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Campaign for UK legalisation of PLBs broadcast to millions

30 April 2009

The campaign in the UK for the legalisation of PLBs (personal locator beacons) received a big boost this month, when BBC Radio 4 – one of the UK’s main radio stations broadcast a feature on the subject.

Steve Huxley from the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency had the opportunity to explain how PLBs – like the McMurdo Fast Find range for example – worked. With a long experience of the use of PLBs in marine and aviation incidents he addressed the fears that land use in the UK could lead to a significant rise in non-urgent calls, and put undue pressure on the land resources, namely the police, in this country. However, Steve explained that current technology means that PLB users, who have to register their unit by law, can be identified, along with personal details, and the system can be much more easily controlled.

Jenny Miller of the Equine Ramblers Association highlighted the importance of carrying a PLB following an accident on her horse when she broke her leg in a remote area. Luckily she had mobile phone reception but if not she would have needed a PLB. She has been tirelessly campaigning for the legalisation of PLBs and pointed out that in countries such as USA, Australia and New Zealand they are already in use.  She believes that PLBs enable quick location which could potentially save costs on more lengthy rescue attempts.

Steve Huxley points out that wherever you are, you will be in satellite range, so that the beacon’s signal will always be received. He is hopeful that by the end of the year the UK will have a process in place for responding to emergency transmissions.  It looks like the campaign is reaching its conclusions, so fingers crossed for breaking down a major barrier to personal safety.

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