Fake Beacon Messes With Rescuers
Beacon Activated 4 Times In 2 Weeks
Last Updated: 1241 days ago
Members of the Alpine Rescue Team are trying to solve a puzzle.Four times in the last two weeks, they've received word about signals emanating from a beacon on Berthoud Pass. Four times they've scrambled up the pass only to find that the beacon has been turned off.The four false alarms occurred on Dec. 14, 23, 24 and 28, all in the Berthoud Pass area between Winter Park and Jones Pass, said Paul Woodward, president of the Alpine Rescue Team.The device is an ACR PLB-300 MicrOFix, according to Woodward."Each false alarm requires significant efforts and time by many people," Woodward said. Responders include the U.S. Air Force, the Colorado State Search and Rescue coordinator, the county sheriff and finally, a local mountain rescue team, like Alpine's.On Christmas Eve, three different mountain rescue teams spent the afternoon trying to find the intermittent signal. The ACR PLB-300 is an older, low-frequency, analog model that does not encode a GPS position in its signal. Instead, it results in a search location with a 12-mile radius. Newer PLBs can be identified and located in minutes.Woodward told 7NEWS that the owner of the personal locator beacon may be using it as an avalanche beacon."They're two separate things," Woodward said. "An avalanche beacon sends out radio signals that can be picked up by other skiers wearing similar devices."It should be activated whenever a skier goes into the backcountry.The personal locator beacon sends out satellite signals that are picked up by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.NOAA then forwards the information to the U.S. Air Force Coordinating Center in Florida, which then relays the information to the state search and rescue center. From there the information is sent to a county sheriff and local search and rescue groups."The personal locator beacon should only be activated as a last resort when someone is injured or can't get off the mountain," Woodward said.Barry Brinks purchased two avalanche beacons just before Christmas. He and his son were using them on Berthoud Pass Tuesday afternoon. They gave a short demonstration on how the beacons work."By pushing a button, I can put one of them in search mode and leave the other in transmit mode," Brinks said. "As I turn around with the one in search mode, I can find which direction the other is located in."The closer Brinks got to the transmitting beacon, the faster the receiving one beeped.Brinks' wife said having the beacons puts her at ease."My husband is pretty good at checking the conditions for snow and everything, but I just feel better knowing that if there are two of them they can try and locate each other," Trish Brinks said. "It just gives them a better chance of surviving."Woodward said the Alpine Rescue Team would like to talk to whoever owns the wayward personal locator beacon.When asked if the owner was in trouble, Woodward replied, "No, not at all. We just want to find out if there's a malfunction, or whether the owner knows how to operate it.""If you don't want to talk, at least keep your PLB turned off until you are in an actual life-threatening emergency," Woodward added.Anyone with information is asked to call Woodward at 303-434-6116, or visit the rescue team's Web site at www.alpinerescueteam.org.