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Safety Alert: Personal Locator Beacons (PLB's)

Tue 23 July 2019

The British Canoeing Safety Advisory Panel issues alerts from time to time where they feel specific safety issues need to be communicated to paddlers. The following Safety Alert was issued on 19 July 2019:

In the first half of 2019 there were over a dozen emergency callouts and rescues of sea paddlers.

The need to have a means of calling for help, which is to hand, has been demonstrated by the success of these rescues.

Recent incidents have often involved experienced paddlers who did not expect to get into trouble. Typically they were:

In environments or conditions they felt familiar with

  • Paddling alone or in a small group
  • Carrying basic emergency equipment or clothing
  • Subject to an unforeseen incident or had underestimated the conditions
  • As a minimum carried a mobile phone in a water proof case as a means of communication
  • Some of these paddlers had invested in Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s)

PLB's are becoming far more popular given their ease to carry, effectiveness in calling for help and pinpoint satellite location. At a cost of around £200 with no further ongoing charges they last, typically, between 5 – 6 years making them a good long term investment.

Talking about the rescue of a lone paddler off Thurso in April 2019, RNLI Coxswain Dougie Munro said: 
"This is a great example of the importance of carrying a means for calling for help, such as a PLB. Because of the kayaker’s preparations, the locator beacon directed us straight to him. He was exhausted and suffering the effects of being in the cold water. Time was important; any delay in finding him might have led to a different outcome."

To view the full safety alert, please click here (PDF).

For further safety alerts and case studies, visit the British Canoeing Safety Alerts page: