Frequently Asked Questions
Click here for a glossary of abbreviations.
For Search and Rescue teams and professionals, click here to download the TracMe Locator Beacon Search Methods 1, 2, and 3.
The TracMe Locator Beacon (TLB)
A TracMe Locator Beacon is designed to be worn by an individual to assist SAR teams in the rapid location of the person should they become lost or hurt and unable to return to their destination – it is a beacon which specifically emits a signal to assist in locating a lost or incapacitated person - hence the term Locator Beacon.
A TracMe Locator Beacon may be used with any activity on land, air, or in waterways. Some situations require a satellite Personal Locator Beacon (satellite PLB, or EPERB – Electronic Positioning Emergency Radio Beacon) to be carried by law. A TracMe non-satellite Locator Beacon is NOT a substitute for satellite-based beacons in these situations.
The TracMe was created since not all people need or can afford a satellite-based PLB. On the other hand, there are some applications (such as where a government requires the use of an satellite PLB) where only a satellite PLB will do, and TracMe beacons DO NOT have a place in those applications. The mission of TracMe Beacons P/L is to save lives using TracMe and includes a commitment to the safety of its users, awareness by search and rescue agencies where it is introduced, and full and complete compliance with government agencies.
The TracMe Locator Beacon has been licensed by the United States Federal Communications Commission as an FRS (Family Radio Service frequency) device, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. TracMe is fully trademarked and has been recognized by the U.S. Patent Office and International Patent Agency with a patent pending.
The TracMe™ Locator Beacon is fully compliant in name and technical function using its CB UHF Emergency Channel 5, 476.525 Australia, FRS Ch.1 462.5625 USA & Canada, PMR Ch.8, 446.09375 Europe.
What steps should be taken before activating a TracMe Locator Beacon?
Before you are lost or activate your TracMe Locator Beacon, your instructions include:
- Leaving behind a TracMe card (found in the original TracMe Locator Beacon package) and your trip itinerary with a roommate, spouse or family member. Let them know when you are expected to return or receive a phone call from you at the trailhead after your trip. If they don’t hear from you at the appointed time, they will contact the local Law enforcement office’s office near your trail to initiate a search.
- At the trailhead, the Sheriff or local law enforcement agency will know your general whereabouts from your trip itinerary – and that you are carrying a TracMe Locator Beacon since you have left a TracMe card on your dashboard (your TracMe dashboard card is in the original package from the purchase of your beacon).
- The local search and rescue group will use their local signal equipment to track your Help….Emergency signal. (CB UHF Emergency Channel 5, 476.525 Australia, FRS Ch.1 462.5625 USA & Canada, PMR Ch.8, 446.09375 Europe).
Why use a TracMe Locator Beacon?
TracMe uses a simple technology to close the gap of time between lost and found and between affordability/availability. Satellite-based beacons can cost from 5 to 7 times more than a TracMe and can be too expensive for most people to use.
The other important reason to use a TracMe Locator Beacon is to save hours and days of search and rescue staff/volunteer time. If a search and rescue team knows that you have a TracMe, they can determine your itinerary and whereabouts and quick narrow down the area of their search as well as find you sooner because of the “Help….Emergency” voice signal emitting from your TracMe Locator Beacon.
A TracMe Locator Beacon will quickly enable a search and rescue team to respond quickly to common lost and found situation such as members of scouting/camping groups who wander away and get lost. For day hikers, lost children or backpackers who have lost their way, or skiers/winter sports enthusiasts who can't see/navigate in a blizzard yet are near a resort or trail, a TracMe Locator Beacon can save precious hours. And most important, it can save lives, especially if someone is injured or in a bad weather situation which can threaten their health and safety. It's that gap of time and affordability which the TracMe team hopes to address in the safety of a user as well as a search and rescue team’s time and resources spent in the recovery and rescue effort.
Why is the TracMe Locator Beacon designed for one-time use?
The TracMe Locator Beacon is designed for one-time use but not abuse. The search-and-rescue community has been concerned about the potential increase in satellite-based (satellite PLB) beacons by the general public and their potential for accidental notification and the significant cost borne to the agencies responding to accidental calls. The TracMe is designed for one-time use to discourage accidental activation or purposeful abuse. This also ensures that during its 10-year useable life, the TracMe is not taken outdoors with a partially discharged battery and is therefore always ready when needed after performing the Self-Test function before each trip.
Also keep in mind that the TracMe Locator Beacons have a free replacement policy. If you activate your TracMe in a legitimate search and rescue situation, we’ll replace it for free and hope that you share your success story with us. We want you to know that your $150.00 gear investment will pay off for you when it really counts.
How much does the TracMe Locator Beacon cost?
The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $99.95.
Where can I buy a TracMe Locator Beacon?
TracMe Locator Beacons will be available in the Summer of 2007 in the United States and Australia with many outdoor and sports equipment retailers. TracMe.com will list retail outlets; logon for updates.
Are search and rescue agencies aware of the TracMe Locator Beacon?
Yes. They are already aware of TracMe’s Ch1 trail radio signal technology – the same FRS/GMRS frequency used in more than 100 million trail radios throughout the United States, Australia and elsewhere in the world (CB UHF Emergency Channel 5, 476.525 Australia, FRS Ch.1 462.5625 USA & Canada, PMR Ch.8, 446.09375 Europe). TracMe is notifying search and rescue groups through their professional associations, advertising and editorial channels. Our team has begun a free Field Demo Kit loan program so search and rescue teams can train using our equipment, can download online information from TracMe.com to demonstrate direction finding techniques using their own equipment, or use the techniques with common trail radios from TracMe’s search and rescue resources section of TracMe.com.
