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A group of seven 16-18 year old backpackers were rescued by State Troopers in the early hours of the morning on Sunday 24th July, after activating their 406MHz Personal Location Beacon (PLB) following a vicious attack by brown bears. The PLB, a Fast Find 210 from leading emergency distress beacon manufacturer McMurdo, alerted the emergency services who were able to find the group by following the beacon’s signal.The incident took place in the remote Talkeetna Mountains, north of Anchorage, Alaska.
The teenagers were on day 24 of a 30-day Survival Skills course organised by the National Outdoor Leadership School, and were trekking for the first time without their instructors. The attack came as the group was crossing a river, and was entirely unexpected.
With no other form of communication available and in desperate need of help, the group activated the Fast Find PLB as soon as the attack subsided. With four members of the team suffering severe injuries, two of which were considered life-threatening, the group was forced to remain on the scene and wait for help to arrive.
Alerted by the beacon’s distress signal, which transmits using the global COSPAS SARSAT satellite system, the Rescue Co-ordination Center (RCC) immediately dispatched a team of Alaskan State Troopers by helicopter to the group’s aid. Three members of the group were immediately evacuated to hospital, and a State Trooper was dropped in to remain with the two most severely injured members of the group together with a third boy who was in the best health, whilst a medically-equipped aircraft was scrambled to the scene by the RCC. Within 11 hours of setting off the beacon, all members of the group had been recovered safely and were receiving medical attention.
A second group of young people and a team of three instructors from the organisation, who were also trekking in the area, were rapidly found and informed of the incident, before being returned safely to base camp.
It is recommended that anyone venturing into remote areas where there are limited means of communication carries a PLB, which gives a direct method of alerting the search and rescue authorities, no matter how remote your location. As well as sending out a distress signal by satellite, the Fast Find PLB also transmits a 121.5MHz homing signal, to enable search and rescue teams to home in on the beacon once in the vicinity. The Fast Find 210 PLB has a 50-channel GPS, to give precise location co-ordinates, and make recovery speedier and more efficient. The device is rugged, compact, lightweight and easy to carry tucked into a pocket or on a belt. With a simple activation process and emergency signal transmission guaranteed for at least 24 hours via a powerful 5 watt output, the Fast Find is easy and reliable to use.
Praise has come for the group of young people, who had been given the PLB to carry and instructed to use it only in an emergency situation. Despite carrying bear spray and having been trained in outdoor survival skills, the group could not have anticipated or prevented the sudden attack, and by activating their PLB as soon as possible after the incident, were able to maximise their chance of rescue. [news covered on the UK Guardian website]