Tacoma mushroom hunters could have used a PLB

The Tacoma News Tribune just had an article about two men who got lost while hunting mushrooms.  Fortunately they had enough supplies to survive a night in the woods. Our days are getting shorter and the nights colder, pretty soon spending a night outdoors will be difficult without good gear.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

If you are going out in the woods consider adding an Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to your kit. Weighing in a bit over 4 ounces it will not slow you down (or reduce the number of mushrooms you can harvest). It is a good piece of gear if you are backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, or even driving  during the winter.

There is no annual charge involved with the rescueME PLB. $249.00 (current price as of October 2014) and a seven year life it works out to $35.58 per year or about 10 cents per day. Truly an affordable piece of safety equipment.panduan android

PLB’s work using a satellite system, owned and operated by governments and provide world wide coverage. You don’t have to worry about cell coverage, as long as you can see the sky, it will work. If you want to get rescued, this is the piece of equipment you want in your hands.

Another person saved by the rescueME PLB

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

A trout fisherman in New Zealand was rescued after falling and activating his rescueME PLB. Complete details are on the BMY web site.

Once again the compact size and light weight make the rescueME the perfect PLB to carry on your person. We have sold units to bicyclists, back country runners, hikers and hunters who selected this unit because of its size and reliability.

EPIRB Battery Replacement


Ocean Signal Replacement Battery For EPIRBs

I get calls all the time from customers who need to get the battery in their EPIRB replaced. When they learn the price the general reaction is shock, how can a battery cost so much? Can’t I run down to the battery store and get the cells to make my own? Why can’t I replace my own? Here are the answers.

Why do they cost so much?
First you are not buying a single battery cell but a battery pack consisting of a number of cells. They are connected in a way to prevent short circuits and often the battery pack contains additional electronic components. Part of the EPIRB’s approval is the battery pack, a third party can not decide to produce a battery pack for a beacon without going through the approval process. Needless to say that is not practical so the only source of battery packs is directly from the original manufacturer. There is not a large market for replacement batteries so production runs are small so that the end user gets a fresh battery. Finally lithium cells are expensive to begin with and there are not many suppliers that the beacon manufacturers can choose from.

Can I make my own battery pack?
I guess so, but will it work?

Why can’t I replace my own?
It depends on the model beacon you own. Ocean Signal and some Kannad models have user replaceable batteries (SOLAS class vessels are required to have an approved facility replace batteries in any model) so if you own one of these you can buy the proper battery pack and do your own installation. What you don’t get is testing the unit  for power output, signal and water-tightness. You would also be responsible for proper disposal of the old lithium battery, you can’t just throw it away since it is hazardous material. Disposal protocols vary from state to state and sometimes even within specific cities within a state.



Boaters ask me if they should purchase an EPIRB or PLB. In the past I have gone through the technical differences between the two beacons without highlighting the one important difference. Then I received an email from an individual who I had loaned my personal PLB and actually had to use it when his boat sank. His message said that at 10:30 the boat sank and they turned the beacon on. At 11:00 they remembered to ‘pull the antenna out which they had forgotten about’. The USCG did not receive notification of their distress until after the antenna had been deployed. At 12:00 they saw the Coast Guard helicopter that had been deployed to rescue them. The great news is they survived the ordeal but as with most disasters there are things we can learn.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

The main thing I learned is the most important difference between and EPIRB’s and PLB’s. With an EPIRB when you put it in the water (after taking it out of its bracket) it starts transmitting. There are no other steps and the antenna is already deployed.


When we get in high stress situations it is easy to forget things. The military trains its troops until actions become second nature but we don’t have the time or patience to do that for all of our safety equipment. Simplicity becomes the key and in this case and EPIRB would have shaved 30 minutes off of the rescue time. If this sinking had happened in cold water, 30 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

From now on when a boating customer asks if they should purchase an EPIRB or PLB, my answer is going to be an EPIRB.

Personal Locator Beacons and bicycling

The other day I was out riding my bike with my buddy Ed. He is one of those guys who can (and does) talk with everyone which over the years has made for some interesting rides. It was one of those typical Northwest days, grey and damp and we were climbing a fire road in Capitol Forest looking for an area that had a recent fire. We were passed by a number of four wheel drive trucks and of course Ed had to find out what they were doing. It turned out that one guy was lost the previous day and this group was on a search and rescue mission. We were told to look out for the lost guy and call 911 should we find him.

Once we got to the top of the hill two motorcycles came along, OK they also had riders. They were lost and Ed got them pointed in the right direction and made sure they had gas (afterwards we wondered what we would have done if they didn’t have gas since one hardly carries that on your bicycle) and sent them on their way.

All this got me thinking, what would happen if I was out in the middle of nowhere and got turned around, injured or came across someone in need of help. Would my cell phone be enough to suffice? It has GPS and downloaded maps so I should be able to find my way home but what if I am hurt? After talking with my wife, we decided that I should carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

The Ocean Signal version only weighs 4.1 ounces which is less than many multi-tools that we pack around. This unit provides world-wide coverage, does not have an annual service contract and works using a dedicated government owned an operated satellite system. Best of all it connects directly to search and rescue. Somehow this seems like a reasonable addition to my Camelback.


Of course we sell these units. Full information on the Ocean Signal PLB is on our web site. The unit has a 7 year battery and 7 year warranty so the cost works out to $3.56 per month, about the same as a small latte. Then again if I skip one latte per month I would lose more weight than the 4.1 ounces I have added to my gear.