It is early in the morning, we sail out from Rijeka’s harbor, while the sun warms us, we enjoy the breeze and the call of the seagulls. Navigare necesse est, as the old saying goes, to sail is necessary. Another old saying says: “Praise the sea; on shore remain”, and in order for it to remain only a quote, we have sailed today to perform a second part of the practical activation test of the Fast Find PLB device.
What the EPIRB represents for a vessel, the ELT for an aircraft, the PLB, personal location beacon represents for the person, an uncompromising communication device in life threatening situations, that in places where cell phones and similar forms of communication don’t work, can transmit a distress call to the International Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz frequency that is being covered, without failure, everywhere in the world. Its explicit characteristic is that a call transmitted from a PLB can’t pass unnoticed, regardless where is it sent from, it leads rescuers directly to the injured party in the shortest time possible.
Crocon, McMurdo’s official representative for Croatia, performed today’s test in the cooperation with MRCC Rijeka, National Maritime Rescue Coordination Center, Harbor Master’s Office and the Ministry of Sea, Transportation and Infrastructure. The objective of this activation is to demonstrate under controlled conditions an exact time sequence from the activation of the device, the detection of the distress call by the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system to the transfer of the call to the MRCC Rijeka, that is, the launch of the search and rescue mission.
After a few minutes of navigation, we arrive to our chosen destination for today’s test activation, in the heart of the Kvarner Bay. A short presentation of McMurdo’s Fast Find PLB to gathered journalists, along with some photo taking, and the test activation starts. The producer conceived the activation to be fast and easy, so that an injured and disoriented person can literally using only one hand, in just a few seconds, from any corner of the world, activate the PLB, and the search and rescue centers will respond with an appropriate rescue mission.
Once activated, McMurdo’s Fast Find starts its procedure of finding a satellite and pinpointing its position and through the 406MHz signal sends a distress call that contains a Hex ID no. (a coded 16 decimal message) that gives the national authorities complete information about the injured person (name, last name, contact data…) and exact location coordinates. With this information, the official coordination centers launch the rescue mission that has therefore a much greater chance for a successful outcome.
Ten minutes after the activation, we receive a call from the MRCC Rijeka, along with the information that the test activation was performed successfully, and that the distress call was transmitted from our PLB beacon, through the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system, to the MRCC center in Rijeka. Should this had not been a test activation, the MRCC center Rijeka would have launched a rescue mission, which means that from the activation to the launching of the search and recue mission less than 15 minutes would pass. After the performed testing, the employees of the MRCC Rijeka shared their opinion with us, unanimously in their view that this is a device of great potential that should be mandatory equipment for charter vessels as well as all adventurers that in the open wilderness can find themselves in life threatening situations. Considering the character of the beacon and the fact that all calls sent to the 406 MHz Cospas-Sarsat frequency are treated with great seriousness, with the sale, also an education is necessary, in order to avoid false activation and alarms as a result of wrong and inappropriate usage.
In the end, we would like to thank MRCC Rijeka, the Harbor Master’s Office Rijeka, the crew of the ship “Vid” and the Ministry of Sea, Transportation and Infrastructure for a great coordination of the first PLB test activation in Croatia, a device working on the 406 MHz Cospas-Sarsat frequency, responsible for over 22.000 rescues around the world.
Please check the video of the performed PLB test activation on sea.