Why is GPS best

Why is GPS best?

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) recommends Global Positioning System (GPS) beacons as they have the quickest and most accurate alerts.

GPS Non-GPS
 
GPS beacon
non GPS beacon
Alert time Detected within minutes Detected within minutes
Time to provide location Up to 20 minutes (assuming beacon is deployed correctly) Acquired between 90 minutes to 5 hours
Precision Within 120 metres Within 5 kilometres

For more information on how the beacon system works and how long it takes see how distress beacons work.

Beacons with GPS

Search and rescue authorities will be able to locate you much faster if your beacon has GPS. Assuming your beacon has been deployed correctly, what happens next is:

  • The HexID or Unique Identification Number (UIN) of your beacon is initially detected by a geostationary satellite within a few minutes and the Australian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) will be notified.
  • If your beacon is registered, AMSA Search and Rescue will ring your nominated emergency contacts immediately to obtain information to assist with the response.
  • Your GPS location may be provided within 20 minutes to the JRCC.
  • The RCC responsible for the search and rescue will be notified (eg if you activate your beacon in New Zealand, the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre will be notified and coordinate the search and rescue) then search and rescue assets are deployed.
  • 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.
  • If on land, don't move! Seek shelter, water and food nearby if possible.
  • If in water, stay on board the vessel unless it's sinking, then relocate to a life raft or personal watercraft.
  • Warning: If using parachute rockets or mini flare kits, do not fire or point them towards aircraft.

Beacons without GPS

If your beacon doesn't have GPS, it can take much longer to find you. Assuming your beacon has been deployed correctly, what happens next is:

  • The HexID or UIN of your beacon is initially detected by a geostationary satellite within a few minutes and the Australian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) will be notified.
  • If your beacon is registered, AMSA Search and Rescue will ring your nominated emergency contacts immediately to obtain information to assist with the response.
  • However, your position could take anywhere between 90 minutes to 5 hours compared to within 20 minutes with a GPS beacon. This is because for non-GPS beacons the satellite must pass overhead twice and successfully detect the beacon to confirm your position. It takes a satellite anywhere between 90 minutes to 5 hours to pass overhead again because they don't follow the same path.
  • The RCC responsible for the search and rescue will be notified (eg if you activate your beacon in New Zealand, the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre will be notified and coordinate the search and rescue) then search and rescue assets are deployed.
  • When you see or hear search personnel in your area, use flares, torches, or light a fire (if it's safe) to help them pinpoint your location.