What is the transmission range of the unit?
This depends on a number of things including the terrain, but mainly it depends on the antenna used on the rescue team’s receiver. The standard antenna on an UHF CB, FRS or PMR radio will give approximately 1000 yds (1km) range on the ground in light forest, and around 4-8 ml (6-12km) from the air. Using a high gain directional antenna, as is used with direction finding equipment the range is generally extended by a factor of 2 or 3.
How does water affect the TracMe unit?
It is designed to float and is submersible to 3 feet/1meter. This ensures that the unit is not immediately lost if inadvertently dropped into water. In its activated state, the unit will float with the antenna pointing upward and will operate as long as it is not fully submerged.
How is the TracMe Locator Beacon activated? Is it manually activated? If so, what if the person requiring assistance is unconscious?
Activating the TracMe Beacon is a manual, one handed operation. Future development of the TracMe Beacon may allow remote activation if the person is unconscious.
Who will listen out or monitor the CB frequency?
The simple answer is that the frequency does not need to be monitored at all. It requires the person to be reported as missing first. TracMe's only function is to speed up the location process; the alerting function must still be done manually. This is what sets it aside from satellite PLBs as being suitable for use by the general public and minimizes false alarms.
Is a license required to use the TracMe Locator Beacon?
No licence is required for the TracMe Beacon, as the UHF CB frequencies in Australia, FRS in USA & Canada and PMR in Europe have been designated for license free use by the general public.
Will the TracMe Locator Beacon replace the function of the current 121.5 mHz or the 406 mHz distress beacons?
Absolutely NOT. These distress beacons (or satellite PLBs) operate by sending a signal to a satellite which relays this to a central search and rescue office. When activated, a satellite PLB will automatically instigate an international search and rescue effort. This makes satellite PLBs suitable mainly for use by shipping and aircraft, and unsuitable for use in general outdoor activities by the public. The way in which the TracMe Locator Beacon operates makes it far more affordable, and suitable for use by the general public. Because satellite PLBs need to transmit to a satellite they are 5 to 10 times more expensive than a TracMe Locator Beacon.
CB – Citizen’s Band – a set radio frequencies used in a Citizen’s Band radio. These radios were popular in the U.S. in the 1970s are widely used in the trucking/transportation industry there.
EPERB -- Electronic Positioning Emergency Radio Beacon. This signal links to a satellite.
satellite PLB – Emergency Positioning-Indicating Radio Beacon. This signal links to a satellite.
FCC – Federal Communications Commission – a regulatory agency of the United States Government.
FRS – Family Radio Service
gHz – gigahertz
GMRS - The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a land-mobile UHF radio service in the United States available for short-distance two-way communications to facilitate the activities of an adult individual and his or her immediate family members, including a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and in-laws. (Source: Wikipedia.)
GPS – global positioning system is a radio navigation system that allows land, sea, and airborne users to determine their exact location. Twenty-four satellites (21 active, 3 spare) are in orbit at 10,600 miles above the earth. The satellites are spaced so that from any point on earth, four satellites will be above the horizon. Each satellite contains a computer, an atomic clock, and a radio. With an understanding of its own orbit and the clock, the satellite continually broadcasts its changing position and time. (Once a day, each satellite checks its own sense of time and position with a ground station and makes any minor correction.) On the ground, any GPS receiver contains a computer that "triangulates" its own position by getting bearings from three of the four satellites. The result is provided in the form of a geographic position - longitude and latitude - to, for most receivers, within a few meters.
Km – Kilometer
M – meter
mHz – megahertz – the unique measurement level of a radio frequency. Similar to the different music radio frequency, there are assigned radio frequencies organized by government agencies for different types of radio communication.
MLB – Mountain Locator Beacon; it typically uses a 121.5 mHz frequency and beacons will transmit between 1 to 2 days.
MLU – Mountain Locator Unit; the same or similar to a mountain locator beacon. For more information, visit the Mountain Locator unit definition on Wikipedia.com.
PLB – Personal Locator Beacon
PLU – Personal Locator Unit
PMR - Private Mobile Radio
RDF – radio direction finding. There is a range of sensitivity and sophistication in radio direction finding equipment. More expensive equipment can possibly enable a faster search since the equipment can distinguish more detail in the strength and location of a radio frequency when it is tracked. There are RDF orienteering competitions with radio enthusiasts using a variety of RDF equipment to challenge tracking skills.
SAR – search and rescue. This community of people can be the first to respond but are often called after a law enforcement authority receives a call that someone is missing. Search and rescue teams are typically notified and mobilized to conduct a field search. In Australia and the U.S., law enforcement agencies notify full-time search and rescue teams (usually responding to urban areas); in more remote areas many are specially trained volunteers. All work to keep their skills at a professional level with regular technical training and certification programs.
UHF - The UHF (ultrahigh frequency) range of the radio spectrum is the band extending from 300 MHz to 3 GHz. The wavelengths corresponding to these limit frequencies are 1 meter and 10 centimeters. The UHF band is extensively used for satellite communication and broadcasting, in cellular telephone and paging systems, and by third-generation (3G) wireless services. Channels and subbands within the UHF portion of the radio spectrum are allocated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). (Source for more information: WhatIs.com)