Since the launch of the free-loan EPIRBs, available from Benbro , more than 400 bushwalkers have taken advantage of the service and have borrowed one of the pocket-sized emergency beacons, which can alert authorities to their position, to within about fifty metres, when activated, even in remote areas.
During the peak bushwalking season, up to 15 beacons were lent out every weekend. The EPIRBs were purchased and donated by Benbro Electronics, who’s Technical Director, John Bennett OAM, is himself an avid bushwalker and canyoner. He had become concerned following the death of David Iredale in the Blue Mountains who died simply because he was lost. Two of the recent rescues, facilitated by the loaned EPIRBs, involved serious injuries and, in one case, adventurer David Tritton of Faulconbridge could have died if he had not been lifted out quickly.
In another rescue, 33 school students, from a Blue Mountains college, had to be led out of the Kanangra wilderness when one of their number suffered an injured leg and was evacuated via police helicopter. “Had British tourist Jamie Neale borrowed one he would most likely have had to endure only one cold night, rather than bashing through Cedar Creek for 12 days.”
Bennett said The EPIRBs are available to bushwalkers who register their trip intentions at either the National Parks and Wildlife centre at Blackheath, during office hours or the 24-hour police stations at Springwood and Katoomba, after hours. John Bennett, the originator of the scheme, stressed that the EPIRBs were not intended to replace good preparations. He said that “they are merely a backup, in case trouble is encountered”. He added, "No bushwalker, whether experienced or not, should ever venture into the Australian bush without an Emergency Beacon, a map, a compass and the ability to use them."