It seemed that that morning the weather conspired against us. An hour before the agreed upon time of activation with the MRCC Center in Rijeka and the MCC Bari the sky opened and the rain poured placing in front of us and McMurdo’s Fast Find PLB one more challenge.
Today’s activation will be performed by our known adventurer and Mt. Everest mountain climber, Darija Bostjančić that has already carried McMurdo’s PLB on numerous adventures and journeys and is familiar with its capacity to transmit a distress call on the 406 MHz Cospas-Sarsat frequency, which is constantly monitored throughout the world and official search and rescue centers treat calls received on this frequency with great seriousness.
After a 30-minute climb on Kamenjak, a panoramic view opens in front of us at Grobnik and its mountains as well as a beautiful sight of the massive rock boulders and cliffs of Kamenjak. We are only a few minutes away from the test activation that will emphasize on two extremely important facts, the speed of transmitting the distress call from the PLB, through the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system and regional center in Bari to the Croatian Rescue Coordination Center MRCC Rijeka and the accuracy of the coordinates that the PLB device transmits as part of the coded signal to the official national rescue centers.
Removing the antenna cover, unwrapping the antenna and pressing the ON button, it takes only 3 seconds to activate McMurdo’s PLB beacon. This very simple procedure has been created precisely for the reason to enable an injured and disoriented person to activate the PLB even with only one hand in just a few seconds, knowing that rescue is on its way.
Once the PLB is activated, the beacon will start to flash a LED SOS pattern showing its procedure of detecting the coordinates and transmitting a distress call on a 406 MHz frequency. After 7 minutes, we receive a telephone call from the MRCC Center Rijeka that the test activation was performed successfully. This practical test showed that from the time of activation to the detection of the signal at the regional center in Bari only 4 minutes elapsed, while in the next 2 minutes the message was transmitted to MRCC Rijeka. Therefore, we conclude that from the activation of the PLB beacon to the launch of the search and rescue mission less than 10 minutes would elapse. We hereby emphasize that in comparison to communication by standard means (cell phones and similar), the search and rescue coordination centers through a PLB receive the exact location of the injured party. In addition, the precision of the signal, regardless of the complex terrain was surprisingly accurate, the signal received from the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system differed less than 20m from the signal measured by a hand GPS device.
MRCC Rijeka employees have also shared with us their opinion regarding the PLB device, emphasizing that a device of this caliber can be crucial in search and rescue missions due to the speed and precision of finding the distressed party.
We take this opportunity to thank MRCC Rijeka, the Ministry of Sea, Transportation and Infrastructure and Darija for a very successful, first PLB test activation in Croatia, that, in real time conditions, showed us the procedure and time frame from the activation of the PLB beacon to the launch of the search and rescue mission.
Please check the video of the performed PLB test activation on land.