Rescuers want beacons listed

Last updated 13:00 31/12/2013

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Adventurers and aviators in the Nelson-Marlborough hinterland contributed to only eight of 128 beacon alerts leading to rescues in New Zealand this year.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) released the information along with advice for anyone heading to the mountains or sea this summer to take an emergency distress beacon.

The majority of rescues triggered by beacons this year were in the South Island (72), made up of 10 rescues involving aircraft, 58 on land and four at sea.

In the North Island there were 55 rescues, including seven air, 39 land and nine maritime rescues.

In the Nelson region, which extended into Marlborough, most of the beacons activated were related to land searches.

A total of 307 beacons were activated in New Zealand's search and rescue region to date this year, but only 42 per cent (127) were used in distress situations - the other 58 per cent were attributed to false alerts or inadvertent activations.

RCCNZ operational support manager Rodney Bracefield said GPS-equipped beacons can significantly speed up the rescue of people in distress. Registering a beacon was a key part of the process.

"It's a legal requirement, and it's free, and this enables the RCCNZ to call emergency contacts who can provide valuable information about a trip.

"If the beacon is registered, the first call we make is to the emergency contact to find out if the beacon is being used by somebody or it's an accidental activation."

Where a beacon is not registered all alerts must be followed up, involving emergency response services and personnel that may be diverted from an actual emergency, Bracefield said.

About 30 per cent of the total number of beacons are estimated to be unregistered.

Registration is free, a legal requirement, and can be completed online at beacons.org.nz.

"Having your beacon registered means we can contact you and or a relative or friend if your beacon is activated and determine your intended location and also what your boat, vehicle or aircraft looks like.

"This helps us to get help to you as soon as possible and also ensures rescuers are carrying all the gear that is likely to be required, such as appropriate medical equipment."

A beacon costs from around $400, and RCCNZ recommends GPS-equipped beacons.

Hire beacons are also available from many tramping clubs and outdoor equipment suppliers.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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