Having access to and appropriate communication device can give you peace of mind, and in an emergency situation it can also save your life. New Zealand does not have reliable cellphone signal in the outdoors. An 'unexpected night out' can happen on any length of journey so it's important to prepare accordingly, even if you only intend to be going out for a short time.
Even a short day walk can easily turn into an unexpected night out, and you might not have cell signal. Prepare accordingly.
There are a number of reasons you'll need to be able to communicate to others.
While New Zealand’s mobile phone coverage network is good in urban areas, it’s unlikely you’ll have reliable coverage in the backcountry unless you have a compatible satellite messenger device. You may choose to carry your mobile phone ‘just in case,' or for communication at the start/end of your trip, but it should never be relied on as your primary form of communication.
Note that personal locator beacons must only be used in life threatening situations.
Once activated, the signal is picked up by satellite and/or aircraft. An alert message is relayed to the nearest Local User Terminal (LUT, ground station), which calculates the beacon’s position and sends the data to the Mission Control Centre (MCC). The MCC then sends the information to the RCCNZ, which in turn initiates a class II rescue operation.
The beacons operate with a clear view of the sky; avoid gorges or heavy foliage. Do not turn off once activated. Stay put.
If it is a false alarm, get a message to RCCNZ (0508-4RCCNZ, or 0508-472-269 or if outside New Zealand +64 4 577 8030) or Police as soon as possible. Failure to do this may divert SAR resources from genuine emergencies and in doing so may endanger lives.
We have collated a list of New Zealand National hire outlets for PLBs to the best of our knowledge. Open the PDF below to find your local PLB outlet, and please get in touch with us if you know any more places to hire PLBs.
It is important to know how and when to make an emergency call
The New Zealand Mountain Radio Service is a volunteer group that provides a backcountry communications service with scheduled calls. Here you can hear the weather forecasts or request emergency assistance. You can rent these devices from the services below:
Canterbury Mountain Radio Service - Visit their website
Wellington Mountain Radio Service - Visit their website
Central North Island Mountain Radio Service - Visit their website
It is important to know how to assemble and use your equipment. Make sure you test the batteries, practice setting it up and show everyone how to use it before you go.
Satellite messenger devices use the earth’s orbiting satellite systems to send messages or emergency distress notifications. Various devices offer differing services, which can include: distress/emergency signals; pre-programmed text/email messages; free form text/email messages; and route tracking using GPS capabilities. Some devices allow you to use your mobile phone to send texts/calls using the satellite technology.
Each device is different, so it is important that you research their specific functions and select one that meets your needs.
Satellite phones are similar to mobile phones but use orbiting satellites (as opposed to mobile phone coverage towers) to connect to phone networks. A satellite phone can be used anywhere in the world to connect to domestic and international numbers, provided you have satellite coverage. Coverage will vary depending on your location. For example, being on top of a mountain with a clear view of the sky will give you better coverage and call quality when compared to calling from the bottom of a valley.
You only have minutes to live if you are buried in an avalanche. If you are wearing a transceiver you have a significantly higher chance of being found quickly. So, whether you are recreating or working in avalanche prone terrain, you should always wear an avalanche transceiver and carry a shovel and a probe.
Transceivers and safety equipment are available for purchase or hire through leading ski and snowboarding shops and outdoor equipment suppliers.
Whether you walk, run, hunt or climb – we have specific information you need for your favourite activity – find them here
MSC encourage exploration and adventure in the incredible wilderness regions of New Zealand. We encourage you to participate, get out there and see what all the fuss is about. New Zealand is on the bucket list of so many people around the world for good reason.
We also encourage safe practices that ensure you make it home to your family and friends. We want you to make it home with adventurous stories, memories and photos. But, most of all we want you to make it home to do it all again next time. That's why on every advertisement, press release, video and resource we reaffirm our intent to help the 1.2 Million+ participants in outdoor recreation to make it home. You can help us spread this philosophy by sharing our resources and following the outdoor safety code so you make it home.
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