[pct-l] Emergency Spot GPS vs. PLB devices

Bill Burge bill at burge.com
Wed Apr 1 17:08:11 CDT 2009

Realize there is a _significant_ difference in the technologies used  
in the two devices.

The response time of a true PLB is faster and more reliable than the  
private company technology used by the Spot.

With the true PLB, there is no "tracking" or "watch my  
progress" (which are REALLY cool); but only "SAVE MY BUTT!!"  While  
the Spot can send a signal like that, it sends it to a group of  
satellites with less coverage, using a transmitter with less power to  
a response group that jumps through extra hoops before they pretty  
much just contact the people who would have gotten the true PLB signal  
in the first place.  Both groups attempt to contact the owner to see  
if it's a false alarm, then attempt to contact your listed emergency  
contacts on the device registration to see if it's a false alarm, THEN  
attempt to contact search and rescue services.  Don't think that  
because you hit the "Oh CRUD!" button that choppers are dispatched to  
your location.

Also, if the built-in GPS can't get a fix, the true PLB can be tri- 
angulated.  I'm not sure that is true for the Spot.

My GF and I used my Spot on our whirl wind drive across the US.  We  
had to get a car from Florida to Los Angeles and had about 3.5 days to  
do it.  I set up the "public access" Spot page and sent the URL to  
here mom (who was worried), to our friends (who were gonna take care  
of my son if we didn't get back in time), and to an ever expanding  
group who thought it was cool.  By the time we left Phoenix, we had  
about a dozen people watching it!  We will probably do something  
similar for the PCT.

geek (in case you hadn't guessed ;-)

On Apr 1, 2009, at 12:31 PM, Miles Brandon wrote:

> This may be useful…
> Emergency 911 / “I’m OK” devices
> SPOT vs. PLB (There are several important differences in the two  
> Emergency
> 911 GPS devices.
> Weight:   Spot>7.3 oz (209 grams)      PLB>12 oz. (340 Grams)
> Send for 911          Spot>Yes              PLB>Yes
> Send “I’m Ok”        Spot>Yes              PLB>No
> Ask Help (friends)  Spot>Yes              PLB>No
> Floats on Water     Spot>Yes              PLB>Yes
> SPOT GPS Specs Link:
> http://www.findmespot.com/en/downloads/SPOT_Product_Specifications_2007_11_2
> 1.pdf
> PLB (Terrafix) Specs link:
> http://www.acrelectronics.com/terrafix/terrafixspec.pdf
> Here is my personal reasoning why I WILL be carrying a SPOT GPS  
> device.   I
> don’t wish to be “on a lease” or be dependent on technology.   
> However, I
> asked myself:  Is my life worth $248 dollars? ($149 for SPOT device + 
> $99 for
> Annual subscription).  Is carrying an extra 7 oz. (less than ½  
> pound) worth
> it if I could help save a fellow hiker’s life (or my own!) in remote  
> area
> where life hangs in the balance?  Obvious answer for me:  Yes.  It’s  
> cheap
> insurance.  And It’s awesome when you add in the capability to 1)  
> send a
> specific (Help or “Send next Resupply Box”) message to your Home  
> Base (the
> msg is set up before PCT) or 2) just send the occasional / weekly  
> “I’m OK”
> and Link to location on Google Maps or, 3) send for 911 help.  But I  
> like
> the purist’s ultra-light reasoning: Carry Only Absolutely Essential
> equipment to get to Canada!  I struggled with this decision – It’s an
> individual choice.
> Miles Brandon
> (818) 486-4492
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