Binned beacon chaos

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

THE Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safety Author­ity is urg­ing beacon own­ers to en­sure they dis­pose of their ob­so­lete and un­wanted bea­cons cor­rectly af­ter sev­eral were in­ad­ver­tently ac­ti­vated, re­sult­ing in costly search op­er­a­tions over the hol­i­day sea­son.

Since Jan­uary 1 the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safety Author­ity’s Res­cue Co-or­di­na­tion Cen­tre (RCC Aus­tralia) has dealt with five in­cor­rectly dis­posed bea­cons ac­ti­vated in South Aus­tralia, NSW, Tas­ma­nia and WA.

A ma­jor­ity of these were found in rubbish tips or waste man­age­ment fa­cil­i­ties and re­sulted in costly searches us­ing valu­able search and res­cue as­sets.

AMSA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Gra­ham Peachey said it was vi­tal people took their old bea­cons to Bat­teryWorld stores and other nom­i­nated sites for dis­posal, to avoid them ac­ti­vat­ing in rubbish dumps.

‘‘Bea­cons thrown out in the rubbish can activate and tie up as­sets that could be needed in real search and res­cue sit­u­a­tions," Mr Peachey said.

‘‘Many of these bea­cons are found in rubbish tips af­ter he­li­copters or planes are tasked to lo­cate them."

AMSA urges people to re­place older style 121.5MHz dis­tress bea­cons which were phased out in 2009.

People must have a 406MHz beacon, prefer­ably with GPS ca­pa­bil­ity, as the older style bea­cons are no longer de­tected by satel­lite.

‘‘Any­one with a 121.5MHz beacon needs to un­der­stand these are not re­li­able in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion," Mr Peachey said.

‘‘They rely on air­craft over­head to de­tect the sig­nal but this is not guar­an­teed.

‘‘There is no guar­an­tee 121.5 bea­cons will ever be heard if they are not in hear­ing range of an air­craft that is equipped and lis­ten­ing to the 121.5MHz fre­quency. They are not de­tected by satel­lite."

If ac­ti­vated the older bea­cons can cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion to air traf­fic con­trol as they trans­mit on the aero­nau­ti­cal dis­tress fre­quency.

This has the po­ten­tial to mask other emer­gency sig­nals, risk­ing those in gen­uine emer­gency sit­u­a­tions.

Mr Peachey said in 2013 RCC Aus­tralia re­sponded to 48 bea­cons ac­ti­vated due to in­cor­rect dis­posal.

‘‘Our main con­cern is re­spond­ing to these beacon ac­ti­va­tions may re­sult in the di­ver­sion of per­son­nel and search as­sets from a real emer­gency," he said.

In Jan­uary an older style beacon ac­ti­vated in an Ade­laide dump near the air­port, re­sult­ing in a res­cue chop­per be­ing tasked to lo­cate it.

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