Distress Beacons

What happens after activation?

Safety, Search and Rescue, Distress Beacons

Tuesday 18 October, 2016

When your life is in danger and you can't get hold of emergency services by phone or radio, activate your distress beacon. A distress beacon can be activated from anywhere on the Earth's surface, regardless of whether you were travelling by air, land or sea.

The international search and rescue satellite system, Cospas-Sarsat, listens from space for distress signals. When it hears a signal, it notifies the nearest ground station.

Your distress call is then escalated through a local user terminal, mission control center and then the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) responsible in that region for arranging search operations.

If your beacon is registered, the details are provided to the RCC in the country in which the beacon is both activated and registered.

Search and rescue authorities start search operations as soon as they can. If your beacon is registered, AMSA Search and Rescue will look up your account and ring your emergency contacts immediately. If emergency contacts are aware of trip details or trip details have been submitted online, search operations can be instigated much sooner.  It is essential to keep your details up to date.

The time it takes for rescue will vary depending on the circumstances. Be prepared to survive. When you see or hear search personnel or aircraft in your area use flares, torches, or light a fire (if it's safe) to help them pinpoint your location.