The result of the Bundaberg LifeFlight crew's search for an activated beacon in Gympie. Photo: RACQ LifeFlight Rescue
The result of the Bundaberg LifeFlight crew's search for an activated beacon in Gympie. Photo: RACQ LifeFlight Rescue

False beacon activations occupy LifeFlight’s time

RACQ LifeFlight is urging the public to check and update their distress beacons after the Bundaberg LifeFlight crew travelled to Gympie for a false activation.

LifeFlight’s statistics show one in four searches for distress beacons this year have been for false activations.

Most recently a search was undertaken by the Bundaberg based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crew on Tuesday.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority tasked the rescue chopper, to investigate an area near Gympie, after an Emergency Locator Transmitter was activated.

The crew narrowed down the location of the EPIRB, to a private property.

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Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Pilot, Franco Bertoli said the activated beacon was found inside a private aeroplane, which was parked in a hangar.

“It was an old ELT, operating on 121.5 MHz, which randomly went off,” Mr Bertoli said.

“The batteries had actually expired in 2008.”

Mr Bertoli said it was a timely reminder for pilots to check and update their aircraft ELT as beacons with out of date batteries could inadvertently activate a distress beacon.

“Ideally, pilots should have a 406 MHz beacon, or an appropriate ELT, attached to their aircraft,” he said.

“Make sure your beacon is fitted with GPS and can give search crews your exact location, should you need urgent assistance.

“If you have an old or out-of-date beacon, please get a new one and make sure you dispose of the old one, correctly.”

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Several missions this year have also led rescue crews to rubbish dumps after beacons had been thrown away.

“RACQ LifeFlight Rescue will always respond to distress calls, when tasked, because you never know who could be in trouble,” Mr Bertoli said.

“When buying a new beacon, whether for hiking, boating, motorbike riding, you should register the beacon with AMSA.

“It’s free and can be done online.”

For the most up to date information on the use and disposal of beacons visit www.amsa.gov.au.