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Mountain Radios, Transceivers, Personal Locator Beacons

Having access to communication devices can give you peace of mind, and in an emergency situation it can also save your life. 

Mountain Radios

Mountain Radio Service is a volunteer group that provides a backcountry communications service with scheduled calls for backcountry users.

www.mountainradio.co.nz  - Canterbury Mountain Radio Service
www.wmrs.org.nz - Wellington Mountain Radio Service
www.cnimrs.org.nz - Central North Island Mountain Radio Service 

Transceivers: An essential for anyone entering the backcountry in an alpine environment.

You only have minutes to live if you are buried in an avalanche. If you are wearing a transceiver you have a significantly higher chance of being found quickly. So, whether you are recreating or working in avalanche prone terrain, you should always wear an avalanche transceiver and carry a shovel and a probe. 

Types of avalanche transceivers:
Several models of transceivers are imported into New Zealand. All 457 kHz models are compatible with each other but some models are better at finding different types of transceivers than others. Some models are better at searching for multiple burials than others.

Each type has its own way of working. Some require you to make volume adjustments, while others do it for you. Some change the sound they make depending on how close you are, while others have lights or arrows pointing in the direction of the buried person. Some can give you instructions on what to do next and some return to transmit mode after a set amount of time.

Digital transceivers convert the signal from the buried set into visual and audible signals that aid the searcher. Analogue transceivers do not apply any enhancement to the signal; the beep you hear is the actual unprocessed signal from the transmitting set. There is a change in volume when the searching analogue set receives a stronger signal.

It is important to know how to use these features on your transceiver. It is also important to know how to use the generic search techniques described in this pamphlet that will work with all 457 kHz models. Older transceivers with a frequency other than 457 kHz, or that feature more than one frequency, are either incompatible or are technically insufficient and should be destroyed. If you are uncertain whether your transceiver complies with the EN* standards, contact the NZ agent of the manufacturer. 

Where to go for transceivers:
Transceivers and safety equipment are available for purchase or hire through leading ski and snowboarding shops and outdoor equipment suppliers.

Wellington Avalanche Transceiver Trust

James Gordon Trust

Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)

What are they?
Small, emergency distress beacons that emit a UHF radio signal when activated. Search and Rescue operations use the signal to ‘find’ the beacons, as detailed below.

There are two frequencies available – 121.5MHz and 406MHz. However, the 121.5MHz type has been phased out and SHOULD NOT BE USED. Carry or purchase only a 406MHz beacon.

406 MHz beacons must be registered with Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ) and a recommendation for  GPS equipped ones would also be a good idea. 

Note that personal locator beacons must only be used in life threatening situations.

How do they work?
Once activated, the signal is picked up by satellite and/or aircraft. An alert message is relayed to the nearest Local User Terminal (LUT, ground station), which calculates the beacon’s position and sends the data to the Mission Control Centre (MCC). The MCC then sends the information to the RCCNZ, which in turn initiates a class II rescue operation.

The Beacons operate with a clear view of the sky; avoid gorges or heavy foliage. Do not turn off once activated. Stay put.

If it is a false alarm, get a message to RCCNZ (0508-4RCCNZ, or 0508-472-269 or if outside New Zealand +64 4 577 8030) or Police as soon as possible.

Failure to do this may divert SAR resources from genuine emergencies and in doing so may endanger lives.

Where can you hire one?
We have collated a list of New Zealand National hire outlets for PLBs to the best of our knowledge. Open the PDF below to find your local PLB outlet, and please get in touch with us if you know any more places to hire PLBs.

Download PDF (November 2016) - Click here

Before leaving
1. Know how and when to activate the beacon.
2. Check the batteries and carry spares if user-replaceable type.
3. Check the beacon is operational (some units have a test functions to do this).

For more information please visit www.beacons.org.nz 



Outdoor Communications
You can download the free outdoor communications pamphlet from the online store here.

Mountain Safety Council managed websites
Mountain Saftey CouncilAdventure SmartAvalanche.net.nz