who to call or made the whole process more clear.

With all of the effort that goes in to certification of the units I'm surprised to hear that this info isn't clearly spelled out for the user. I wonder if it would make sense to add better / proper documention to the certification process for mfrs.

Accidents do and will happen, kids will be kids, etc., and as ticked as the various SAR authorities might be at responding to an accidental activation, I bet they'd be happy to receive a prompt call from the guilty party saying oops, my bad, versus hearing from them several hours later after they finally tracked down the right number to call.

#82077 - 01/04/07 12:39 AM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
Comanche7 Offline

Registered: 07/04/02
Posts: 435
Loc: Florida

Good catch on the phone #'s. I just performed a quick perusal of the ETS site (not an exhaustive search by any means) and noted that in the ETS home page, Doug has posted the 2006 ETS end of the year summary. Of interest was his mention of the PLM manufacturers et al to perform "comprehension tests" of the instructions, which IMHO would include your questions and validates the thoughts of the other posters thus far regarding Doug's input.

In any event, I would agree that a manufacturer of any type of survival device such as the PLB should be very proactive in clearing up any confusion as soon as practical, I would hope that your questions to ACR may have encouraged them to provide current updates in a timely manner. I remain hopeful as ACR (in my limited experience / knowledge) has been attentive to the customers...


Edited by Comanche7 (01/04/07 12:43 AM)

#82078 - 01/04/07 01:07 AM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2023
Loc: NE Illinois
From what I've read and some private communication with Doug I know:

After activation the beacon will immediately start broadcasting the distress signal without location information. This will be picked up by the mission control center almost immediately and they'll immediately know which PLB it is and, if registered, who it belongs to. In some parts of the world the satellites may need be able to simultaneously view the source of the beacon and the reciever terminal, so it has to store your signal and then transmit it to the receiver terminal once it's visible.

If the PLB has been pre-loaded with a GPS location, then the signal will immediately contain the location. I don't expect this will be the case for an accidental alert - which I'm going to guess is mostly likely due to kids or someone else messing around with the PLB.

Which brings up the point that I have taught my kids (10 & 11) how to use it - just in case, and emphasized the $250,000 fine and jail time involved in an accidental alert. Still, one never knows. When traveling in remote areas, I WANT the PLB to accessable by kids - again, just in case.

If the PLB has an onboard GPS and a clear view of the sky, then the location will be transmitted in a matter of minutes (see the times on Doug's PLB testing) once the GPS gets sufficient satellite information.

If the PLB has no onboard GPS and no pre-loaded GPS location, it be able to provide a doppler location in less than 90 minutes, in less than 45 minutes in North America, and if the satellites are lined up just right, in less than 10 minutes.

So, I figure I need to call "authorities" within a matter of minutes to notify them of a accidental alert. Once I figure out which are the proper telephone numbers, I'll create a laminated card to insert inside the PLB's holster - so I have the phone numbers right away.

Like I said, the most likely scenario is that a kid or unknowing adult finds the PLB and pushes the alert buttons. In that scenario, unfortunately I probably won't know the alert happened immediately - maybe not even for 10 minutes or more.

I've never seen details of the procedure used by officials to check for a PLB false alarm. I know they'll call the telephone numbers in my registration information. If I don't call them first, hopefully they'll start with my own numbers (home, work, mobile) and they'll call me.

If I don't get any answers here I'll contact Doug off-line.

Ken K.

#82080 - 01/04/07 02:22 AM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2023
Loc: NE Illinois
Yeah, I was once explaining to my son how to dial 911 on the cordless phones. He just didn't get it, so I said you just turn it on (I turned it on), put the 9 (I pushed the 9 button), then the 1 (I pushed the 1 button), and then the 1 again (this time I didn' t push the 1 button). Without hesitation my son said "like this?" and pressed the 1 button. In a panic I hit the off button while blurting out a completely inappropriate word.

While explaining to him that he wasn't supposed to have pushed that button the phone rang. It was the 911 center asking if someone had dialed 911. I said yes, explaining that I was showing my young son how to dial 911 when we accidently dialed the number. The operator promptly scolded me for that and told me in no uncertain terms how irresponsible I was. Sigh. Accidents do happen.

