ACR Terrafix 406 GPS PLB Evaluation
Since it’s a last resort, most people will never use it but you want the peace of mind that it will do what it’s supposed to do in a dicey situation. A 406 MHZ PLB is extremely powerful and this particular device sends that signal to the LEOSAR and GEOSAR satellite systems dedicated to search and rescue, receiving your GPS coordinates and relaying them to the proper rescue authorities. Your GPS coordinates are radiated skyward by a powerful 406 MHz signal, which will make it through a dense canopy and heavy clouds. Immediately upon pressing that button a whole predetermined chain of events takes place that ACR is firmly entrenched in. In the U.S. this model is approved by the FCC. This technology was designed with the input and insight of many search and rescue authorities around the world who want the quickest and most effective way to get to a person or party in crisis. 406 MHz technology has saved over 24,500 lives worldwide.
The TerraFix emits a second signal at 121.5 MHz. This is the homing signal that lets the Search and Rescue teams that are on the ground and in the air looking for you get a fix on your precise position; thus avoiding protracted searches in the general vicinity. Time is the essence when lives are on the line in an emergency and the faster they get to you the better chance you have at survival. Built-in redundant technology ensures that your signal will be picked up and your position homed in upon.
The ACR 406 GPS PLB is light enough to pack anywhere, which is exactly what you want for forays deep into wild places, and it’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It’s extremely durable, waterproof, and it floats (rafters and kayakers take heed). It will operate anywhere from -40° F to 158° F (-40° C to 70° C). Once activated, the battery operates for approximately 36 hours give or take a little in extreme temperatures. There are others out there that last longer so a few naysayers call that a downside. The two lithium battery packs are warranted at 5 years.
The user interface is dummy proof with the push of a button. Plus, registering it online once you buy it (which is vital worldwide and mandatory in the U.S.) is a breeze. This way authorities know who the signal belongs to and who they should call in terms of emergency contacts while the search is under way to plan for the tearful reunion. No annual subscription fees are also a big plus.
Most importantly, when an accident happens will this device work? The answer is yes. It was designed exclusively to be a dedicated device solely as a means of last resort to make finding a party in dire straits easier for rescue authorities. In hurricane force winds on a remote island off the coast of Alaska with raging seas, two men were saved by using this device. Read the rest of the story that bodes well for this product at PLB Emergency Signal Directs Coast Guard To Two Hunters Stranded on Kodiak Island.
It has saved mountain climbers, hikers, and rafters. It was used in one incident to save a beaconless climber with severe injuries by a person with a TerraFix who came upon them. The majority of outdoor enthusiasts who carry it report the great peace of mind it gives them and their family members who don’t always understand why they do what they do. This is especially true for older enthusiasts and the solo set.
This satellite tracking system has been responsible for saving the lives of over 350 people in at least 130 reported incidents in recent years in the U.S. alone. Scouring the web I found that most users gave it between a 4 and 5 star rating for the peace of mind carrying it gave them and the ones who actually used it acknowledged that it probably saved their lives.
In short, the ACR 406 GPS PLB is one of the smallest most effectively functional devices of this nature on the market. Smaller models have been developed by ACR, but the model in this review has the kind of success rate you’d feel most comfortable with at this time. It is a somewhat costly item at roughly $450 but you will likely feel very content with the investment if you ever have to use it. The ACR website sums up their success by stating “Putting vultures out of business since 1956."