Locator Beacons

As you are probably aware, the club recently purchased 3 locator beacons. At club night recently Steve Austin gave a presentation about these devices. A number of people asked questions about the use of these. There appears to be two main concerns about locator beacons. They are:

  1. That the use of locator beacons may encourage people to take greater risks.
  2. That locator beacons might be used in circumstances that do not justify their use.

It was good that these matters were brought up. Since that meeting I have given a bit of thought to these two concerns. I have come to the conclusion that it is unlikely that either of these situations would arise on club trips. My reasons are as follows:


I have owned a locator beacon for about seven years. (It is the old type that is now obsolete). The trips I have undertaken (club and private) subsequent to that purchase have not involved any greater risk; I do the same type of trips, the same grade, and in the same conditions as I did beforehand. Similarly carrying a first aid kit does not encourage me to take greater risks.

I cannot say that everyone who takes a beacon with them will not take greater risks, but I feel that this is unlikely to happen within the controlled environment of a tramping club.

The theory that people will take greater risks if they take locator beacons on trips is like saying that people who buy cars with air bags will take greater risks with their driving. It’s unlikely. Also, having a locator beacon does not reduce the pain resulting from a broken leg!

Unjustified Use

There have been items in the news over the years about people calling the emergency services from their cell phones for inappropriate reasons – wanting a taxi, or a pizza delivery etc. Cell phones have been used on club trips on at least a couple of occasions that I’m aware of to call the emergency services. I don’t believe that a cell phone has been used inappropriately on a club trip. So why would locator beacons be used inappropriately?

As Darren pointed out at the meeting, it would be difficult to define the exact situations in which a locator beacon should be used. It would ultimately be up to the trip leader to make a decision. In reality it is likely to be a group decision. The March 2009 issue of the FMC Bulletin contains an article which gives some indication about the circumstances in which locator beacons could be used. (I seem to have lost my copy!).

A Final Thought

I understand that it won’t be mandatory for beacons to be taken on club trips. However, I do recommend that if they are available, trip leaders do take them. They don’t weigh a lot, and they do provide a good option if a punter is injured or incapacitated.

Ray Walker

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