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Satellite phones

Satellite phones (satphones) can be very useful for emergency communications - when they are able to connect via their satellite network.

The major advantage of a satphone is that you have two-way communications and can convey information about your situation by voice or SMS.  Unlike an PLB or Spot device, you can get confirmation that your message has been received.  Some satphones also now support email.  SMS and email communications can be much cheaper than voice communication.

inmarsat Satphone

Inmarsat Satphone

Training weekend near Eldorado, October 2012

Sixty participants took part in BSAR’s annual training weekend held on 27-28 October 2012 in the Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park near Eldorado in north east Victoria.  In stark contrast to last year’s training in the Wombat Forest, we enjoyed marvellous spring weather.  Fifteen BWV Clubs were represented, plus a number of BWV individual members.  It was especially pleasing to welcome 22 prospective members, many from the Melbourne, Monash and RMIT Universities, on their first BSAR training event.

SKED stretcher carry after line search

The Saturday program involved participation in the Victorian Rogaining Association’s 12 hour rogaine, in the lovely open (mostly) forests north of Eldorado.  The BSAR teams achieved some impressive results, and a good standard of navigation and fitness was demonstrated.  Many thanks to the VRA for its strong support of BSAR and in facilitating our participation in the rogaine.

On Sunday morning a short program of workshops covering radio, GPS, group leaders and new members induction preceded line searching and stretcher carry exercises.

BSAR call-out to Wellington Plains to assist school group

Thursday 11/10/2012.  Bush Search and Rescue was called out for a 10pm departure from Melbourne.

Fri 12/10.  18 BSAR members travelled to Licola to render assistance. The BSAR group returned to Melbourne at 4pm.

Victoria experienced unseasonal cold winter conditions, including snow in alpine regions.  A high school group of 11 students and 3 staff was stranded by bad weather and snow while on a bushwalk in the Wellington Plains region of Gippsland.  The group was successfully evacuated by the SES and Victoria Police using oversnow transport.

BSAR Team at Licola

Packs for Searching

Packs and bags are required for use in the field, for travel to and from the search and for storing spare equipment at search base.

See the BSAR Manual for definitive BSAR requirements. Here are some more ideas.

There is some advantage in searching with a pack that has a capacity suited to each day’s task. However, when leaving home for a search, you will not be able to predict the type of load that will be required for the task that you will later be allocated. You will definitely need a spare pack or travel bag anyway, so that you can leave spare gear at base.  So bringing a combination of large and small packs is ideal.

Behind the Log BSAR newletter Oct 2012 edition out now

The October 2012 edition of Behind The Log, Bush Search and Rescue's regular newsletter, is now published and can be downloaded from [here] (pdf). 

Articles include:
  • Search at Donna Buang, 15 April 2012
  • Blue Range Search, 20 August 2012 1
  • Steep Snow and Ice Training Report, July 2012
  • The BSAR Convener checks out the Haute Route

Misuse of personal locator beacons (PLBs)

Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) can be used during an emergency situation (typically in in remote areas) to summon emergency assistance via a radio signal that is picked up by satellites and commercial aircraft.

However, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has reported that many people in Australia are misusing these devices.    248,000 PLBs are registered in Australia.  During 2012, 1,700 PLBs have been triggered nationally, with 266 searches resulting, but only 109 events were genuine emergencies.

Some beacons are being triggered in capital cities and urban areas.  There have been 400 inadvertant activations and 21 confirmed hoaxes.    

Accidental, frivolous or hoax activation of PLBs puts significant inappropriate demand on national and state emergency services and wastes money. 

PLB users are reminded that distress beacons should only be used as a last resort when there is a threat of grave and imminent danger. In an emergency, communication should first be attempted using radios, phones, SPOT devices and other communications devices available.

Radio battery capacity testing

Recent searches have showed that a number of radio batteries failed in cold conditions.

Frequently asked questions



What skills do I need for bush searches? Experience in overnight bushwalking and the ability to navigate off-track.

What skills do I need for snow searches? Most winter searches are in the snowfields, so previous snow camping experience is essential. The ability to use snowshoes or skis is highly desirable. Some members choose not to participate in snow searches.

Sound and light searching

A sound/light line search is a quick and efficient method using whistle, voice and light to attract the attention of a responsive lost person at night and then listen or see a response from them.

Torches for searches

High powered and long lasting torches are essential equipment for searches.  We sometimes search during the night  in dense scrub and forest, and we occasionally camp overnight on search tasks, so a powerful and long lasting torch is required.  A spare set of batteries is essential too.

Torches for use on searches should:

  • be durable and waterproof
  • use two or more AA (penlight) batteries
  • have low and high power modes

A high quality head torch is very useful while searching and travelling at night and for cooking and camping out as they leave your hands free.  A low power mode is useful when using the torch in camp or at search base as it conserves the batteries.  A boost mode is useful when more power is needed in the field. 

Head torch example - Petzl MYO® RXP

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