For the diver however, a portable Personal Locator Beacon works much the same way an EPIRB does, but is made specifically for individuals. PLB's are exclusively manually triggered and have both the 406 MHz capabilities as well as the 121.5 MHz GPS encoded homing system that can pinpoint your location to within approximately 100 meters. PLB's are not designed to submerge to the depth and pressures of our dives, and some manufacturers are making waterproof canisters for the PLB's, which you can store in a BC pocket or otherwise, in case of an emergency.
I found two "popular" providers of marine PLB's:
Cobham Life Support (AquaFix, ResQFix, GlobalFix - require but do not manufacture a dive canister)
Fast Find (currently offers a dive canister)
...and a new entrant from an Australian based underwater video lighting company, complete with dive canister.
SPOT - The New Kid On The Block
In doing my research I came across an interesting company called SPOT. A wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar, SPOT is the world’s first satellite messenger, which uses both the GPS satellite network to determine your location as well as the SPOT network to transmit that information to friends, family and/or an emergency service center. The unit offers the same emergency signaling as a PLB, but also has several other features. Although some may call these bells & whistles, I think they are quite useful.
- Alert 9-1-1 notifies an emergency response center of your GPS location
- Ask for Help sends a request for help with your location to friends or family
- Check In lets contacts know where you are and that you are okay
- Track Progress sends and saves your location and allows contacts to track your progress using Google Maps™
The fine folks at SPOT were kind enough to send me a unit to take on our DPG Expeditions, so starting this week on our expedition to Socorro, you'll be able to track our crossing from Cabo to the Revillagigedos Archipelago (and where we're diving) as I check in with the SPOT device, which will be embedded on the map below. They are working on the development of a dive canister now, and should be avalable shortly.
The moral of the story is that this is a life support device, and it is intended for emergencies. Unfortunately there are no official tests on comparative signal strength, ability to instantly contact the GPS system and ultimately which system can get search & rescue teams to you faster. Each product claims similar capabilities. For now, we'll be carrying the SPOT system with us, and soon will have a dive canister to actually take it diving (the real purpose for us divers). Hopefully you'll never need to use it. But it just seems like such great insurance, not to mention peace of mind, just in case you do.
We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts on PLB's in the comments below.
Fantasea FG7X II
Ikelite Housing for Nikon D500
I-DiveSite Venom 35s
I appreciate your comments and know where you are coming from. It was such an incident that led me to design the Dive Buddy dive canister. Check it out on divecontainers.com. It is big enough to carry a range of communications equipment but small enough to fit in the BCD. We have been using them in NZ for a couple of years now. Safe diving. Tony
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