Wednesday, 23 February 2022 22:46

The GME MT610G personal locator beacon keeps you safe in the great outdoors with your own search and rescue team

By Andrew Matler

GME is the only Australian manufacturer of UHF CB radios and emergency beacon products and has been delivering industry-leading RF communication devices for over 60 years. When it comes to a personal locator beacon – or PLB – you’re literally putting your life in its hands. iTWire CEO and intrepid sailor Andrew Matler tried out the GME MT610G PLB for himself to assess how well it stands up to the job of providing safety, coverage, and ease of wearing whether you’re at sea, in the bush, farming, 4WD’ing, or engaging in a range of other adventure or remote location/working activities.

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As a sailor myself I’ve been using PLBs and emergency position-indicating radio beacons, or EPIRBs, for many years. It’s also a family affair with my son using one for bushwalking and my daughter for her photoshoots in remote areas. Thus, I approached the GME MT610G PLB with keen interest. It’s Cospas-Sarsat Class two certified and is designed to meet all the latest international standards. It comes with seven years of battery life, a six-year warranty, a 72-channel receiver, and numerous other features. In fact, here’s the big list for this little device which gives and gives:

  • Compact, lightweight design without compromise to the numerous safety features included
  • Ease of use features incorporated throughout
  • Non-Hazmat battery pack for ease of transport
  • Integrated 72 channel GPS receiver
  • Zero warm-up time
  • High-intensity LEDs
  • IP68 Ingress Protection
  • Inherently buoyant and water-proof design
  • 121.5MHz homing transmitter
  • Copas-Sarsat Certified (Class 2)
  • Safety Lanyard included in the box
  • Easy to deploy when needed! Simply deploy the aerial and press the red button to activate the beacon. When you’re in an emergency you don’t waste precious time trying to figure it out.

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You can see from the features it’s intended to be easy to use, it supports the same search and rescue (SAR) satellite system we use in Australia, and it is lightweight for bushwalkers and buoyant for sailors.

Really, it provides flexibility and safety in a whole raft of different environments – whatever predicament you find yourself in, the GME MT610G PLB can provide you confidence and security without being burdensome to bring along. The long battery life is also important; PLB batteries are not replaceable by the inherent nature of their design so essentially the battery lifetime is also the effective lifetime of the unit. Having a long battery life thus maximises your investment.

It’s one thing, academically, to know you ought to invest in a good PLB but it’s another to truly recognise the difference between life and death it can make. When I was much younger, I suffered a serious accident in the snow and sustained multiple life-threatening injuries. It took a long time for rescuers to locate me, and I was fortunate to survive. If I had a PLB back then it would have been a much better experience for the rescuers and me.

I since purchased my first EPIRB 25 years ago, and my first PLB 20 years ago. Yet, even with hindsight, it’s still easy to take risks. Only last winter I was visiting my boat, which was moored offshore, using a stand-up paddleboard. A storm ripped through unexpectedly and pushed me out to sea. As I only anticipated making a short trip, I didn’t wear a lifejacket or carry my phone or a PLB. Fortunately, I was able to reach out and grab hold of a boat – the last boat and the last chance - otherwise, I might have been stuck out at sea.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned my lesson – even if I had to learn it twice. Here’s where a lightweight, compact PLB like the GME MT610G really comes into its own because I will always make sure it is in my jacket pocket or in the arm holder every single time – no matter if I’m rowing, sailing, kayaking, or paddleboarding. You might not have experienced some scary moments on the water but be prepared … invest in a good PLB and use it. iTWire is a tech publication so we can make an analogy – there’s no point having backup tapes if you never make a backup, or your backups are corrupt. Similarly, there’s no point in the PLB that’s sitting inside the boat or, even worse, in your car or on your bookshelf at home.

Of course, having both an EPIRB and PLB increases your options but if you only have the budget for once, my advice is to go with the PLB – especially if you’re a lone sailor. After all, the EPIRB is to be mounted in the boat inside the companionway, or stairway to go below to the cabin area and facilities. if you fall off the boat you won’t be wearing an EPIRB, so the PLB is your first-line step to locator beacon safety for remote location rescue.

In fact, the GME MT610G PLB is now an essential part of my safety kit – along with my well-worn, Tasmanian-made self-inflating jacket, the Stormy Life Jacket, where I carry the device, along with a strobe light to attract rescue crafts or helicopters, a whistle, torch, knife, energy snacks, and a water bottle. I’ve joked to friends that I can now order my own helicopter like an Uber, and within moments have a rescue team zeroing in on me. In seriousness, though, your PLB is only to be used when in genuine danger.

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Being able to carry the PLB in a jacket pocket not only means you’re more likely to bring it with you – or, even better, have it with you 100% of the time - but it means you can easily verify you’ve got it by a quick hand tap to your pocket when leaving your boat in an emergency. Of course, you must always remember you only step up from your boat to the life raft, never step down, as the sailor's lore implores, “don't enter your life raft if your boat is still floating or sitting higher in the water.” Therefore, if your boat is floating higher than the life raft the boat is always seen as the safest place. There are, sadly, too many stories of people who perished in a life raft and rescuers found the boat still floating weeks afterwards.

The GME MT610G is the PLB that provides me comfort and confidence it will be my friend, should I find myself in proverbial deep water. It has a clear side that faces up towards the satellites and it's inherently buoyant so it can float next to you like a little boat. You activate it by simply deploying the aerial and pressing one button, then ensure the lanyard is connected to both it and you, and let the beacon do its work communicating to the life-saving satellites in the sky.

In fact, I’m planning to purchase a GME MT600G EPIRB for my boat also. As the skipper, or captain, I will carry the personal locator beacon while the EPIRB is like a personal locator beacon on board the boat. Both the boat and I can be out at sea, looking at the stars, rolling on the waves, safe in the knowledge we are both safe thanks to our GME devices.

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You can purchase the GME MT610G PLB from dealers near you.

Once you’ve purchased it, be sure to register it with the Australian government. This is essential for your own safety, whether you buy it new, second-hand, or with a boat. In an emergency, you don’t want search and rescue contacting the wrong person … or if you sell your boat, you don’t want search and rescue phoning your family to say you’ve gone missing when in fact you’re simply down at the local pizza shop.

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Now, ordinarily, we’d end our review here. However, this topic is so important – literally life-and-death important – that iTWire wants to share with you our Editor’s safety guide (or as we call him, Captain Andrew's guide) to the equipment you ought to take on your life raft and lifeboat. You might look at this list and decide to take up another hobby when you see how extensive it is, or you might be like me and love the life at sea. Sailing is a great pastime, but like any other adventure sport, it’s about safety first. In the case of sailing that can be provided by technology including PLBS, EPIRBS and many other personal safety items. You never want to be hundreds of kilometres from land with no way to call for help.

If you’ve got wanderlust, if you’ve got your sea legs, if you love camping, boating, bushwalking, driving, and generally living a life of adventure then no matter what, don’t skimp on a good PLB, and above all, make sure you take it with you. As the sailors say "may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face" - and of course don't forget your GME PLB.

 

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