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Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
PLB Tests on 07/17/2014 20:35:36 MDT Print View

Some excerpts follow below.

Yes, this test is old, and PLB models are probably better now, especially since this old test had better results than an even older test . . . but nobody really knows that for sure.

SPOT and inReach often get a bad rep because their capabilities are always being tested, and the relatively few anomalies (on a % basis) generate lots of internet posts.
But for PLBs, there's no readily available way to test them other than inadvertently calling out the cavalry. (Well, except for the ACR 406Link feature.)

http://www.equipped.org/406_GPS_beacon_test_2005_summary.htm

"The few anomalies experienced in this evaluation bear out the reality that even electrically operated emergency signaling devices manufactured and tested to very high quality standards may still be less than 100% reliable in the field and that it remains good practice that users should always self-test beacons prior to embarking upon any excursion or being involved in any situation where they may have to be relied upon in an emergency."

"NOAA and other government agencies involved in the operation of the COSPAS-SARSAT system should investigate the apparent anomalies experienced during these tests that could possibly be attributed to faults in the system."

"There is an obvious and urgent need for government agencies involved in operation and regulation of these beacons and the COSPAS-SARSAT system to develop a more expedient means by which real world testing of these beacons can be conducted with a minimum of bureaucratic hurdles. It should be possible for any legitimate organization representing consumer interests to schedule a test of beacons on relatively short notice. For relatively small numbers of beacons, the use of operationally coded beacons should be facilitated, as the need to use test protocol-coded beacons is a very substantial impediment to the independent testing of these beacons."

"Delay in receiving system performance data (satellite data) is detrimental to the expedient and effective testing of 406 MHz emergency beacons with the potential for devastating data loss and potential for invalidation of testing that, at best, is difficult and expensive to organize. This evaluation experienced just such a loss of irreplaceable data on one test. It should be a priority for the government agencies involved to enable testing organizations to receive immediate automated feedback, perhaps via the Internet, of the system performance during a test."

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: PLB Tests on 07/17/2014 20:51:49 MDT Print View

"SPOT and inReach often get a bad rep because their capabilities are always being tested, and the relatively few anomalies (on a % basis) generate lots of internet posts."

Quoting Zorg blows a lot of credibility. Really.


As for Ritters 2005 review -

"The few anomalies experienced in this evaluation... " Operator error or "System"?

Yes civilian testing of government equipment is difficult. So?

Yes, his testing ran into difficulties. So?


The government entities behind COSPAS-SARSAT test the systems.

I'm sure there can be a failure. But the multiple systems in place, the redundancy, and the automation, reduce that possibility to a very small number.


Can you cite ONE instance, not "operator error", suggesting a system failure or shortcoming?

Edited by greg23 on 07/17/2014 20:53:38 MDT.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
"Quoting Zorg blows a lot of credibility. Really." on 07/17/2014 20:56:46 MDT Print View

I didn't quote Zorg.
And I wasn't referencing him in what I wrote either (even if the two of us independently arrived at the same thought).

As for PLB activation failures, can you provide me with the inReach equivalent, i.e., "SOS" activation failures?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: "Quoting Zorg blows a lot of credibility. Really." on 07/17/2014 21:03:26 MDT Print View

I'm not the one who said -

"PLB fans are not only overlooking the failures in the (very) few tests of PLB transmission..."

- and that is what I am seeking clarification on.



[edit: I see the PLB or "commercial communiator" decision as a personal choice. But if someone is going to denigrate one or the other, they should do so with facts.]

Edited by greg23 on 07/17/2014 21:08:01 MDT.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
"failures in the (very) few tests of PLB transmission" on 07/17/2014 21:06:11 MDT Print View

Go read the hundreds of pages in those two reports and decide for yourself whether PLBs are absolutely always perfect.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: "failures in the (very) few tests of PLB transmission" on 07/17/2014 21:12:26 MDT Print View

I haven't said they are perfect. I explicitly said a failure is possible.

You said that we are overlooking PLB failures.

Cite One instance of system failure.

