From our Friends Dale Atkins and Paul Woodward. Please help if you can.
Alpine Rescue Team needs your help – PLB false alerts in Berthoud Pass area
Over the past two weeks, the Alpine Rescue Team has been notified of three PLB activations in the Berthoud Pass (Colorado) area between Winter Park and the Jones Pass area. These PLB false alarms have occurred on three different dates, December 14, 23, and 24, and all involve the same PLB.
If anyone has recently started to use – or knows someone who has – a ACR PLB-300 Microfix (RescueFix) and visits the Berthoud Pass area, please contact the Alpine Rescue Team. You can send me an email or call me directly. Right now there are no violations, penalties, laws broken, etc., however, we would like to talk with you so you can understand how your PLB works and does not work. If you don’t want to talk, at least keep your PLB turned off until you are in an actual life-threatening emergency.
Each detection of the PLB’s signal starts a cascade of rescuers beginning with the US Air Force, the Colorado State Search and Rescue Coordinator, the local sheriff, and finally the local mountain rescue team, which in these cases has been Alpine Rescue Team. Each false alarm requires significant effort and time by many people. On Christmas Eve, rescuers from three different mountain rescue teams spent the afternoon trying to directional find the intermittent signal.
You might be wondering why a PLB is so hard to pinpoint, especially if you have read any advertising or promotional materials about these devices. This unit is not registered so no simple phone call to the owner can be made to verify the alert. Also, this unit is being turned on and off and moved between activations, so the search area cannot be well defined giving a search area up to 10+ miles in radius. When used properly these new digital PLBs can usually be identified and located in minutes.
Again, if you have been in the Berthoud Pass area on these three dates and have an ACR PLB or know someone who has, please contact us via private message, or call Dale Atkins directly at 303.579.7292. There are no legal issues or laws broken; we very much would like to talk with you. As always the services of Alpine Rescue Team are free.
Thank you for your help.
Paul “Woody” Woodward
President – Alpine Rescue Team
Here is a recap of what has happened with our PLB mystery.
From December 14th to January 5th, there were 9 activations from the same PLB here in Colorado. Eight of these activations where in the Berthoud Pass area and the other lone activation was in an area north of Crested Butte. This PLB was not registered after being purchased so there was no way to determine the owner of this specific PLB. Through the efforts of ACR, REI and the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s office, it was determined that this PLB was shipped from ACR to REI on July 1, 2009. It was further determined that 12 of these beacons where sold in Colorado between July 1 and December 13. The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s office made contact with the 12 owners that purchased the PLB’s. Although no one has come forth and admitted that this was their beacon, there has not been an activation since these folks where contacted.
It has always been felt that we didn’t need to know who the individual was but instead that they be educated on the use of the PLB. With the public awareness of this situation and the help of the Sheriff’s office, media and other internet public forums, we feel this has been accomplished. We thank all of you for your help in this matter.
Paul “Woody” Woodward
Alpine Rescue Team