A few years later my son & I visited the 911 call center with his Cub Scout den. They were very nice to us. It was very enlightening.


#82081 - 01/04/07 04:58 AM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
JCWohlschlag Offline
Some guy who wandered in…
Old Hand

Registered: 11/26/06
Posts: 724
Loc: Dallas, Pennsylvania, United S...
Keep in mind that registering your PLB requires that you enter your own contact information. So, in many cases of accidental activation the "proper authorities" will be calling you to check on your situation.
“Hiking is just walking where it’s okay to pee. Sometimes old people hike by mistake.” — Demitri Martin

#82082 - 01/04/07 05:02 AM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
Stretch Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 707
Loc: Alamogordo, NM
The operator promptly scolded me for that and told me in no uncertain terms how irresponsible I was. Sigh. Accidents do happen.

That's no good Ken. Illinois must be a tough spot for accidents. I've accidently dialed 911 at least twice, that I can remember, and when I explain what happened I've never received more than a courteous "That's ok"

#82083 - 01/04/07 04:05 PM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
benjammin Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
If I heard a 911 operator scolding a caller for such as what you did, I'd be seeking her termination and replacement. Instead of scolding, she ought to be commending you on taking the responsibility to properly educate your kid. I've routinely dialed into 911 service as a matter of proofing various communications systems, and the whole point is to ensure that positive communication is established, which is precisely what you did, even if inadvertantly.

I will state this as a matter of fact: 911 operators are there to provide a public service and their efforts are paid for by our tax dollars. Events such as the one you describe are to be expected, even encouraged. You did not do anything wrong, and you did not "inconvenience" or "stress out" the operator. If they were, then they are in the wrong business and need to seek employment elsewhere. The operator is lucky it was not me that made the errant call.

Conversely, abuse of the 911 system is intolerable and subject to punishment.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

#82084 - 01/04/07 06:30 PM Re: PLB False Alert Telephone Number Confusion
PDHardin Offline

Registered: 01/04/07
Posts: 5
Loc: Florida
Let me introduce myself as an executive at ACR Electronics. I do not intend to use this forum for advertising or promotional purposes, but instead will attempt to answer questions and/or provide information.

ACR will look into these telephone numbers and will publish something to clear up confusion.

The topic of 406 beacon False Activations is one of the most frequent topics of discussion. The solution is for users to REGISTER their beacons and keep registration information current and accurate . As I understand it, neither the AFRCC nor the USCG will deploy SAR assets without first making an effort to verify that an emergency exists. If the beacon is registered, they will call the emergency contact numbers. If they do not reach anyone and the beacon continues to transmit, they then assume it is an emergency and they deploy assets.

If a beacon is unregistered, they usually wait for an unspecified period. At some point they deploy assets to either shut the beacon off or conduct a rescue if they find a legitimate emergency. Hence, if you want them to respond quickly, REGISTER your beacon.

If your beacon is properly registered, they will call you. I am told that 90% of all 406 beacon activations are false, and 80% of the false activations are resolved with a phone call. This is how the system works. As long as you do your part by Registering your beacon and keeping your registration information current, it works well. No assets are deployed or resources wasted. They don't have to "look around for your number", because it should be a part of your current registration.

If you accidentally activate your beacon and shut it off within the first minute or so, no transmission has occurred. Essentially, nothing happened other than you burned off some battery capacity. If you let it run for longer than a minute, then you will likely get a phone call.

If you have the correct number and you proactively call the appropriate agency to let them know your activation was false, they may still contact you at a later time because that is their protocol. There are a number of scenarios to explain this, including: the person operating the SARMaster desk is most likely not the person handling the phone calls to the RCC facility and he/she may or may not get your message before they receive your alert message.

The key to responsibly managing a false activation begins when you first purchase your beacon. You MUST 1. Register your beacon (in the USA at http://www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov/) and 2. Keep your registration information current. In the event of a False Activation, 3. Get to the first Emergency Phone Number you listed on your registration form so that if you do not reach the appropriate authorities, they can Easily reach you. This is what the authorities expect from the user community. They do not expect nor require you to have a correct number to call in the event of a false activation. Just Keep Your Registration Current! Treat your beacon with Respect. And, you will find that the SAR authorities will treat you with respect should a false activation occur.

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