Edited by greg23 on 07/17/2014 21:16:11 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: PLB Tests on 07/18/2014 15:18:17 MDT Print View

"it remains good practice that users should always self-test beacons prior to embarking upon any excursion or being involved in any situation where they may have to be relied upon in an emergency."

Isn't this SOP for PLB users? I self test mine every year at the beginning of the season for both internal function and GPS signal acquisition, and would assume most others do as well. If not, well, that's what the Darwin Award was created to recognize.

Bob Moulder
(bobmny10562) - F - M

Locale: Westchester County, NY
Re: Re: PLB Tests on 07/18/2014 15:36:01 MDT Print View

That's lawyer talk for "If you should win the Darwin Award we don't have to pay your family a lot of prize money."

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: PLB Tests on 07/18/2014 18:13:35 MDT Print View

"Product is not intended to be used orally. Do not use with flammable liquids. For entertainment purposes only."

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: PLB Tests on 07/18/2014 18:24:13 MDT Print View

""Product is not intended to be used orally. Do not use with flammable liquids. For entertainment purposes only.""

All three of those statements can be found on a package of suppositories....

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Update July 18 - back on the air on 07/18/2014 19:46:57 MDT Print View

I have a new inReach SE that works, and the old one is heading back to DeLorme for diagnosis.

Thank you to Chip Noble and others at DeLorme for exceptional customer service.

Lesson: If the reliability of your communication device is important for an upcoming trip, test before you go, with enough lead time for plan B.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled flame wars.

-- Rex
I must not feed the trolls

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Update July 18 - back on the air on 07/18/2014 19:53:57 MDT Print View

"Thank you to Chip Noble and others at DeLorme for exceptional customer service."

I just wish that their customer service included replying to inquiries.

I made my last inquiry on July 15 and got the automated response that it had been received. Now is three days later, and I still wait.

--B.G.--

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
DeLorme customer service is very fast... on 07/18/2014 20:22:30 MDT Print View

... by phone.
Typical hold times are either very short or none at all. Staff is very patient and polite too.
(Complaints seem to be common though for email turnaround time.)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: PLB Tests on 07/18/2014 20:26:23 MDT Print View

"That's lawyer talk for "If you should win the Darwin Award we don't have to pay your family a lot of prize money."

Nah, if you win the Darwin award, all you get is your name added to a long list on a stone tablet below a picture of Melvin Kozwnowski.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: DeLorme customer service is very fast... on 07/18/2014 20:41:53 MDT Print View

"Typical hold times are either very short or none at all. Staff is very patient and polite too."

That's nice, except that with a telephone call, there is no record.

--B.G.--

Kerry Wilson
(mntnflyr4fun) - F

Locale: North of Eugene, South of Portland
How Timely? on 07/19/2014 15:27:59 MDT Print View

"By contrast, all that a PLB conveys to COSPAS-SARSAT is your location and registration information. Is the PLB owner in need of assistance, or another party? Does someone require immediate medical attention, or just extrication from the backcountry? How timely is the need for assistance?"


Lets see now:

A."Is the PLB owner in need of assistance, or another party?": Who cares, its an emergency for chripes sake, or should be anyway (see item C. below). Won't it be sweet when they "can't process your request because the individual needing assistance is not a member"....Corporate America will haunt you eventually.

B. "Does someone require immediate medical attention, or just extrication from the backcountry?" Again, who cares...you going to call them just because you want a ride home with no life threatening emergency?? The team that shows up is going to be equipped to handle any emergency they encounter, medical or otherwise...

This is the one that kills me.....harharhar...
C. "How timely is the need for assistance?

" Hi emergency response team, this is janeybillybob your user. I was wondering if I could schedule an emergency response sometime later this afternoon? I just got bit by a rattlesnake, but I'm not sick yet, but I understand that it takes a few hours for the venom to kick in. Would 4pm work for you? Just send in a helicopter with the antivenom team and things should work for everyone.....

Give me a break dude....If its not and emergency, what in the h3ll are you doing calling for assistance? This is typical of whats coming...no one needs to think about what they are doing or being prepared. they believe they can just call for help to come save their butts.

