Commander Tom Chronister is a 24-year veteran of the Oxnard (California) Police Department. He is a graduate of California's P.O.S.T. Law Enforcement Command College Class 39. For more information on Command College, see www.post.ca.gov/training/cc/default.asp.Lives saved
In regions where radio waves don't reach a listening ear and cellular networks are nonexistent, a PLB could very well mean the difference between life and death. Modern distress radio beacons have no equal when it comes to making a last-ditch call for help from remote outposts.
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Web site, distress radio beacons have saved 20,300 people worldwide (5,476 in the United States) since its 1982 inception. In 2006, 272 U.S. lives were saved using the Cospas-Sarsat System. During the nine-year Alaska PLB pilot program, more than 300 lives were saved — 54 in 2001 alone.
"Before the 406-MHz beacon and embedded GPS data was made available to us, search and rescue crews were faced with potential search areas of more than 1,000 square miles," says Allan Knox, Air Force Rescue Coordination Center Search and Rescue Program manager. "With GPS information, search areas are reduced to 1/100th of a square mile, or about 7 acres. That is a huge difference and makes for rescue operations that are timed with a watch instead of a calendar." As the slogan goes, Cospas-Sarsat takes the "search" out of search and rescue.