This spring on the PCT two nimrods from NY went backpacking got wet and cold and called for help when a few more miles of walking would have them at the trailhead..? Better yet, they forgot their jackets, but instead of turning around and going back to their car, they kept going for several days until they were too wet and cold to continue....yep u guessed it they hauled out their comm link and got a bunch of folks to come "rescue" them...

Where do these people come from. Emergency crews are not your personal taxi service.

I can't help but being a smart a$$ when I read stuff like this....This technology makes everyone think there is an aid station just waiting for their call and nothing could be further from the truth...

My litmus test is that when I fire off my PLB its because I'm expecting that if someone doesn't show up in less than 24hours I am most likely going to be dead, not uncomfortable.

Edited by mntnflyr4fun on 07/19/2014 15:30:20 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: How Timely? on 07/19/2014 15:37:38 MDT Print View

If you got bit by Rattlesnake and venom hadn't kicked in yet, that would be a good case for sending text. No need to send anyone yet but prepare for it.

Although probably might as well wait to determine if you actually got envenomized?

Maybe a knowledgeable person could text back whether to worry about it or not. What symptoms to look for...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How Timely? on 07/19/2014 15:56:45 MDT Print View

Kerry, some of your assumptions here are all wet.

I am reminded of a PLB story from a couple of years ago that I related here. A backpacking group was a few days out from Rock Creek on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, so they had crossed onto the west side. One gal got very sick from altitude, and she tried to keep struggling ahead. Finally she was near collapse, so a camp was made and the group tried to support her. A runner was sent out toward the east side to get help. Meanwhile, a stranger with a Spot device was nearby. The decision was made to push the button. Once that was done, the stranger didn't feel that it was necessary for him to remain on the site, so he took off up the trail. Apparently the signal was received and there was a helicopter dispatched from the Fresno County sheriff's office to go to the transmitted GPS coordinates. However, the sheriff's office saw that the Spot location was moving up the trail. The Spot user didn't realize that once it is activated, it is locked on, and you must remain at the emergency site. When the sheriff's office saw that the Spot was moving, they assumed that it had been a false alarm, so they recalled the helicopter. As a result, no helicopter arrived. Meanwhile, the runner reached a telephone on the east side, and that call got routed to the Fresno office on the west side. They put two and two together and figured out that an emergency was still present, so they dispatched the helicopter again. A small helicopter reached the location and the sick gal was loaded into it. However, due to the size of the aircraft, there was no room for anything except the pilot, the sick gal, no equipment, and no medic.

Strangely and incidentally, the helicopter ride was short. They flew her to VVR and dropped her off with wet clothing and no gear. She had to get a vehicle ride down to Fresno from there. (bizarre!)

Now, if there had been some good two-way communications, the dispatcher could have found out the nature of the emergency and the urgency of it.

So, your comment, "The team that shows up is going to be equipped to handle any emergency they encounter, medical or otherwise..." is just a bunch of crap.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: How Timely? on 07/19/2014 16:12:57 MDT Print View

"Meanwhile, a stranger with a Spot device was nearby. The decision was made to push the button. Once that was done, the stranger didn't feel that it was necessary for him to remain on the site, so he took off up the trail."

Nothing is foolproof in the hands of a fool.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: How Timely? on 07/19/2014 17:56:34 MDT Print View

There is always a fool who can overcome a foolproof scheme.

That's why I recommend that for anybody who gets a new piece of technology that they intend to drag out to the wilderness, at least study up on it. Read the user manual and try to understand how it should function during normal operation and also how it should function during an emergency. That way, you can keep the expected result happening.

Just last week I had a situation where I sent a message via inReach SE, but it was not going out. The device stayed busy trying to send. Finally after 10-15 minutes, I realized that I was in a deep canyon with some trees overhead, so I was not sure that the satellites were overhead long enough to get the message. I moved the device about 50 yards to a cleaner location, and then the message was finished rapidly.

I don't like those long waits, because it uses up battery power trying to "hit the bird."

--B.G.--